-- / --
Playing "chess" authoritatively with the People
Classic openings in the Great Game
Recognizing patterns in the Great Game
Identifying patterns of moves with respect to "intelligence"
Recognizing patterns in the Greater Game with Otherness
Interplay of black and white in the Greater Game
Experimental integration of a Chinese framing of the dynamics of the Greater Game
Identifying a pattern of transformational transactions within the Greater Game
In quest of a meta-pattern of transactional games
The disclosures regarding the nature of invasive government intelligence gathering, suggest the possibly of a new take on the so-called Great Game of centuries past (Frederick P. Hitz, The Great Game: the myth and reality of espionage intelligence in recent public literature, 2004; Malcolm Yapp, The Legend of the Great Game, Proceedings of the British Academy, 2001). Those who made them -- Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden -- may in future be acclaimed as the "three wise people " of the 21st Century. However, ironically, Barack Obama, James Clapper, and Keith Alexander, now run the risk of being framed "otherwise" by the future through their actions against the People.
Any such consideration can be usefully framed by the much-cited remark of Abraham Lincoln:
You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time.
Exposure to the disclosures and the fast footwork displayed by government in variously denying, lying, misleading, acknowledging -- now ultimately reframed by "everyone does it" -- has considerably sharpened public awareness of the nature of the game played by Authority with the People.
In these exciting times, the question is how best to learn from the moves apparently possible in the Great Game, as they are rendered comprehensible to collective awareness. This can be seen as a process of rendering conscious that which has been primarily characteristic of the collective unconscious, as variously presented (John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1999; Carl G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, 1996). Authority is providing a unique learning opportunity for the People -- much to be welcomed.
There are currently many references to new variants of the Great Game in relation to Central Asia and Afghanistan in particular. A more general perspective of relevance to this argument is offered by the famed originator of the phrase the banality of evil, Hannah Arendt (Le Grand Jeu du Monde, Esprit, 1982), most notably in her consideration of totalitarianism (The Imperialist Character, The Review of Politics, 1950). Commenting on Rudyard's Kipling's introduction of the Great Game, and the temptations of the endlessness of the game of imperialism and secrecy, Arendt notes:
Playing the Great Game, a man may feel as though he lives the only life worth his while, because he has been stripped of everything which may still be considered to be accessory. Life itself seems to be left, in a fantastically intensified purity, when man has cut himself off from all ordinary social ties, family, regular occupation, a definite goal, ambitions, and the guarded place in a community to which he belongs by birth. "When every one is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before" ... That the game has no ultimate purpose makes it so dangerously similar to life itself. He was tempted only by the basic endlessness of the game and by secrecy as such. And secrecy again seems like a symbol of the basic mysteriousness of life.
When, at the end of the war, Lawrence had to abandon the pretenses of a secret agent and had somehow to recover his "English self," he "looked at the West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me." From the Great Game of incalculable bigness which no publicity had glorified or limited and which had elevated him in his twenties above Kings and Prime Ministers because he had "made 'em or played with them", Lawrence came home with... the deep conviction that nothing he could still possibly do with his life would ever satisfy him. This conclusion he drew from his perfect knowledge that he himself had not been big, but only the role which he had aptly assumed, that his bigness had been the result of the Game and not a product by himself.
The question explored here is how best to frame the Great Game, as it is now played with "intelligence". The concern is how to engage more effectively with it -- and to name and anticipate both individual "moves" (which are increasingly evident and predictable) and "patterns of moves" (as a potential challenge to understanding). A New Great Game is already recognized as a conceptualization of modern competitive oil-related geopolitics in Central Eurasia with increasing emphasis on Noopolitik (indicative of smart power) -- innovation being the simplest way for Great Gamers to alter the complex status quo and regional balance of power (David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, The Promise of Noopolitik, First Monday, August 2007; Idriss J. Aberkane, An Optimistic Memo on the Chinese Noopolitik: 2001-2011. e-International Relations, 14 June 2011).
Arguably the "Afghanistan" and "Central Asia" of its early territorial focus have now become both more global and more personal. In a knowledge-based society, the terrain has become virtual with the focus on a nexus of comprehension of shifting patterns of information and claims to their veracity and significance. Metaphor may offer possibilities to global sensemaking under these conditions, as previously suggested (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
As with the original Great Game, comparisons with chess offer many insights -- as presumably is the case with go. Those games were notably promoted to develop critical thinking skills with regard to strategic options. The People are in many cases already familiar with "moves" and "patterns of moves" through ball games, especially the variants of football. They could usefully have their suspicions confirmed by naming moves regularly used by Authority against them -- enabling recognition that "they would say that".
With respect to the challenges of global governance more generally, the issue can be framed in terms of the classic adage:
This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.
Somebody got angry (about that) because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody knew that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Somebody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody because Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
This can be variously reframed more provocatively (Responsibility for Global Governance Who? Where? When? How? Why? Which? What? 2008)
The argument is developed here by exploiting a widespread degree of familiarity with chess -- also known as the Great Game. Chess is a framing notably used in the much-translated study by Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives, 1998). Related arguments could be developed in terms of other board games, notably checkers/draughts or go. The latter bears comparison in the light of the work of Scott Boorman (The Protracted Game: a wei ch'i approach to Mao's revolutionary strategy, 1971).
As noted by Wesley K. Wark (Espionage: Past Present and Future? 2012):
Chess provides the anlogy, where master participants share assumptions and information, profoundly understanding rules and conventions, and predict moves and behavior with a dazzling degree of certainty. And yet game by game, stalemate by stalemate, victory and defeat occur, with both players returning to compete another day. And the chess analogy may well be one path to understanding the learning that occurs between states.
Framing the game with a "board": The chess board interweaves 8 columns and 8 rows in a chequered pattern of squares. This frames the territory for the game over which competition for territory and winning takes place. The pattern of interrelationship between columns and rows is chequered, in that it gives rise to cells which are either black or white.
The two opponents are positioned on opposite sides of the board. They are distinguished by pieces coloured black or white. In advancing across the board, either side moves into the territory of the other.
