The Reflex(ive Control)November 6, 2016
Having just engaged in a chat over “old school” issues, today’s entry will be retro too – for it seems what is retro to this blog remains (unbelievably) a new discovery to others in this information age.
Do any readers remember Duran Duran? (It’s OK to admit it.)
How about a song called The Reflex?
“Oh the reflex what a game, he’s hiding all the cards
The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover, isn’t that bizarre?
Every little thing the reflex does leaves you answered with a question mark”
If that was not contemporary commentary through art then – perhaps it is now.
Whilst regressing a reader’s memory, there may be a few among that number who recall the launch of a Russian journal called “Reflexive Processes and Control” (launched around 2001).
It was not a journal for scientists simply producing material on a fringe issue to swallow Russian governmental funding. It was a journal with a heavyweight editorial council (not editorial board). That editorial council contained members of the diplomatic corps, the Russian Federation Security Council and FAPSI (the federal agency for government communications). The subject was also far from a fringe subject within Kremlin thinking.
Certainly the “Cold War Warriors” on either side of the trenches are well aware of Reflexive Control. Even if recollections may occasionally be faded and/or tinted with a hint of nostalgia (among other failings), what is witnessed today cannot help but give cause to reminisce.
The Soviet Union began to experiment with the concept of Reflexive Control in the late 1960s – albeit a concept that took a while to gain traction within both military and government. Eventually however traction was found in both military and civil quarters. For those readers wishing to delve further into its proponents during development, on the military side the names Druzhinin, Ionov and Leonenko would be a suitable starting point. On the civil/governance side then Schedrovitsky, Lepsky, Burkov and Lefebvre were prominent.
A reader will rightly deduce that Reflexive Control therefore has both military and civil uses. It also has both human and computer uses – for the objective of Reflexive Control is to influence decision making. That in the contemporary world can be human decision making or that of AI.
A reader may also note a distinctive difference between western framing and perception management and that of Reflexive Control. As the name suggests Reflexive Control seeks to control rather than manage perceptions and decision making.
Reflexive Control, at its most basic, is a process where one party seeks to transmit, predominantly by means of maskerovka and disinformation, a line of reasoning and/or logic that effects another party’s decision making – thus allowing the possibility for the first party to control the decision making process of the second party.
That control does not necessarily mean that the first party can control the second party sufficiently into making “decision x”, but that control may designed to interfere with the decision making process so as to avoid “decision x” being made. (Thus it is sometimes a matter of insuring the other side makes decisions that insure they do not win, even if we can’t win).
Staying clear of the battlefield tactical military uses of Reflexive Control, and also regarding its abilities to interfere with relation to AI decision processing, a reader perhaps now ponders Reflexive Control within the parameters and framework of social media and MSM for example.
If Reflexive Control within this arena relies upon the ability to best predict the thoughts and behaviour of “the other side” then psyops and maskerovka within the Reflexive Control matrix become clear.
In the 1990’s distraction, information overload (sending huge amounts of often contradictory information), paralysis, exhaustion, division, deception, pacification, deterrence, provocation, suggestion and pressure had all been identified as the core intellectual pieces in an effective Reflexive Control operation in the information warfare arena by Russia – numerous public articles stated as much.
Thus what is seen today is nothing new and not an innovation that should have caught anybody by surprise by way of methodology employed.
The current Kremlin trend of providing an incomplete or erroneous interpretation of events and attempting to pass it on to both a western and domestic audience is not new.
Attempts to create a goal for the other party in which they act favourably to The Kremlin narrative (for example attempts to entice the US into a joint mission in Syria) are not new.
Feigning weakness to create a different narrative is not new (fortress Russia surrounded by NATO, when geography simply discounts the possibility to surround Russia).
The setting of the stage to imply to the other side one course of action and then carrying out another is not new. (For example the Minsk process or the “Syrian withdrawal”, or the prima facie aim of supporting Mr Trump – which has less to do with Mr Trump winning and much more to do with the lasting undermining the US political system across the political board. In fact, should Mr Trump win and prove to be far less destructive to US interests as some fear/expect, perhaps a GOP and/or Trump email/kompromat dump would follow if destabilising and undermining the system is the operational goal. .)
The projection of a false self-perception and/or decision making process for the digestion of the “other” – and accepting the increased risks this may have – is not new.
The control by a third party over a bilateral party and/or proxy (be they attributable or plausibly deniable) did not end with the Cold War within the FSU geography or internally of Russia itself – what goes on today is also not new.
Eventually the term Reflexive Control will return to mainstream discourse – though it is not new.
If and when it does, should Duran Duran re-release “The Reflex”, for younger readers, that too is not new!