Noah Brier | January 23, 2022

The Executive Edition (1/23/2022)

On OODA, a bonkers personal website, and what Noah watched on Youtube

Recommended Products

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

The biography of John Boyd, OODA loop creator, which explores his impact on military strategy and beyond.


Noah here. I mentioned OODA loops back in June and have been thinking about writing a proper OODA edition. I finished the biography of OODA creator John Boyd a few months ago and really loved it. OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, act and was Boyd’s way of describing optimal decision making.

As if that insane diagram isn’t enough, here’s a description from Boyd’s biography:

Understanding the OODA Loop is difficult. First, even though it is called a loop, it is not. A drawing of the Loop shows thirty arrows connecting the various ingredients, which means hundreds of possible “loops” can be derived. The best drawing of the OODA Loop was done by Spinney for Boyd’s briefings. It shows a very large orientation part of the cycle. Becoming oriented to a competitive situation means bringing to bear the cultural traditions, genetic heritage, new information, previous experiences, and analysis / synthesis process of the person doing the orienting—a complex integration that each person does differently. These human differences make the Loop unpredictable. In addition, the orientation phase is a nonlinear feedback system, which, by its very nature, means this is a pathway into the unknown. The unpredictability is crucial to the success of the OODA Loop.

One of the more interesting parts of the loop is how it interacts with time. The idea, at least as I understand it, is that those who are most adept start to collapse the loop, in turn collapsing time on their adversary. Here’s an explanation from the Boyd biography again:

The speed must come from a deep intuitive understanding of one’s relationship to the rapidly changing environment. This is what enables a commander seemingly to bypass parts of the loop. It is this adaptability that gives the OODA Loop its awesome power. Understanding the OODA Loop enables a commander to compress time—that is, the time between observing a situation and taking an action. A commander can use this temporal discrepancy (a form of fast transient) to select the least-expected action rather than what is predicted to be the most-effective action. The enemy can also figure out what might be the most effective. To take the least-expected action disorients the enemy. It causes him to pause, to wonder, to question. This means that as the commander compresses his own time, he causes time to be stretched out for his opponent. The enemy falls farther and farther behind in making relevant decisions. It hastens the unraveling process.

All of this was covering in lots of interesting ways recently by Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm, who put together a nice OODA deck that’s worth flipping through. I especially liked this slide. (NRB)

Website of the Weekend

Personal websites mostly feel like a thing of the past in our current internet age. Thankfully, Dustin Brett didn’t get the message. This is the most bonkers website I’ve ever seen by some margin. In addition to feeling like a full-fledged desktop, it’s got a working version of Doom. Click around and get lost in something that is hard to find these days. (NRB)

Noah’s YouTube Favorites

Just two this week: 

  1. How Nikola Jokic scored 37 points (!) after halftime against the Clippers

  2. Impossible Trackmania Shortcut Finally Done After 13 Years

Enjoy! (NRB)

Things shared on the contributors Slack this week: 

See you Monday.

-Colin and Noah

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