This framing reinforces the more general pattern of "us and them" thinking, so characteristic of the quest for strategic advantage (Us and Them: relating to challenging others, 2009). It is especially reinforced by the distinct black and white coloration of the pieces of the opposing sides. This accords only too well with the tendency to frame one's own side as "white" and the other as "black", with all the further associations extending to demonisation.
There is of course the fruitful complication (unfortunate for some) that players may be obliged to play anew with a change of colour -- Black becoming White and White becoming Black. In any game however, there is the reality that the columns along which opponents may advance are characterized by cells which are alternatively white and black. Each player has half of its pieces initially disposed on black squares and half on white. White players therefore have to "do black", and black players have to "do white", in order to achieve their ends.
This mix of white and black can be associated most obviously with:
Even in this form, there is a case for recognizing how the United Nations, the Vatican, multinational corporations, and the Mafia -- for example -- are confronted with complex strategic challenges. The assumption that the Vatican -- robed in white -- advances untainted across the board, in its opposition to "evil", is unrealistic and naive. The frame also clarifies how those in white may argue for the value of "discretion", "confidentiality" and "cover-up" -- whether or not these may be perceived as "underhand" and a means of concealing misdeeds.
It is of course the case that, as opponents in the Great Game, the People respond in kind to such strategic opportunities of Authority -- whether playing Black or White..
8-fold "pathways" and "functions": Each player in chess disposes of eight primary functional pieces with characteristic movements, partially determined by the square on which they are initially positioned. Appropriately each is "fronted" by a secondary piece -- a "pawn" -- on a square of the opposite colour. There is a complementary symmetry or mirroring with those of the other side.
This array of functions, and the pathways to which they may be variously constrained, lends itself readily to association with psychological functions, types, and "eightfold ways" that have been distinguished. Such eightfold patterning can be considered as significantly determined by constraints on human cognitive capacity and associated preferences, as previously discussed (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the role of number, 1978), most notably in the light of the seminal work of George Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: some limits on our capacity for processing information, Psychological Review, 1956).
Of particular interest is the manner in which some "functions" may cross-over and interrelate "pathways" -- suggesting a form of cross-fertilization:
As noted by Wikipedia with respect to chess:
A chess opening is the group of initial moves of a chess game. Recognized sequences of initial moves are referred to as openings by White, or defenses by Black, but opening is also used as the general term. There are many dozens of different openings, and hundreds of named variants. The Oxford Companion to Chess lists 1,327 named openings and variants. These vary widely in character from quiet positional play to wild tactical play. In addition to referring to specific move sequences, the opening is the first phase of a chess game, the other phases being the middle game and the endgame.
The profile provides a classification of chess openings, as follows:
Also offered by Wikipedia is a List of chess openings, organized by the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO) code. In 1966, Chess Informant categorized the chess openings into five broad areas ("A" through "E"), with each of those broken down into one hundred subcategories ("00" through "99"). The openings were published in five volumes of ECO, with volumes labeled "A" through "E".
Chess opening theory tables are commonly published in introductory books with annotations by experienced chess players. These tables are typically arranged in a compact manner to allow experienced players to see variations from a position quickly. Usually, the table indicates that either White or Black has equal, slightly better, or better chances at the end of the variation.
Openings are developed with respect to a sense of either:
The current value of focusing on the Great Game between Authority and the People is that its features are now highlighted to an unusual degree in the media (even on a daily basis). Their surprising nature offers an opportunity for learning about a "Greater Game" which may take other much more familiar forms (as discussed below). These constitute a different kind of challenge to understanding.
The argument could be extended to what might be recognized as a "Greater Game of Intelligence", namely that of "we the peoples" (then including authorities) engaged with the "global problematique". In this respect, the concern for both Authority and the People is then one of acquiring, developing and deploying the collective ingenuity to achieve a winning "global resolutique" -- despite the ingenuity gap recognized by Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap: how can we solve the problems of the future?, 2000).
With respect to the variant of Authority versus the People, it is only too obvious that Authority is able to gather and deploy considerable expertise in its engagement in the Great Game with the People. The current challenge to comprehension of patterns dimly seen (as through a glass darkly) is partly an exercise in imagination, as separately argued (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007)
For the People, the pattern of moves tends to be only partially recognizable -- as with any novice faced with a player of higher expertise. However, whilst the strategists assembled by Authority may themselves play chess as a recreation, it is is unlikely that they have articulated their moves in engaging with the People to the same degree as is articulated in chess.
More probable is that Authority has a repertoire of some 7 openings (plus or minus 2?), since a greater number would be a challenge for those authorizing the moves against the People. These might indeed correspond to the highest level of "classification" of chess openings (as noted above). The Wikipedia entry makes the point that:
Most players realize after a while that they play certain types of positions better than others, and that the amount of theory they can learn is limited. Therefore, most players specialize in certain openings where they know the theory and which lead to positions which they favor. The set of openings a player has specialized in is called an opening repertoire.
The challenge in an exercise of this kind would be how to "decode" such openings with respect to the game of Authority versus People -- recognizing the associated game styles which may be preferred by some.
It is of course the case that representatives of the People may develop and deploy "openings" and "tactics" for which Authority is unprepared and to which no advantageous response is immediately evident. Note that both "sides" necessarily frame each other as "problematic" (even deeply so). Typically each frames itself as "righteous" (even uniquely and unquestionably mandated by deity) -- despite the need to engage in "underhand" moves in pursuing their "worthy" ends in the game, and to deny employing such dubious means to the extent possible.
Most intriguing, when framed explored through the metaphor of a ball game, is the nature of the "ball", the "sides" and the means of scoring a "goal". The "ball" is curiously nebulous (in contrast to a football). It appears to be intimately related to both truth and credibility, and yet its nature at any one time is essentially uncertain and variously comprehended. The "sides" can manipulate the "ball" in a variety of ways. The problem of scoring a "goal" is that the "goal posts" are moved unpredictably. That said, the Great Game would seem to be about the nature of truth and the belief it evokes. The challenge of an "own goal" bears reflection in terms of that of blowback in the intelligence community.
