By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
8. Feral Chihuahuas.Remember those 174 wild, cannibal Chihuahuas discovered in an Antelope Valley house by animal control officers a few years ago? They’d taken over the place, burrowing into the walls and furniture and leaving piles of dead chickens and geese in their wake. Originally, the dogs were part of a massive 236-member swarm that had subdivided into packs. Then began the war of attrition, in which the Chihuahuas killed each other off. A judge sentenced the dogs to death, but a Chihuahua rescue group held a candlelight vigil to win the dogs’ freedom, and the animals were released to the custody of Gregory Peck’s ex-daughter-in-law for rehabilitation.
9. The Evildoers.It was still 1991, as the post–Cold War optimists were eagerly awaiting the Pax Americana peace dividend that awaited us at the End of History, when renowned military historian Martin van Creveld’s Transformation of War reconceptualized the future of global conflict as one of states besieged by ideologically driven networks of terrorists with low-tech weapons. “Attacked by swarms of gnats,” he wrote, “all the conventional forces could do was flounder about in helpless fury .?.?. .” His historically informed analysis preternaturally predicted the state of our fight against Iraq’s insurgency. From Rumsfeld’s Baathist “dead-enders” to foreign jihadis to local Shia Islamists and secular Sunni nationalists, the insurgents have little in common beyond their shared goal and decentralized technique. Collectively, the insurgents — whose very number is unknown, with estimates ranging from 30,000 up to 200,000 — comprise a giant, clandestine, heterogeneous swarm with no king to capture. It’s a tactic that’s also strategic: What Bush calls the “Global War on Terror” (and his ideological Svengalis like Eliot Cohen and Norman Podhoretz more directly refer to as World War IV) has been operationally defined as a “global swarm” by John Robb, an expert on next-generation conflict. And it’s successful. On the ground, “open-source net-centric warfare” deprives our troops of their advantages in superior firepower and conventional fighting expertise. Beyond Iraq, the global swarm is a constantly adapting grand social movement that any underground religious group, local militia or disaffected worker can join. That’s why van Creveld, the only non-American on the U.S. Army’s required reading list for officers, recently wrote that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was the biggest military blunder in the past 2,014 years.
10. Zulu Warriors.Alexander the Great reported swarm-like Scythian horse-mounted archers in his campaign for Bactria, but in modern times it was the Zulus who, in the 1880s, perfected the asymmetrical advantage of the swarm when they trained their soldiers to defeat the well-armed Boers and British with just spears and precise planning. The RAND Institute’s 2000 paper on Swarming and the Future of Conflict identifies the tribal Zulus as a prime example of swarm behavior on the battlefield: Small, stealthy, mobile groups equally dispersed against the opposing army, they descended upon weak points in the chain with well-coordinated flashes. That system became the basis for insurgency and low-intensity conflict ever since. In the information age, RAND says, the future of swarming is in connectivity: Our Army, too, should fight in deployments of light, technologically interconnected small units. If there is a way to even the playing field, it’s to counter swarm with swarm.
11. Smart Mobs.In 2003, the flash-mob phenomenon put swarms in the service of agitprop, when spontaneous e-mail organization caused 100 unconnected people to gather at the New York City Macy’s carpet section to all stare at one particular very expensive rug then, as instructed, declare that they were shopping for a Love Rug. During the Republican National Convention in New York, protestors armed with cell phones and text-messaging took their organization to the streets — only to be countered by New York police versed in the same counter-swarm techniques Alexander applied against the Scythian archers. Still, it wasn’t long before Bill Gates realized he needed a monopoly on this new form of human interaction. Thus was born Microsoft’s appropriately titled Swarm technology. Still in the prototype stage, it’s a social-networking tool that makes flash-mob-type mail distribution readily available on your cell phone. One message can go to a list of 10, 50, 100 other phones. Gates, it seems, is well positioned to corner the market, this time on protesters, activists, bloggers, spammers, rioters, club-hoppers, art pranksters — and global insurgents. In Iraq, cell phones and text messages are already a critical weapon of the insurgency. If they now fight like Shaka’s Zulu army with instant messaging, what will happen when they get ahold of the multiuser MS Swarm?
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city