Note on dis-orientation

The main role of orientation, as least as far as winning and losing goes, is to predict the consequences of our actions more accurately than our opponents can predict the consequences of theirs.  The question of how we do this opens “Destruction and Creation,” and all the rest of Boyd’s works illustrate his answer.

There are many subtleties.  For example:

  1. Nobody’s orientation is perfect, so how can we tell if we’re the one making the more accurate predictions?  This is anything but a straightforward issue, even if we could ameliorate all the problems of making inferences from limited samples (because that’s what our observations are) of the situation. For example, are we being deceived? Are we deceiving ourselves (e.g., confirmation bias/ incestuous amplification)? In both of these cases, we believe that our orientation is making suitably accurate predictions, and what’s worse, we often have the data to prove it.
  2. Once we realize that we have a problem, what do we do about it?
  3. Boyd suggested that the consequences of not maintaining as accurate an orientation as our opponents include panic, disorientation, confusion, chaos. Is this true? Always? Why?
  4. Does time matter? That is, if we make more accurate predictions, but it takes us longer to make them, do we still have an advantage? [Hint: What’s the opponent doing during these time gaps?]
  5. Does orientation include being able to predict consequences of opponents’ actions?
  6. How much more accurate do our predictions have to be in order to offset an opponent’s other advantages, in size and technology, for example?
  7. How does all this apply to groups of people, where intragroup dynamics govern the group’s actions?

Larry Dunbar sent an interesting comment to the last post, and my reply is what got me going on this one. With these subtleties (and other you think of) in mind, you might read over the quote that opened the last post and add your comments to this one.

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10 thoughts on “Note on dis-orientation

  1. There is big overlap between anticipation and orientation basis … orientation bias directs observation to specific anticipation …. when if it is the wrong things, it is orientation bias. Boyd would talk about continually observation from every possible facet as countermeasure to orientation bias (anticipation focused on the wrong things and surprised when it comes from completely different direction).

    For the fun of it, from 1846, Elements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, & C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, … Notes On The Mexican And Crimean Wars. loc5019-20: A rapid coup d’oeil prompt decision, active movements, are as indispensable as sound judgment; for the general must see, and decide, and act, all in the same instant.

    Adding orientation … then is able to talk about orientation bias and whether focus is on the right or wrong things.

    This 2011 talks about STAP being able to target even the best stealth … if it knows where to look (aka predictable flt. path, vhf/l-band radar than can track the best stealth, etc) … but it requires TFLOPS of real-time computing … which is starting to appear in the latest computer chips (spring 2015, DOD put them on export control, fall 2015 at supercomputer conference, china shows it was building their own)
    sometimes eetimes server has problems so wabyback

  2. I like this thread.

    I am wondering if there is a critical point at which, if the loop is going awry, that
    it’s advisable to hit re-set. Using the computer analogy, computers fascinated Boyd.

    In an ACM engagement, provided that the pilot has not painted himself completely
    into a corner, there are very many examples of dis-engagements, e.g.,
    lighting the burners on an F-105 and heading for the deck, when overwhelmed
    by Migs. Thus living to fight another day.

    Let’s consider a favorite example of my own, the horrendously botched conception,
    implementation and launch of the original Microsoft tablet PC.

    Looking like an oversized palm pilot, this was a huge flop,
    MS was further creamed and humilated by Jobs and the

    For those who were not paying attention, the original Ipad,
    was a phenomena, and everyone I worked with, and being
    indicative of geekdom, who held one that a colleague
    had brought to the office to show, ran out and bought one,
    on the way home.

    MS missed out on all that, but withstood, and survived, to fight
    another day.

    And now the SURFACE is one of the best and sexiest products out there.

    Though the mania, for such as subsided as the market
    has long since saturated.

    But the point is, MS is still standing, and competing.