It is currently difficult to take further the argument above. At this stage it is best used to inspire further recognition of the simplest patterns so evidently employed in declarations by Authority in response to criticism by the People of complicity in massive electronic surveillance. It is however not necessary to focus in particular on the responses to the surveillance issue. The pattern is necessarily only too evident in any effort to call the actions of Authority into question. Other examples include the response of the Vatican to sexual abuse by the clergy, the response of nuclear authorities to challenges regarding safety, the response of drug companies to challenges regarding safety issues, etc.
The response to any opening moves criticizing Authority (thereby framed as "Black") by the People (upholding themselves as "White") engenders a mix of counter-moves by Authority (endeavouring to frame itself as "White", and appointments as "Black"). One approach to identification of patterns is through cover-up as incorporating both the defensive and proactive responses of "Black".
An extremely valuable phased classification is provided by Wikipedia as a typology of cover-ups, compiled from famous cover-ups such as the Watergate Scandal, Iran-Contra Affair, My Lai Massacre, and the Pentagon Papers. As indicated, the methods in actual cover-ups tend to follow the general order of the sequence below.
|Typology of stages of cover-up
(reproduced from Wikipedia)
|A. Initial response to allegation||B. Withhold or tamper with evidence|
|C. Delayed response to allegation||D. Intimidate participants, witnesses or whistleblowers|
|E. Publicity management||F. Damage control|
|G. Win court cases||H. Reward cover-up participants|
Elements of the pattern are as evident in the electronic surveillance scandal as have been documented with respect to scientific Authority (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2011). Who would be surprised at the assassination of Assange, Manning or Snowden -- if the opportunity presented itself (Would Jesus Now be Prosecuted by US? As a law-breaker -- like Manning, Assange and Snowden -- Yes we can! 2013).
Given the argument above, it is perhaps to be expected that eight stages are distinguished in the Wikipedia summary in the table above, This is conveniently consistent with the argument for "mapping" such stages onto a board game -- perhaps as the succession of rows from the initial position. Far more tentative is the implication -- requiring further thought -- that the elements in each case might be "mapped" into the column positions corresponding to each row.
At this early stage of envisaging a mapping, there is a case for recognizing a much earlier effort to note the elements of such a pattern (Wrecking an International Project: notes from a saboteur's vade mecum, 1972). This distinguished the following categories clustering 114 ploys:
A. Use of time lags
B. Use of distance
C. Use of funds
D. Use of cultural and working style differences
E. Use of intellectual differences and comprehension
F. Use of image, competence and presentation
G. Use of public relations
H. Use of organizational structure and procedures
This offers the important reminder that representatives of the People may as readily be framed as "Black" as can Authority -- then especially identified with "White" (as the victim rather than aggressor). This is central to any reframing of the situation in which any opposed to Authority are necessarily to be framed as "Black" -- extending from deprecated dissenters, through those inciting social unrest, to those framed as terrorists. Japan is planning a new state secrets act which would severely inhibit public right to know regarding controversial issues, such as nuclear safety (Japan secrecy act stirs fears about press freedom, right to know, Reuters, 25 October 2013). Similar possibilities have been envisaged in the UK (David Cameron makes veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks, The Guardian, 28 October 2013).
From this perspective, with the People framed as "playing Black", it is useful to be able to apply the above schema to their own tactical approaches in response to the arguments of Authority in claiming to represent the "forces of law and order" (in "playing White"), as separately discussed (Law and Order vs. Lore and Orders? Imagining otherwise the forceful engagement of singularity with plurality, 2013). Like Authority, representatives of the People may indeed adopt "underhand" tactics which justify use of the "terrorist" label -- if only from the perspective of Authority. The element of surprise and degree of illegality is evident in the initiatives of Greenpeace, for example.
As remarked above, the game of Authority versus the People is but a variant of a more general game -- usefully framed as being with "otherness". This may be understood as offering other instances with which there may be much greater familiarity.
Of particular relevance is the kind and quality of "threat" offered by the other in such variants. This reframes interpretation of the manner in which both parties in the game may "play White" or "play Black" -- with the necessity in each case of moving through "black" and "white" positions according to circumstance. The consequence is that the problematically deceptive nature of "black" -- exemplified by the cover-up examples above -- may be reframed as "acceptable", to the point of being appreciated in terms of "ruse", whether or not it may also imply fundamental "betrayal" of some kind.
Whether borrowing from the approach of the ECO code (of the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings), or exploiting that of Wikipedia's indication of a Typology of Cover-ups, there is a case for increasing the widespread popular recognition of potential moves in the game between People and Authority in the light of understanding of other instances of the Greater Game.
Other instances of the Greater Game might then be understood to include the following.
Ball games: The basic "moves" or "plays" are part of the training for any ball game -- as with soccer moves or American football plays, and the more complex "passing patterns". They are carefully studied and practiced, with many readily recognized by spectators. Moves i may even be called by the team captains during the game -- using numbers or codes.The question is whether this familiarity could be in any way "borrowed" to provide insight into a "Greater Game".
It is therefore relevant to this argument to note the extensive recognition of the applicability of such games to life in general and to the conduct of undertakings. In so doing, use may even be made of the phrase the "Greater Game". There is extensive commentary on Football is a Metaphor for Life or Football as a Metaphor for Life., for example, and especially in the USA.
The theme is variously explored otherwise (American Football Metaphors) with more extensive commentaries, including:
As noted by Wikipedia with respect to conceptual framework and a Playbook for Research Methods:
One set of scholars has applied the notion of conceptual framework to deductive, empirical, research at the micro- or individual study level. They employ. American football plays as a useful metaphor to clarify the meaning of conceptual framework (used in the context of a deductive empirical study). A football play is a "plan of action" that directs the movement of the players on the ground. Likewise, conceptual frameworks direct the collection and analysis of data (on the plane of observation -- the ground). Critically, a football play is a "plan of action" tied to a particular, timely, purpose, usually summarized as long or short yardage.
