Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Battle Lessons by Dan Baum of the New Yorker

Posted by shannonclark on January 11, 2005

Battle Lessons by Dan Baum

Read this. All of it. Shows both how the Army is using the web and technology to supplement/enhance training (via websites officers set up on their own but which have now been absorbed by the Pentagon officially) and a lot about the state of the war in Iraq.

Professionally I find the alteration of a very hierarchical organization such as the US Army by both a new generation of soldiers, the Internet, and modern communications to be a fascinating case study in the transformative power of connections. In the “old” Army connections were mostly formal and structured, with only occasional opportunities for across hierarchy interaction (and very limited while in battle – more while stationed at bases and/or during training). The Internet means that anyone with access (even retired or injured people etc) could, in theory, be in communication and offer support remotely to soldiers in the field. I especially found the story of the woman who had been promoted as it were “in the field” to a role she had not been trained for being able to within 30 minutes get emails from around the globe offering specific, actionable and useful help very encouraging.

As a researcher into AI I have long argued that though computers are and can be good – little can replace the power of the right people being engaged in a simple, potent manner – clearly these online communities are at least minimally serving a very real need.


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