Feb 18 2009

Cyber Warfare: Aristotle vs. Confucius

Published by at 10:08 pm under Uncategorized

In the book, Geography of Thought,  author Richard Nisbett puts forward that “those brought up in Western and East Asian cultures think differently from one another in scientifically measurable ways.”

His work looks at cultural psychology through the lens of Aristotle vs. Confucius and linear vs. comprehensive thought.  Dr. Nisbett performs several cultural experiments to test his hypothesis which shows markedly different results between East Asian and Western thought.  A question occurred to me, which mindset is better suited to the application of cyber warfare?

Linear thinking will look at a problem and begin dissecting it block by block to understand the whole of a thing.  Comprehensive thought will examine it a holistic manner ignoring the individual blocks.  Is cyber terrain best understood through a sum of the blocks or does the sum of the blocks change its nature?

Jumping around a bit, let’s also look at Kevin Kelly’s predictions on the Next 5,000 Days of the Internet.  His lecture was fascinating in many aspects but one point struck me as particularly insightful; all of our electronic devices are simply windows into the “Machine.”  Interaction with the Machine is forcing us to share more and more of our personal information and develop different patterns of thinking in socialization.  Do these patterns favor Aristotle or Confucius; individualism or collectivism?

Other random thoughts:

  1. Was Ender’s Game ahead of its time?
  2. Is there a Geography of Cyber Thought?
  3. Do the younger Western and Eastern generations present a hybrid of thought?
  4. Should I drink beer and post articles?

I’ll just leave you with the questions, discuss among yourselves.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Cyber Warfare: Aristotle vs. Confucius”

  1. MJMcEvoyon 19 Feb 2009 at 8:59 am

    I have found that a blend of thought patterns in planning and analysis are more likely to produce an approach to a problem that is functional. In the long run neither approach on it’s own covers all the terrain.
    In my experience, both civilian and military, a hybrid analysis is more comprehensive.

  2. Heikeon 19 Feb 2009 at 10:22 am

    I haven’t quite made up my mind yet but right now I tend to agree with you.

    However, if you are starting with raw material (recruits), which set adapts better/faster/stronger to the current environment? Or, does each group bring with it unique assets in thought that produce a strategic/tactical wash?

    Sorry, I have a lot more questions than answers.

  3. CBRP1R8on 20 Feb 2009 at 10:21 am

    LOL, Interesting article. Working from a defense perspective I’d say Aristotle’s linear thinking is where most western’s lean. Taking something dissecting it for what it is, breaking it down and countering it. However, the fundemental flaw in that strategy is that it is linear and once a change occurs you have to start the whole process over. For instance take a chinese hacker writing a virus, variant A that hits adobe reader. Now the white hats dissect it, figure out the bug/flaw and then patch accordingly which eventually gets done throughout the world after an alotted time that seems to be losing ground daily.

    Now from a confuscious/chinese hacker thinking, he makes the virus, buries multiple lines of code and new ideas around the problem he wants to confront, and create virus A variant. He keeps looking at it, from a different angle and realizes he can make it do other things, so create variant b, then realizes he can use it to create a botnet too adn thus a new botnet worm from the same base, then realizes, I can do multiple injections, worm and and command and control as well from it and now siezes 9 million machines in a little under a month……now what do I do next, what am I capable of?

    We on the white hat side stick to the linear far to often, interpret, dissect, fix, report. We need to look at the confusious side as mentioned above to get out of that rut of thinking and start getting security ahead of the game…course this is just my perspective dealings from security engineering. It could apply to alot of other fields I think as well….

    Like gaming, why do asian based games not really take hold in western markets…and vice versa western in asian markets..with the exception of wow of course (thats a fluke). :D

  4. CBRP1R8on 20 Feb 2009 at 10:25 am

    1. Was Ender’s Game ahead of its time?

    I defintely think so, great series.

    2. Is there a Geography of Cyber Thought?

    I think that there is, western philosophy definitely pours through when it comes to games as I mentioned above.

    3. Do the younger Western and Eastern generations present a hybrid of thought?

    Possibly, I’d have to ask my kids that, I know we are stuck in a rut at our generation it seems

    4. Should I drink beer and post articles?

    Defintely, this was one interesting article. Hope to see more replies on it.

  5. Heikeon 20 Feb 2009 at 4:52 pm


    That was perfect! Exactly what I was looking for, the practical application of linear and comprehensive thought.

    God, I really wish that I had thought of using a virus as an example. Perfect.

    Of course you know, I’m going to use it…and not give you any credit.

    Sorry, that’s the way I roll. :)

  6. CBRP1R8on 23 Feb 2009 at 8:54 am

    ROFL, That’s ok, it was fun to read. :D