Patricia Shields, and N. Rangarjan argue that it is this tie to "purpose" that make American football plays such a good metaphor (A Playbook for Research Methods: integrating conceptual frameworks and project management, 2013). The authors define a conceptual framework as "the ways ideas are organized to achieve a research project's purpose."
Of relevance to the argument here, however, is the manner in which a goal is scored by one player against the other using the ball. The ball in play curiously changes its significance according to which player controls it. Perception of it thus shifts in the course of play from being an opportunity to being a threat. In the game with intelligence, truth and fact are variously understood to be the "ball". The latter is then understood as a "point" with the objective of "scoring points". The "ball" may even be understood to be engendered in the game itself through a process of "point making" -- with the point becoming a vehicle for identity, as separately explored (Challenges to understanding of point and identity, 2013; Point identity and identification with a point, 2013).
Card games: As with ball games, these have been considered as a rich source of metaphor for life and business (John A. Johnson, Life as Poker, Psychology Today, 25 March 2011; George Epstein, Metaphors in the Game of Poker, Poker Player, 16 June 2008; James McManus, What Poker Can Teach Us, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 October 2009).
Interpersonal relationships: These might be clustered as follows:
Extraterrestrials: Reflection on possibilities can be usefully challenged by speculation on the kinds of games "aliens" might play. This is a theme of some science fiction. Of particular interest is the possibility that ETs might prefer games with three or four"sides" to a game -- or more -- reminiscent of the number of "sides" in the current conflict in Syria. Also of relevance is their potential preference for non-competitive games, as variously explored (Games for Change, World Peace Game Foundation, "serious games"). An "ET perspective" is of particular interest in a period in which many participants in games may be framed and named as "alien", and especially terrorists (Sensing Epiterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): Embedding of "extraterrestrials" in episystemic dynamics? 2013).
The above examples suggest a methodological possibility of "confronting" football metaphors, chess moves, and cover-up moves. Whilst initially tentative, those would offer a means of sharpening the distinctions regarding cover-ups and articulating that typology to a greater degree in the light of familiar moves in the two other domains.
With respect to current debate regarding the adequacy of "democratic oversight" (by the People) of electronic surveillance (by Authority) in a context characterized by cover-up, there is some irony to the extreme importance attached in football to "marking" opponents in association football -- or to the various coverage shells in American football.
As suggested above, the Greater Game is characterized by shifting interpretations of the significance of "black" and "white" -- potentially conflated to a degree with "good" / "evil", and "positive" / "negative". The dynamics of that relationship are usefully understood as a form of "shadow dance" (Us and Them: relating to challenging others -- patterns in the shadow dance between "good" and "evil", 2009) . This dynamic goes beyond the simpler binary facility with which the distinctions are framed as absolute, unchanging and unquestionable. This typical framing, so convenient to any process of demonisation in the media and in political discourse, hinders possibilities of engaging meaningfully with the Greater Game -- so evidently undermining discourse with respect to governance.
Existential engagement: The instances of the Greater Game could then be distinguished in terms of the existential significance attached to "black" and "white", namely the degree to which these were value charged and loaded:
The following table helps to clarify these distinctions. "Moves" may be made "within the game", notably involving deception and surprise (as in poker or ball games). In taking risks, players may however choose to "sacrifice" (an advantage) in some way -- as in chess or in the form of personal sacrifice. Both types of move are evident in courtship and flirtation.
The key to "how black is Black" is related to the sense of breach of confidence in relation to what had been assumed to be the "rules of the game". This is evident in the distinction between "deception as ruse" and "deception as cheating". Alleged breach of international conventions offers a particular example (Alleged Breach of UN Treaty Obligations by US, 2010).
|Moves within and otside the game|
|Players||Moves within the game||Moves outside the game
breach of confidence; betrayal; rule breaking
|Authority/People||illegality; above the law; terrorism; treason|
|Ball game (teams)||doping; game fixing|
|Card game (players)||cheating|
|Romance||cheating; date rape; breach of promise|
Axiological gerrymandering? In the case of Authority versus the People with respect to "intelligence" and "security", focus is given to conflicting perceptions of the quality of "black" in contrast to "white" -- as indicators of value, ethics and morality. Authority as represented by US/NSA/PRISM frames itself as the purest "white" (ultimate defender of democracy), acting against darkest "black" (threatening security through terrorism).
As a consequence any measures are legitimate and unquestionable, whether or not they are undertaken in secret -- "black" being considered fundamentally evil. Fast "footwork", associated with shifting the value "goal posts" might then be understood in terms of "axiological gerrymandering" (Systematic Gerrymandering of Declared Threats and Legality of Response, 2013)
The People, experiencing themselves as victims of deception and breach of confidence -- of extremely dubious legality -- then frame Authority as "black", and the People as "white". However Authority responds by framing disclosures of classified information as an illegal breach of confidence -- leading to the framing of representatives of the People as "black" (Snowden, Manning, Assange, etc). This is readily extended to "evil", through the claimed support thereby given to "terrorism", thereby justifying arguments for their termination with prejudice. Ironically it is the fact that such disclosures are "unauthorised" (namely by Authority) which justifies their framing as "black".
Unauthorised actions? This suggests the question as to whether any action initiated by the People can ever be considered as inherently "white" -- if it has not been "authorised". This poses major questions for countries which have achieved their independence primarily as a consequence of the actions of those labelled "terrorists" -- only to be acclaimed thereafter (George Washington, Nelson Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta, Ben Gurion, etc). Unfortunately for any Authority, whose representatives have established a track record of misleading Congress (representing the People), the corresponding question might be whether Authority has any capacity to prove that is it not misleading the People -- beyond the dubious assertion of some questionable facts (for which no concrete proof is supplied) and the denial of others (for which evidence may be claimed, with some confidence). (10 Demands for Concrete Proof by We the Peoples of the World, 2012).