  3. “Nobody’s orientation is perfect, so how can we tell if we’re the one making the more accurate predictions? ”
    I would like to try and take on the first question. I think orientation has two basic parts. Orientation is an isolating process and, as you say, the process isn’t perfect. But orientation isolates the loop into two things observable: a position that has some advantage in the environment observed and a posture that is formed as a reaction to the constructive and destructive force, which, as a result of the position, it finds itself in. Truth is in the position, but trust the posture of the orientation in your predictions, as to its accuracy.
    So posture (which I suggest is a compilation of several German words) is orientation’s first action to the constructive and destructive forces in the observable environment. Position is the mathematical truth of any orientation. The posture may or maynot be the truth, but position is, by nature, truth.
    However, posture is the closest thing to trust that another orientation can observe, because the orientation being observed is posturing itself, in at least some context, to known and unknown-known forces. I don’t think anyone should trust the position of any orientation, except, of course, its mathematical implication, as to its coordinates.
    Perhaps I should say in summary: an open OODA loop has three basic domains. They are: physics, logic and ethics. Physics give the OODA loop structure, logic fills that structure with an orientation, and ethics are the internal forces that hold the orientation to a position and gives it a posture that can be observed.
    A closed OODA loop has physics, logic, ethics and truth. But a closed loop should be considered a loop that can’t be trusted, at least if it tries to re-posture itself, after your first or second prediction. After all. betrayal is a form of transparency, as well as knowledge a destructive force.
    Maybe the first thing accuracy depends on is identifying an open or closed loop.

  4. “The posture may or may not be the truth, but position is, by nature, truth.”
    Larry, you might of put your finger in something there.
    Going back to the Brice lee quote.
    There’s a preconceived agenda, and EXPECTATION of success, or victory.
    Over confidence, hubris, arrogance, and even a type of karma,
    They all play, in sabotaging the outcome.

    • I am not sure about the Brice lee quote, but if you mean this one: A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. Bruce Lee
      Read more at:
      I mean a wise man can learn more from a foolish decision made by a wiseman than that wiseman, who made the foolish decision, can learn from a foolish answer to his decision.
      So if that wiseman is a leader, he/she has to be able to think, after decisions have been and before actions have been processed, to obtain complete accuracy.
      It is like there is another time-step between Decisions and Actions, but because the OODA loop is in acceleration, the velocity in observation is almost non existent, but there is almost no acceleration between Decision and Action only velocity. Because the exponent in time is gone and the mass has only momentum, the step is very short between Decision and Action as to not exist at all.
      But I think it does exist. The step is short enough so the leader won’t trip over it, but high enough that the leader will not overstep it, to the next level down into escalation, and it is called thinking.
      The thinking is about position and posture–truth and trust.

  5. For those who missed it;
    “The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”

    More information on faulty perceptions, orientation; goals, and expectations;
    We are currently exploring this on the spin-off forum;

    • ““The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.” – Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow”
      That is a very interesting quote. I mean, It should be, considering the OODA process, just as easy to observe the future as it is to act in the past, due to fact that feedforward and feedback is just as prevalent in each time-step. If you think of the OODA loop as a distribution of energy, energy only changes, it is not destroyed (GIGO).
      We will never know less about something in the future, than we did in the past, which, considering the feedback, there is a lot we will never know about the past.
      In other words, the exact explanation of the past is always wrong, at least as wrong as that which we take to be the observed truth in the future.
      Truth is in the pudding before us, which we eat trusting that it will not kill us.
      The environment we observe has a certain amount of truth, but there is also a certain amount of trust, in ourselves and others, we naturally need going forward.
      Trust may be better explained as taste. Not all of us have the same taste and not all of us have the same level of truth when asked, “who did you vote for”? The truth is lost in the data.
      I think we can trust the data that says more voters voted for HRC, but the truth is Trump is the next POTUS.
      The first time in history that I know of, in which the office of the POTUS has been privatized.

  6. “The first time in history that I know of, in which the office of the POTUS has been privatized.”

    Good characterization there Larry, sums it up brilliantly.
    First time in living memory, but I wonder if its the first ever ?

    • I asked myself the same question: is it the first time ever? Sure Trump made nearly half a million off his position as the elected incoming POTUS on New Years and his kids apparently were set to make a bunch more on his inauguration, but once he takes office the Party will at least try to cover-up or at least take control of what’s observed and much of what he does just to give them some kind of legitimacy, at least I presume.
      I mean once the dollars start pouring in, maybe the legislators and court appointees are just going to be too busy taking baths in the stuff to really worry or care about much else.

    • But I get your reference to “…I wonder if it’s the first ever. It would be easier to ask those in the past, than myself.
      Good point.
      You would just have to hope it wasn’t ancestral amplification answering you. 🙂

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