Chart 141

Patterns of Conflict is long and complex, so I’m going to try to make it more accessible by commenting on a few of its charts.

We’ll begin with chart 141 (out of 185). No, it wasn’t picked at random but because it plays a unique role. This may seem like an odd statement because it is only the last in a series of similar charts, including 57, 70, 90, 105, 108, 128, 132, and 134.  If you look at these other charts, though, you’ll see that 141 is the culmination, a final synthesis of the ideas in its predecessors.

This makes a lot of sense because it is near the end of the section called “Synthesis.” But what is it a synthesis of? One way to answer that is to go back to the beginning of Patterns, to chart 2.  I think you’ll see that at the least, it summarizes answers to the last three points of the “Mission,” if not the entire chart.

To grasp the significance of this, it helps to recall that Boyd had completed “Destruction and Creation” shortly before starting on what became Patterns.  In D&C, as you may remember, Boyd is discussing systems of concepts to represent reality and how these can never be complete or final. As our models of reality encounter the inevitable mismatches, we need to form new models by “shattering domains” (his term) — including our previous concepts as well as ideas from other fields such as the history, biology, physics and mathematics that Boyd examined and Steve Jobs’ calligraphy — sorting through the bits and pieces, and forming a new synthesis.

Following the lead of D&C, you might expect that the stuff before Synthesis (which begins on p. 126) would be “analysis,” and if you glance through those pages that’s what you’ll find. He’s pulling things apart looking for interesting pieces that he can then put back together to make the synthesis represented by chart 141.

In the language of a later (1987) briefing, Strategic Game of ? and ?, chart 141 is a snowmobile or at least the blueprint for one. A key point, though, is that it is a snowmobile to solve the problems outlined on chart 2, which relate to conflict and in particular to armed conflict on land. If you have problems in a different arena, it would be much better (as he insisted in the “Abstract” to the Discourse on Winning and Losing) to learn from Boyd’s method than to try to use this particular snowmobile in an environment for which it was never intended.

Strategic Game and the Abstract and are available at

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