Are statements by Authority then to be considered as at least potentially "black" -- especially when the legality of actions by Authority has not been unambiguously established according to the principles of democracy, which Authority claims to uphold and be vigorously defending?
From the perspective of the People, is it appropriate to assume that assertions by Authority (faced with the challenges of governance) must necessarily range between truth and falsehood -- usefully to be coded by "white" or "black", as appropriate? Is withholding information from the People then also to be framed as "black"?
Fundamental to the distinction between "white" and "black" is the manner in which they are associated with "democracy" and "terrorism" respectively -- as the modern euphemism for "good" and "evil". Any action against "terrorism" is then considered legitimate -- as has been the action of religions against "evil". As with "evil" in the past, "terrorism" is now the ultimate trump card. No questions regarding the possibility of mission creep or related matters are to be tolerated -- despite the classic adage: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
Tip of the iceberg? The shadow dance has been only too evident in the case of the Vatican's response to sexual abuse by the clergy. As the Authority, it has of course engaged in many recognizable moves in the cover-up strategy indicated above. More relevant is the manner in which its own acclaimed status as representative of the "good" has been called into question, despite efforts to frame heroic witnesses as "evil" -- deliberately setting aside the "evil" of the breach of confidence of the perpetrators of the abuse and its systematic cover-up.
The further challenge for "White", as with respect to the intelligence example (following the disclosures), is that the question arises as to what else is "hidden" -- by which any current status as "good" may be subsequently and dramatically called into question.
In the intelligence case, reference is made to mysterious "crown jewels", as separately discussed (Unsuspected "crown jewels" of intelligence community: backdoors to the mind? 2013). Issues regarding the extent of financial corruption and homosexuality within the Vatican are as yet unresolved -- but these may only be the tip of the iceberg. The mind boggles at the further possibilities given the surprises caused by the existing disclosures in both cases. Deliberate complicity in engendering the deaths of millions is a possibility (Enabling suffering through religious doublespeak, 2013).
Betrayal by "black" -- or by "white"? The quality of betrayal, and its significance as experienced, can be readily understood in the case of cheating, whether in ball games, card games or romantic relationships. In the latter case especially, the betrayer is readily framed as "evil" -- although the betrayer may frame it as a "legitimate" success in the game as a result of skilled deception ("all is fair in love and war"). When negatively loaded, breach of confidence is appropriately described in jargon terms as having been "screwed"
The People would so claim in the case of the action of Authority regarding matters of surveillance and intelligence, or in the other instances cited above in relation in relation to the typology of cover-up. This is literally the case with respect to sexual abuse by the clergy -- in which the latter may perversely claim to embody the "good" in undertaking abuse, as a means of alleviating the "evil" embodied by the person abused.
A more systematic understanding is potentially available through a schematic representation of the functions at the disposal of the opposing players in a game -- in the light of chess, as presented below.
|Moves in the game by opposing players|
|castle-a / rook||x||x||unlimited|
|queen||initially on same colour||x||x||x||unlimited|
|king||initially on opposite colour||x||x||x||restricted|
Of interest, somewhat ironically, is that the only "piece" that restricts itself to a single colour is that of the "bishop" -- worthy of consideration in efforts and claims to be only "positive" or "good". However this too offers a challenging contrast. For Black, one black bishop moves only on black squares. For White, one white bishop moves only on black squares. Intriguingly in the case of the Vatican, the Pope (traditionally garbed in white) is matched by a so-called Black Pope (typically garbed in black), namely the head of the Jesuit order. Curiously it has been claimed that a Jesuit could never be elected to the papacy, although the current Pope is indeed a Jesuit -- perhaps in appropriate response to the current Vatican crises.
Space of the Greater Game: With the "colour crossing" necessary to the game of opposing players, the chequered board frames the larger space of the game more realistically -- effectively such as to justify arguments of the form "everybody does it". This is the current justification offered by US/NSA for espionage. The argument also features in the discourse regarding both the sexual activities of a supposedly celibate clergy, whether in its consensual heterosexual or homosexual forms -- and irrespective of the cases of abuse.
Whilst the above comments offer a particular focus to the concerns of the People more generally, in relation to any Authority, they have made little reference to their applicability to the People experienced as problematic game-players by Authority. Arguably representatives of the People are as challenged to recognize the problematic manner of their breach of confidence as is Authority.
Clearly the further twist to the tale lies in the perceived necessity in each case to "break the rules" and act outside the game -- whether or not this is framed as heroic or demonic. As perceived by the future, "heroes" are as likely to be framed now as "terrorists" and imprisoned -- as is the likelihood that others will be framed as "villains", despite being currently rewarded by immunity or otherwise.
Representing a shadow dance: The argument above has focused on insights that might be elicited from the 8x8 chess board game. Reference was made to the relevance of other board games such as go. Curiously one of the most famed Chinese encodings of strategic decision making is the 8x8 pattern of hexagrams of the Yi Jing (I Ching, or Book of Changes). The argument of the previous section regarding the shifting dynamics between "black" and "white", with respect to insights that might be implied by chess, can be taken a step further by use of hexagram representations of 64 positions on a square.
Purely as an experiment in representation, to get a sense of the challenge to comprehension of a shifting pattern, four traditional variants of the disposition of 64 hexagrams in an 8x8 pattern can be used together -- through an animation of the alternation between each of the four. The purpose is to provide a sense of the "shadow dance" between "white" and "black". The use of patterns of broken and unbroken lines, as an indication of the binary contrast between black and white, offers a further challenge to interpretation -- namely as to whether "unbroken" is to be construed as "white" or "black".
|Experimental "shadow dance" between "black" and "white"
(animation using traditional Chinese arrangements of 64 hexagrams)
The four traditional arrangements of 64 hexagrams used experimentally in the above animation are:
Further commentary on these patterns is provided separately (Strategic Patterns in terms of Knowing, Feeling and Action, 2008). As noted there, the four alternatives raise the question of how many other "interesting" ways such hexagrams might be ordered in a square arrangement. How the significance of elements in the pattern is to be interpreted, as partially discussed there, is not of immediate relevance here.
As implied by the dynamically shifting pattern above, the Greater Game is arguably of higher dimensionality than the Great Game. The goals are constantly shifting (a process deprecated in the case of "goal posts"), as with the manner in which players and outcomes are valued. Implications are notably explored in consideration of how to operate beyond rational choice (Bernice A. Pescosolido, Beyond Rational Choice: the social dynamics of how people seek help, American Journal of Sociology, 1992; Noson S. Yanofsky, The Outer Limits of Reason: what science, mathematics, and logic cannot tell us, 2013)
Within this "space" people are obliged to distinguish a limited set of "dramatis personae" by which they are variously affected. These acquire archetypal and mythological dimensions. The challenge to comprehension is that such complexity is probably best viewed through an 8-fold filter -- given the classical constraints highlighted by George Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: some limits on our capacity for processing information, Psychological Review, 1956). Appropriately such an 8-fold filter is effectively inherent in the chequered structure of a board game such as chess. "Moves" are only possible in eight directions -- from the "nineth" position occupied by the player.
Transformational games: Aside from recognition of ball games as a "metaphor for life", the Greater Game can be explored through games designed to offer insight into the complexity of life and its opportunities, as separately discussed (Imaginal education: game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making, 2003). These include:
All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you hope to climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner, and for every snake a ladder will compensate. But it's more than that; no mere carrot-and-stick affair; because implicit in the game is unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent; in the opposition of staircase and cobra we can see, metaphorically, all conceivable oppositions, Alpha against Omega, father against mother. (p. 160)
Of related interest is allusive speculation in science fiction regarding games which might be designed or played. These include:
I suddenly realized that in the language, or at any rate in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbol led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with truly a meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang holiness is forever being created.
...the Game is a game, true enough. but it is rather intricate and multiplex, and capable of truly bottomless subtleties. Therefore each who enters it comes to see different things in it. Some see music, others language. Still others life processes; and others chemistry and the like. (p. 171).... It seems to be tied up deeply in the popular religion, a kind of movable morality play...factions, rivalries, the whole thing. (p. 264)
A reservation is offered by Hannah Arendt, as cited above (The Imperialist Character, The Review of Politics, 1950), commenting on the temptations of the endless game of imperialism:
There are at least two kinds of games: finite and infinite. A finite game is a game that has fixed rules and boundaries, that is played for the purpose of winning and thereby ending the game. An infinite game has no fixed rules or boundaries. In an infinite game you play with the boundaries and the purpose is to continue the game.
Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful. Finite players try to control the game, predict everything that will happen, and set the outcome in advance. They are serious and determined about getting that outcome. They try to fix the future based on the past. Infinite players enjoy being surprised. Continuously running into something one didn't know will ensure that the game will go on. The meaning of the past changes depending on what happens in the future.
It somehow was not the fault of the born adventurers, that is of those who by their very nature used to dwell outside society and outside all political bodies, that they found in imperialism a political game that was endless by definition; they were not supposed to know that in politics an endless game can only end in catastrophe and that political secrecy hardly ever ends in anything nobler than the vulgar duplicity of a spy. The joke on these participants in the Great Game was that their employers new what they wanted and used their passion of anonymity for ordinary spying. But this triumph of the profit-hungry investors was temporary, and they were duly cheated when a few decades later they met the players of the game of totalitarianism, a game played without ulterior motives like profit and therefore played with such murderous efficiency that it devoured even those who financed it.
These associations offer curious echoes to the elaboration of a "game of spheres" by Nicholas de Cusa (De Ludo Globi, 1463), written as a contribution to both a literature and a practice of moral game-playing. This formed part of the tradition of the forgotten chess-like game Rithmomachia ("The Battle of Numbers" or Rythmomachy), which combined the pleasures of gaming with mathematical study and moral education. Intellectuals of the medieval and Renaissance periods who played this game were not only seeking to master the principles of Boethian mathematics but were striving to improve their own understanding of the secrets of the cosmos (Ann E. Moyer, In The Philosophers' Game, 2001). This was undoubtedly an inspiration to the magnum opus of Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse, as noted by Todd R. Harris (The Interplay of Opposites, the Language of Experience, and the Geometry of Ascent: a comparison of Hermann Hesse's "Das Glasperlenspiel" and Nicholas of Cusa's "De Ludo Globi", 2001).
Transformational tension: As previously noted (Strategy games as pointers to comprehension of multi-dimensionality, 2006), games like chess and go are frequently associated with comments concerning the distinct "energy" or tensions characteristic of certain strategic conditions. A valuable description of this subtle perception is provided (in translation) by Michel Bruneau (Dynamic Chess Classification -- Chess Theory) which explicitly acknowledges how difficult it is to explain the meaning of "energy" in chess. The document distinguishes, and comments on, 7 game conditions: "Quick divergency", "Slow divergency", "Damped divergency", "Unstable", "Balanced", "Exhausted", "Aborted",
Bruneau states that "chess energy" or "tension" is the result of various imbalances appearing on the chessboard during the unfolding of the game. Their brief description, in energy terms, of each condition -- as a discontinuity -- suggests an intriguing resemblance to geometrical descriptions of the 7 catastrophes. Their descriptions might be usefully refined by a chess-playing mathematician familiar with catastrophe theory. Such descriptions might also be usefully confronted with analogous descriptions by go-playing mathematicians (cf David H. Stern et al. Modelling Uncertainty in the Game of Go; Bruno Bouzy and Tristan Cazenave, Computer Go: an AI oriented survey, 2001).
Inherent ambiguity and enantiodromia: The argument above regarding the interpretation of "White" and "Black" could be succinctly presented in the following:
|Pattern of transformational transactions within the Greater Game|
|Positive/Good||"White" as unquestionably good,
or possibly bad?
|"White "as good|
|Negative/Bad||"Black" as unquestionably bad
or possibly good ?
|"Black" as bad|
Declarations, assertions and assumptions may rely on the certainty of interpretation and respect for Authority. Propaganda may seek to reinforce this. The difficulty in practice is that the "other" player is readily framed negatively, irrespective of whether it claims to be "White". The contradictory information in circulation reinforces uncertainty and challenges closure on unambiguous definition. Through a paradoxical process of enantiodromia, social dynamics result in a transformation of players into an embodiment of the values previously abhorred -- as with the manner in which US security initiatives (purportedly undertaken with the best intentions) become virtually indistinguishable from those of regimes and values it has claimed in the past to deplore.
The relevance of enantiodromia has been explored by William Irwin Thompson (Pacific Shift, 1986), as summarized by Ralph Peters (The Gaian Politics of Lindisfarne's William Irwin Thompson, Earth Light Library, 2002):
Thompson's conclusion: "good" conscious intentions are no longer adequate motivational bases to guide revolutionary movements or political programs. If we are to reduce the relentless frequency and powerful aftermaths of these enantiodromias in the future, then we must be able to discern and integrate what is underneath conscious motivation and that is the full spectrum of unconscious motivations. We must now begin to take into account not just the historical unconscious of Hegel, the socioeconomic unconscious of Marx, the biological unconscious of Freud, the mythic unconscious of Jung and the political unconscious of Foucault but also the ecological unconscious of Gregory Bateson which became transmuted into Gaia in the 1980s. The disowned waste generated and accumulated by our civilization along all these dimensions is an informational signal and a type of self-communication that we are ready to evolve from one cultural ecology to the next. Yet in the final analysis Thompson affirms the wisdom of the mystic that we cannot in principle know everything and even trying to reduce all unconscious information to conscious systems notation is a sure formula for an even bigger unconsciously generated disaster.
Credibility is now subject to a strange variant of the Uncertainty Principle (Garrison Sposito, Does a generalized Heisenberg Principle operate in the social sciences? Inquiry, 1969). Insight, by comparison with light, then lends itself to particulate "definition" under certain circumstances only, but has wave-like significance under others, as separately argued (Encountering Otherness as a Waveform, 2013). Veracity is guaranteed neither by an authoritative title, nor by a chest of medals, nor by ceremonial garb of high symbolic significance -- especially when all have been systematically dishonoured. Authority is only trustworthy to the extent that it can be trusted to defend its authority at all costs.
Following Thompson's argument for integrating what is "underneath conscious motivation", there is a case for framing this as the classical exploration of a "netherworld" (Designing Global Self-governance for the Future: patterns of dynamic integration of the netherworld, 2010; Mapping the Global Underground, 2010).
Recognizing an archetypal pattern? To take this exploration further, in the spirit of "Global Sensemaking", the "mythological" dimensions might be articulated and configured as follows:
Given the 8-fold cognitive constraint (indicated above), together these might usefully form a pattern of the following kind -- with each cell of the table potentially reframed with appreciation or deprecation.
|Ambiguously defined archetypal conceptual "entities" of the global knowledge society|
|Preoccupations||Global communities and worldviews
(as strategic inspirations of choice)
profitability, avoidance of change
|Islamic business ethics;
|Sustainability; Global financial system; Millennium Development Goals||Liberalism; Multinational corporations; Military-industrial complex|
Democracy; rule of law
|Islamic Law (Sharia)||[unsaid; unknown; unthought;
|Rule of law; New World Order
Great commission variants
Terror; politics of fear; risk-taking, extremism; innovation
| Complicity in injustice and terror; Dubious role of questionable law (extrajudicial detention; extrajudical killing; enhanced interrogation; extraordinary rendition)
Crusades (Tenth Crusade);
Elusive archetypes of the collective unconscious: The nature of the row dimensions and the column dimensions, and their interweaving to form cells, frames a challenge to the recognition of "archetypes" -- however these are to be understood. These are readily experienced as nebulous and elusive, whatever definitions are assertively applied to them for convenience, or are assumed to be applicable. It is in this sense that the controversy regarding Jungian archetypes engendered by the collective unconscious is relevant, as with the associated reservations by Carl Jung and others. These usefully highlight the cognitively "slippery" nature of "archetypes" and therefore their value with respect to the partial comprehension of the elements of the table above (Towards the Dynamic Art of Partial Comprehension, 2012; Towards the Systematic Reframing of Incomprehension through Metaphor, 2012).
For Jung and others, as innate universal pre-conscious psychic dispositions, archetypes form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge -- hence the advantage of suggesting their role with respect to a global civilization. The archetypes are components of the collective unconscious and serve to organize, direct and inform human thought and behaviour -- whether individually or collectively. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. The features framed by the cells of the table are indicative of the focal role of such nebulous fundamentals of civilization at this time -- namely the challenge for meaningful communication regarding them, and for coherent actions in relation to them.
Cognitive clues from biomimicry and technomimicry?: In a spirit of biomimicry and technomimicry, what might be the cognitive insights of relevance to playing a greater game with intelligence? (Engendering a Psychopter through Biomimicry and Technomimicry: insights from the process of helicopter development, 2011)
Octopuses are some of the most complex, bizarre and intelligent creatures in the sea. They can squeeze through holes smaller than a quarter, pull with hundreds of pounds of force, change the color and texture of their skin in an instant and, with their walnut-sized brains, figure out how to open a childproof pill bottle to reach a tasty morsel of crab. With such an impressive array of skills, it was only a matter of time before engineers started asking: Could we make a robot that behaves like an octopus?It is not difficult to imagine that such design work could give rise to insights of relevance to the operation of the Group of Eight (G8) -- possibly to be understood as the "global brain" of the "international community"
Google's modification, qCraft, adds blocks with a quantum twist. Some can have multiple possible properties and will change their appearance based on when they are observed, linked to the quantum concept of superposition. Pairs of blocks can also be entangled, so that the appearance of one will influence that of another no matter how far apart they are in the virtual world.With the addition of such observer-dependency properties, some of the new blocks can be "activated" simply by looking at them, while others are prone to disappear at any moment. In considering realistic simulations of the shifting patterns of significance variously attributed to psychosocial objects (indicated above), is there not a case for benefitting from intelligent gaming of this kind?
