What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Strategy Lessons of Border Patrol Refusal Videos

May 17, 2014, 11:31 AM
Bt_border_patrol_final

In the 1983 film War Games the government has built a computer to simulate all the ways in which thermonuclear war might play out in order to find the best strategy. This is great for a government than can spend millions on research, but I'm not likely to convince the RAND corporation to program a simulation of my romantic relationship and run tests to determine the best way to get my girlfriend Marijke to take the dog out in the morning.

But there is another way to run variations on certain scenarios. The internet connects us together, even unintentionally. So if you can find enough of the same kinds of interactions recorded you can create a theory on how to optimize that scenario.

An example is "Border Patrol Refusal Videos" on YouTube. It's an unintentional virtual community optimizing crowd-sourced strategies to an invented game.

The game is not to get through the checkpoint, because they could simply admit to being US citizens. The game is to get through the checkpoint without answering the question of citizenship.

Some people play this game outside Border Patrol Checkpoints, but the low risk of Border Patrol checkpoints (you can always just show your ID and be let go) allows for a relatively safe environment.



The common strategy is to make demands and ask loud questions. By acting with confidence they don't allow the figure of authority to have any power over them.

It's clear that they are learning from one another. They share similar language and arguments. Also there is an obsession with Mexico and Nazi Germany...



Frustration for the win. Victory through exasperation. Or as I like to call it, The Insufferable Strategy.

Eventually the Border Patrol agent realizes the ridiculousness of the situation and that there is no win condition for them. They have to give up.

  
One man rises up as the beautiful mind of non-compliance. He simply doesn't speak. (The original video was 15 minutes, I've edited it down to 1:22.)

He spent over two hours at a Border Patrol checkpoint. Two hours! (He has more videos exploring different strategies, from handing out "Yes, I'm a US Citizen" business cards to wearing a wig and installing a disco ball in his car.)

YouTube has allowed us to see, over and over, that non-compliance works at a Border Control checkpoint. The checkpoints allow people to practice questioning authority. As they grow more confident they can start to question higher levels of authority.

What Border Patrol Refusal Videos highlight is an effective tactic with no planned strategy. The strategy is an emergent property of the game being played out online. Should enough people see these videos and replicate them it would be the effective end of the border control checkpoints. Should the checkpoints be removed the relatively safe space to practice anti-authoritarian behaviors is also removed.

Like the computer in War Games the lesson the internet teaches about ineffective use of authority is that the only winning move is not to play.

 

Strategy Lessons of Border ...

Newsletter: Share: