The original words of Phanes, tirelessly carved into a slab of "No'".

On The Riddle of Steel

Today, I will pontificate. But first, some definitions. I will define:

  • Will
  • Creation
  • Strength
  • Power

I will then go on to discuss how these concepts all relate to one another, the dynamics between them — I will also provide an allegorical device to demonstrate the concepts.

Will is defined in most dictionaries as “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses”.

But it’s more than that. Will is such an interesting thing. It’s intangible, but does very real, very important things all through history, and did so even far before history could be recorded. From the erection of Alexandria to the declaration of independence — from making clay pots in Eridu and Ur to putting a man on the moon in Houston — from the wheel to the automobile — all human endeavour and all human creations were driven by a human will.

Genesis, or in this context, creation, is a process driven by that will, which converts resources into something new. If all means of creation could be abstracted to a device, perhaps a mill, turning a gear whose resulting flour or meal is what is created by that device, then will would be the bar upon which force is applied to turn its gear.

These are all common, lofty words that tend to lose their meaning over time. We tend to equate things like “will, strength, power” and various combinations to mean the same thing, to confuse their expressions as chest thumping — without realizing that these concepts are not only disparate and meaningful, but that their definitions touch close to the core of what it really is to be human — and what it is that makes humans so incredibly dominant as to easily retain absolute reign over all life on Earth with control of our own destiny beyond the conditions of our environments. Our dumbest and weakest examples of humanity are among the royalty of all other life on Earth.

I define will as “the desire or inclination, or a choice to do something”.

As for strength, there are many definitions of strength and I don’t like or agree with most of them. The one I currently use is “the ability to execute will”. A strong person can move heavy things. That fits my definition, sure, but another type of strong person can execute their will to completely reshape their environment. These can be the same person, but they don’t have to be. A strong person may not be able to lift a heavy boulder but might be able to turn a group of wanderers in the wilderness into a thriving city. Another strong person might be able to kill a bear with a club but might not be great at sculpting or building a house. So, there are types of strength, but all of them involve the ability to execute will in one form or another. In all cases, strength is the force applied to the bar in our abstract device of creation.

So far our device is one person turning a bar to create something. But that’s not the full extent of what humans do with this device.

There’s this ugly word, “Power”. An overused word. A misused word. A misleading word. It’s a thing that corrupts. It is so good at corruption that it tends to corrupt its own definition. I describe it as alive and self-determining, because it often is. It is an ugly thing that creates itself, protects itself, desires to make more of itself, and destroys itself, only to be reborn in the ashes of itself. It is its own predator. It reproduces. It breathes. It eats. It produces waste. Though only a concept, it checks many of the boxes on the list of what it is to be life. It also is a critical piece of most of the incredible things that our species can do.

Power is related to strength in the same way that creation is related to will. One person’s power is their strength and will, combined with the strength and will of anyone that person can compel to execute their will on their behalf. As it relates to our creation device, it is the incorporation of others using their own devices to create the same product. It turns one person using one device into an engine comprised of many instances of that device to a relatively common will to produce a composite product of the wielder’s intent.

At its essence, power is a product of influence, whether by voluntary incorporation, trickery or by force. This is why I describe it as an ugly thing, because so often it is of trickery and force.

As power relates to oppositional strength and will, in most cases, the will and strength behind power wins out against an individual adversary’s will and strength. Usually, more often than not. However, this only applies when the sum of the strength and will behind a power is collectively more than the will and strength behind the individual adversary. Remember that power is the culmination of will and strength behind all influenced by that power, so an individual with more will and/or strength than a collective will have more power even though there is only one person in opposition to a group.

There are many times when an individual with strength and will stands up against a powerful collection of people and wins due to this dynamic, though it is more the exception than the norm. Inspiration, which is a factor of will, and strategy, which is a factor of strength, are critical factors. A single person with the right motivation and strategic aptitude can absolutely steamroll an adversary that is comprised of many people if conditions allow.

Let’s go back to our platonic device: Individual power is one entity applying force to a desire. Composite power is an organization of people applying force to a composite of desires that loosely arrange to meet the desire of their organizer. So, there are two paths to increase power.

  • First, if each person behind the power (single or group) were to dissect strength and will to their respective atomic components, and develop the attributes that result in the output of those components, their individual power can increase, and whether a group or an individual, the total power of that entity would increase.
  • Second, and this also applies to individuals and groups, the addition of new contributors to the effort with their own devices also increases entity power by the addition of new strength and will, provided the overlay of wills is aligned enough such that the composite of them will correspond to the goal.

That increases entity power. So how does that unfold in adversarial scenarios where it’s one power against another power? This is where composite coherency comes in for power. So you’ve got 100 people running their devices and they all have the same basic desire or will such that overlaying them all on top of each other creates an image. But, there are deviations between each person’s visions and desires, and the focus or coherency of that image becomes more fragmented with each additional person added to your metamachine– and this diffuses the coherency of the aggregate will powering your devices. You now have your collective power going a million different directions. In the case of one person with one device, even someone with great strength turning the bar on their device, with a fuzzy vision or desire, an unfocused will, all that power also diffuses in different directions, so, the actual amount of power going towards the intended direction is much lower than the total power produced by the person. This applies equally to groups and individuals, but is a critical weakness of groups.

In an adversarial scenario, that would be a weakness to exploit, and often is exploited.

Even when not exploited, this is a dynamic that often will create a situation where a group or a group’s leadership sets out to accomplish one outcome or desire, and ends up doing something completely different or having an extremely different impact on the environment they operate in. If the group sets out with an altruistic intent, but everyone in the group besides the leader is motivated by greed or avarice, you’ll inadvertently create a result that is scattered in the application of that power and largely jilted by those bristles of avarice.

So, it’s not enough that power be increased without also calibrating the focus of the will of each member of the entity whose power is being developed. It’s not enough to have great will. It must also be attuned to be of utility to the group for the group to have actualized power, and it must be moreso focused for the scenario involving an individual. In this, a person of great focus, will, and strength can have much less power than a group in a conflict, and still win, because the group may not be actually unified as much on the actual application of that power, meaning that the single person with less power is actually applying more power towards their problem than the group with greater resources — whose total power is much larger. This equally applies to scenarios where two groups are in conflict — one group will have less power than the other but will be more unified in their collective will due to a common vision or strategic coherence, so, more power still gets applied by the weaker force than the stronger force to the conflict.

A tiny, sharp sword cuts through a large, splintered staff.

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The Personal Blog of Chris Punches