The apparent eightfold constraint on human cognitive capacity (noted above) is consistent with the formulation of "eightfold ways" in quite disparate domains: the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhist doctrine, the Eightfold Way of particle-physics theory, the Eightfold Path in policy analysis, the Eightfold Path of Data Science, and the Eightfold Path to Chemical Addiction Recovery. Of great potential relevance to this argument is a perspective offered by mathematics in the compilation edited by Silvio Levy (The Eightfold Way: the beauty of Klein's quartic curve, 2001). This includes an illustrated essay by the mathematical sculptor Helaman Ferguson, who distilled some of the beauty and remarkable properties of this surface into a sculpture entitled "The Eightfold Way". The sculpture has been described as "the perfect biomorphic form: it is sensuous and intelligent at the same time".
Coaction: One approach to taking the argument further is through application to the above table of the insights regarding the coaction cardioid cycle of Edward Haskell (Full Circle: The Moral Force of Unified Science, 1972), and its further development by Timothy Wilken (UnCommon Science, 2001). Haskell can be understood as framing a pattern of relationships as follows. This is potentially to be seen as inviting a correspondence to the table above. It is reproduced from a separate argument which attempts to develop further the insights of Haskell and Wilken (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005).
|Possible 8-fold Positive-Negative Hybrid Conditions|
|.||.||Y = "Control component" (Authority?)|
Potential significance of a "hole": Especially intriguing in seeking a relationship between this frame and the earlier framing relating "communities" and "preoccupations" is the significance which might be associated with the central position. As the neutral junction of order and globality, it is even less definable than the eight positions around it. Problematically it could be understood as a form of blindspot engendering systemic neglect.
As a form of "hole" in the pattern, it calls for consideration in the light of the reflections of Roberto Casati and Achille C. Varzi (Holes and Other Superficialities, 1994) -- with respect to the borderlines of metaphysics, everyday geometry, and the theory of perception (as they summarize in the entry on holes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It could be considered as a domain of "unthought" as variously discussed separately (Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization: implications of God, debt, overpopulation, waste, negligence, encroachment and death? 2012; Lipoproblems: developing a strategy omitting a key problem, 2009; Strategic Implications of 12 Unasked Questions in Response to Disaster, 2013).
Expressed otherwise, it is from such a cognitive "hole" that emerge the "Black Swans" of Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007). Habitual approaches to playing the great game with intelligence are thereby disrupted. Such events focus attention on the form of intelligence with which best to engage them (Implication of Indwelling Intelligence in Global Confidence-building, 2012).
Eightfold encoding: The argument developed in the previous paper (regarding the cardioid attractor) focused on use of the classical Chinese BaGua coding system in providing a correspondence to the pattern of the table above. The two classical variants are presented below and were the focus of a separate animation to provide a sense of the shifting nature of the transformations between them (Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements: a dynamic representation of Neti Neti, 2008). As with the tabular presentations above, the configuration around a form of hole is of potential significance as the locus of the player in considering options in the game. In the Chinese tradition, it is also reminiscent of the form and significance of the bi disk of jade.
|Indicative animations of 8-fold Ba Gua (Pa Kua) Mirror|
|Fu Xi (Earlier Heaven) arrangement
|King Wen (Later Heaven) arrangement
|NB: Imperfections in these animations have not been corrected -- since they help to imply real-life decision-making|
The suggestion, with respect to both the table above regarding the "archetypal conceptual entities" of the global knowledge society and to engagement in any game (including ball games and chess), is that any "move" is made from the centre of some such framing in one of their eight "directions". These can be characterized as distinct cognitive functions -- ways of operating. The dynamics between broken and unbroken lines in the codes, however these are associated with "Black" and "White" (and the associated values), helps to indicate how "Black may become the new White" and "White may become the new Black" (as appreciated in fashion slogans).
This understanding may be further clarified in the following images. That on the left uses the "chess board" options. That on the right sets the pattern within the traditional longevity knot -- potentially suggestive of an understanding of the continuity of sustainability. The Tao symbol, which is traditionally depicted in the centre of the BaGua pattern, is retained here. It has the merit of acting as a reminder, in any association to football, that the player may decide to make use of either foot. The speed used for the animation is also reminiscent of the attention time available for many decisions or the appreciation of new information (as presented Twitter-style or via an Rss feed, for example). Appropriately this bears greater resemblance to the situation of the football player than to the considered reflection that is possible in deciding a chess move.
|Uses of BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement|
|Use of BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement
(with 8 possible moves from central position
presented in a square pattern)
|Use of BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement
(with possible moves from central position
set within traditional longevity knot)
|Use of BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement
(using a traditional Celtic knot as indicative of patterned connectivity
Further insight into the dynamics of a meta-pattern can be suggested by the use of animations. Two possibilities are given below.
|Animations of BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement|
|Animation indicative of moves from central position
using BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement
(rotation of whole image, without relative movement)
|Animation indicative of moves from central position
using BaGua configuration in FuXi arrangement
(no rotation of whole image, but with relative movements)
|Transactional game patterns defining a
(reproduced from Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability:
8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005).
As argued, the meta-pattern of the greater game with intelligence embodies uncertainty and paradox in unusual ways -- necessarily eluding conventional definitions and closure, except as temporary tokens in the game, perhaps to be understood as transitional objects. It is appropriate to note that work of early French surrealists engendered a journal entitled Le Grand Jeu (Michel Camus, L'Enjeu du Grand Jeu, 1994; Michel Random, Le Grand Jeu, 1970; René Daumal, Les phénoménologistes et le Grand Jeu, 1932 ).
It is in such a context that efforts by Authority to present itself repeatedly as the unquestionable epitome of the highest values -- to the People -- bears intriguing resemblance to the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes and the challenge from the "Little Boy" (Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, 2009)
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