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Out of Control
Chapter 13: GOD GAMES

Armies win and mobs lose. And the lone Rambo always dies. The most important thing the military knows more about than anyone else is in how to make teams work. Teams are what transform mobs into armies and Rambos into soldiers. Col. Thorpe rightly proclaims that distributed intelligence -- not firepower -- wins wars. Other visionaries say the same about the future of corporations. "The next breakthrough won't be in the individual interface but in the team interface," says John Seely Brown, the research director of Xerox's PARC.

If Col. Thorpe has his way, the four divisions of the U.S. military and hundreds of industrial contractors become a single interconnected superorganism. The immediate step to this world of distributed intelligence and distributed presence is an engineering protocol developed by a consortium of defense simulation centers in Orlando, Florida. Known as the DSI (Distributed Simulation Internet) protocol, this standard permits independent bits of simulation (a tank here, a building there) to be interleaved into a unified simulation when sent over the existing Internet. In effect, a scene emerges in this virtual space as sufficient parts of it are supplied from afar and assembled in the marvelous decentralized way of swarms. The entire hyperreality of a 10,000-piece battle scene is distributed across many computers through the optic fibers of Internet. The outfit supplying detailed virtual mountains may not supply surging rivers or creeks and may not know whether creeks are flowing down its mountains at all.

Distributed intelligence is the way to go. Students on the Internet (which was developed by DARPA but now is global and demilitarized) can't wait. They see the promise of distributed simulations and have begun making their own versions in quiet corners of the Net.