Observe, orient, decide, act: words to live or die by. Right now, Persephone is disoriented — on the run, cut off. It’s time to go on the offensive, work out where she is and what’s going on, then get the hell out of this trap.
I found myself reading this on page 160 of Charles Stross’s sci-fi novel, The Apocalypse Codex. Stross had mentioned the OODA loop in an earlier book in this series, so I wasn’t exactly shocked when I read it. But it was such a graphic illustration of how Boyd actually used the loop, as opposed to the usual “she observed, then oriented …” that I just had to send it to Chuck Spinney.
He reminded me that Boyd used to say that we had succeeded when the OODA loop began appearing — without attribution — in Superman comics. This being 30 years later, and the Man of Steel not perhaps enjoying the popularity he once did, I’m going to declare victory.
One nitpick: Boyd would have preferred “seize the initiative” to “go on the offensive,” but I think Stross’s formulation works better rhetorically and in this case means about the same thing. Thus, “go on the offensive” would be another way of saying “get inside their OODA loops,” and, as Persephone understands, the key is orientation.*
I ran across Stross’s work in a tweet by Paul Krugman announcing the seventh book in the Laundry Files series (The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth). The premise is that we live in a multiverse, and the creatures known as demons, devils, and spirits are actually inhabitants of other universes. What gives them entree to our space is mathematics, particularly complex and clever proofs. In other words, real magic, as contrasted with stage illusions, is applied mathematics. As computer science has evolved, more people are creating more intricate codings, which can be considered types of proofs, and so are opening up more gateways for these entities to move across.
As a reformed mathematician (Ph.D. 1971), I recall many times when, working alone late at night on some complex and convoluted proof, the appearance of a demon would not have been at all surprising. So his novels do have a nice basis in reality, and like all good storytellers, he just carries it that one little extra step. With OODA loops.
*Generally “go on the offensive” would not be synonymous with “get inside their OODA loops.” More on this and other OODA loop lore in my paper, “Boyd’s real OODA loop,” available along with all of Boyd’s works on our Articles page.