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ATCA 5000

Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance

Charlie Hebdo: Can We Understand Extremism In France Via Self Assembling Dynamic Networks (SADNs)?

Place des Terreaux in Lyon, France: Outpouring of Sympathy and Solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo extremist attacks 

The regrettable and tragic extremist incidents in France, which resulted in double digit loss of ordinary citizens' lives are the worst since the Second World War. 

ATCA 5000 offers its deep condolences to the bereaved families, the victims of the atrocities and solidarity with the people of France.  

Historic events over three days have shaken the nation to its core especially as these events were perpetrated by French citizens.  Several ATCA 5000 distinguished members both within France and French citizens around the world have been in regular touch during the unfolding crises.

What are the immediate consequences of extremism in France?  Greater system-wide security and law-enforcement.  

What are the unintended effects of the deployment of that higher security? Potential reduction in trust, freedom, tranquility and humanity. 

It may be useful to dwell on Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks (SADNs), a framework concept which ATCA 5000 first advanced in 2010, before discussing this further.  The short hand of religious extremism may be incomplete because this is a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted asymmetric threat not just within France but across Europe and around the world.

What are the Key Features and Highlights of Self Assembling Dynamic Networks (SADNs)?

  1. Asymmetric power;
  2. Unintended consequences;
  3. No central control;
  4. No intelligent blueprint or formalised design;
  5. Rapid scaling;
  6. Unprecedented speed;
  7. Regional and trans-national synchronicity;
  8. Greater transparency;
  9. Creation of boundary-less tribalism; and
  10. New order born out of chaos.

Beyond the top ten attributes, the automatic lack of definition and anonymity ensures the resilience of Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks in the event of hostile force being deployed by hierarchical authorities to eradicate them.

Where does this Psycho-Social Pathology come from?

There is a psycho-social pathology propagated by a growing sense of despair amongst people who, for whatever reason, feel "disrespected", under valued, ignored, and ostracised by or estranged from their "natural" social environments. David Lawrence Hawthorne on the live debate within the Social Capital Markets network in regard to the origins and consequences of the French extremist attacks states that these tend to include ever broader and more complex environs:

  1. Nature;
  2. Humanity;
  3. Community;
  4. Contemporaries;
  5. Neighbours;
  6. Colleagues;
  7. Co-religionists;
  8. Friends;
  9. Life-mates;
  10. Family; and
  11. Self.

What Forms do Fantastical Relationships take?

The absence or choking off of some of these significant channels sets the personality adrift in search of fantastical relationships:

  1. Cults;
  2. Gangs;
  3. Radical political communities; and
  4. Religious extremists.

The price of "belonging" to these groups is a "surrender of the self" and subordination of the "Failed self" to the "Super-self." The result is an ad hoc collection of social outcasts that accept the idea that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  This dynamic is not new, but it can be exacerbated by a society that has become increasingly mediated through "virtual" communication to enable Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks (SADNs). 

For example, as Hawthorne points out:  video games could be particularly inviting to such individuals because they offer multiple levels of simulated existence, such as, assumed identities, highly effective actions, immediate gratification and alliances governed by knowable rules.  A sense of "us against them."  Radical Religious beliefs have a similar capacity in that the "reality" dematerialises into beliefs or fantasies that are un-provable. 

The "lines" are explicit in "Complex Adaptive Systems Theory." One way of looking at it is that "social dynamics and relationship" persistently evolve crossing back and forth between states of order and disorder.  The word chaos is often used but perhaps it would be more appropriate to think in terms of continual cycles of order and disorder.

Elephant In The Room?

Linda Larson Kemp of the Social Capital Markets network adds in the live debate on France's extremist attacks that there's an elephant in the room. This is the presumed worldview of hierarchy and hierarchical control. This view equates to the proper or given social order rather than non-hierarchical relationships; manifest as networks and communities of equals: domination versus partnership. 

What's the presumed environment over which the existing system model is placed to interpret proper or normal outcome, status and behaviour? 

When one switches away from hierarchy as a presumed worldview, then there's no basis for being annoyed either as dis-respector or dis-respectee because disrespect is seen as un-wellness rather than insubordination or oppression. 


  1. This is a global issue and not just a France specific issue;
  2. The authorities need to think out of the box in terms of countering these rising asymmetric threats which are in a state of flux and rapid evolution. The cumulative asymmetric risks of not doing so are likely to render our existing structures utterly obsolete in the years ahead;
  3. Greater national, regional and international collaboration is required to garner and to share intelligence via the evolution of new structures that parallel the exponential rise of Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks or SADNs;
  4. If we seek to ensure our antiquated organisational structures are not overwhelmed by sudden unintended accelerations, we need to carry out a number of strategic actions.  We need to realign, reorganise and restructure our priorities, law enforcement systems, communities, businesses, NGO frameworks and operations. This is the only way to address and to benefit from the clear metamorphosis that is now visibly underway; and
  5. From global insurrection to implications for foreign policy and from just-in-time supply-chain disruptions to the out-of-control bubbling systemic risks the cumulative effects of Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks or SADNs can no longer be ignored.


What are your thoughts, observations and views?  We are keen to listen and to learn.  Please add your comments below.

DK Matai

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Comments (1) -

  • Amy Lehman

    12/01/2015 14:53:10 |

    The description SADNs of above very beautifully captures the conditions under which I work in the Lake Tanganyika basin, and we have advocated a similar cross-sectoral approach to create resilience within the communities that remain at risk to these hard-to-predict and ever-dynamic conditions. Foreign policy, as well as COIN, Aid and Development, must evolve. We are trying to state-build on a set of outdated principles and concepts.

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