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  • Writer's picturePeter Constantine

Consensus Engineering: The Converging of Military Technology and Retail Markets


Understanding Collective Behavior and Historical Impact


From subtle nudges influencing how we think and interact on social media platforms to profound, globally significant geopolitical shifts that have been covertly orchestrated by leading militaries, the power to influence populations on a large scale has become a defining theme of our era. With roots in early psychological and sociological studies, this force has evolved dramatically, with today's brands now being capable of adapting techniques that were once the preserve of military and governmental entities.


In the early 20th century, researchers began to identify and document the psychological dynamics that underpin collective behavior. A key figure in this realm was Granovetter who introduced the "Threshold Model of Collective Behavior," suggesting that an individual’s choice to join a movement is influenced by the number of people they perceive already involved (1). Simply put, as more people get involved in an action, the barrier (or "threshold") for others to join in lowers, and this occurs in a stepwise, gradual fashion across the entire group. For instance, if one person stands up in a public space and looks at the sky, few might follow initially. But once 20 people do the same, nearly everyone in the vicinity may be influenced to follow suit, keen not to miss out or to join the perceived "norm". What is critical to note here is that in order to achieve that hypothetical threshold of 20 people, you may only need the 1 initiator. 1 can lead to 3 which can lead to 7 which can lead to 15 which can lead to 20 or more which can then lead to everyone. The cascading effect can swell rapidly, leading to a snowball effect where a few initial individuals can influence masses.


This concept is buttressed by real-world scenarios where during times of civil unrest or political upheaval, a few charismatic or notable figures can inspire masses to act in concert, changing the course of events as people are inspired to join a movement en masse, even in opposition to their own independent nature. For instance, during the Indian struggle for independence from British rule, Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent resistance principles galvanized millions. His calls for peaceful protests and civil disobedience, combined with his personal acts like the Salt March, ultimately inspired a vast majority of Indians as well as the British population to rally behind the cause, even though initially, most were reticent, uncertain, or even entirely opposed.



Other examples include the American Civil Rights Movement as well as the fight for women's suffrage, wherein widespread social change occurred starting with just a small group of initiators. Such movements started small but ultimately resulted in the complete shifting of wider social consensus, rallying not only those who were directly harmed by the status quo, but also rallying allies from other backgrounds and walks of life, many of whom were initially opposed to the ideology that they ultimately adopted as it grew in popularity and force. These examples underscore that in the right circumstances and with strategic coordination, a minor ripple of consensus, real or perceived, can swell into a massive tidal wave of collective action and sentiment that ultimately sweeps through and significantly changes the population at-large.


Psychosocial Dynamics of Engineered Consensus


Building on this foundation, Solomon Asch's experiments in the 1950s laid bare the compelling sway of peer pressure (2). Participants in Asch's studies exhibited an uncanny readiness to sidestep their own judgment, bending instead to what they perceived as the emerging consensus of the group, even when such a consensus patently clashed with objective reality. This amplifies the insight that the true power lies not necessarily in exploiting a pre-existing consensus, but in the art of creating the perception of one that is beginning to form.


Consider a scenario where an individual or a small fraction within a group confidently presents a perspective, indicating it has some backing of social validation. The witnessing of this confidence and validation doesn't necessitate the group's belief in a prevailing consensus. Rather, they simply need to observe that a perspective has received validation, even if only from a minority. Due to a natural inclination in many individuals to shy away from leadership but rally behind those who display it, this can set off a chain reaction. Initially, those most inclined to adopt the perspective do so, adding their own voices and furthering its social validation. As this effect amplifies, it progressively draws in others.


This phenomenon can be likened to the intricate interplay of dominos. The first domino, once tipped, represents those most inclined to the viewpoint. As they rally behind and voice this perspective, they pave the way for the next set of dominos to fall in line, until even the most resistant members find themselves compelled to join in. But what drives this compliance? Over time, as the viewpoint garners more support, the social costs of not aligning with it increase. People begin to weigh not just the benefits of joining the prevailing sentiment, such as social acceptance and validation, but also the growing disadvantages of dissent, like isolation and negative judgment.





A tangible real-world example of this phenomenon is the dynamics of a standing ovation. It often begins with a handful of enthusiastic individuals rising to applaud, representing our first subgroup or 'domino'. Observing this, a second set of attendees, slightly less inclined, may decide to stand, further validating the action. As the momentum grows, even those who may have reservations or didn't find the performance ovation-worthy find themselves standing. Eventually, the collective pressure reaches a point where not participating might be viewed as impolite or contrary, compelling even the most reluctant to join in. This threshold dynamic of collective behavior enables new consensus to propagate across an entire group organically and often, as in this real-world example of how a crowd-wide standing ovation occurs, also quite rapidly.


The implications of these observations are profound. It suggests that group consensus can emerge not necessarily from widespread initial agreement, but from our innate human tendencies, both to align with perceived validation and to avoid potential social conflict. Thus, the genesis of a movement or a change in collective sentiment often hinges on the simple human nature of seeking belonging and validation.


The Mobile-Digital Era: Global Movements and Viral Consensus Engineering


Today, our hyper-connected digital environment has amplified this effect exponentially. With the speed at which information travels on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, localized events can ignite global movements in hours. The George Floyd protests are a testament to this dynamism; commencing as localized protests, they quickly proliferated into an international movement (3). Similarly, the Arab Spring uprisings highlighted the potent influence of digital platforms in mobilizing substantial real-world actions. Events like the demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square illustrated how even a relatively small group of people acting in concert can challenge the status quo of nations with populations in the tens of millions. (4,5).





Such events underscore a critical modern reality: a minuscule fraction of a population, when acting in unison, can catalyze monumental shifts. These actors, leveraging the tools of mass communication and the psychological dynamics of collective behavior, can influence the majority to adopt their perspective or join their cause. In the geopolitical arena, nations have recognized this power and wielded it with precision. For instance, instead of traditional warfare, governments now employ psychological operations campaigns on social media to destabilize rival nations, leveraging internal divisions and influencing citizen behavior. A brighter side of such capabilities can be observed in instances where international campaigns have amplified voices seeking democracy and freedom. The Global Internet Freedom Consortium's endeavors in promoting uncensored internet access in authoritarian countries (6) is a prime example. Through software tools and campaigns, they've empowered citizens in countries like China and Iran to access global news and information, fostering a more informed and potentially democratic discourse. Such tactics reduce the reliance on physical confrontations and warfare to enact major geopolitical change, instead fostering internal discord that can be just as impactful, if not more.


Drawing parallels to earlier descriptions of cascading influences, a fresh analogy emerges when examining our present-day digital ecosystem. The age-old domino effect metaphor seems too linear and predictable to capture the essence of our current era. Instead, the dynamics of collective behavior and consensus engineering in today's interconnected digital world resemble the rapid and widespread nature of a virus. This phenomenon, more aptly described, can be termed as "Viral Consensus Engineering".


Unlike dominoes, where one piece predictably impacts the next in a set sequence, the viral nature of digital information means that a sentiment, story, or trend can spread in various directions almost simultaneously. This contagiousness is accelerated by platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, where content can be shared and reshared, reaching vast audiences in a matter of moments.


This isn't just about the spread of information; it's about the speed and precision with which it can be tailored and directed. Entities, whether they're governmental, commercial, or otherwise, that harness these consensus engineering tools of the mobile-digital era can wield influence on an unprecedented scale. Platforms like TikTok, which began as entertainment outlets, can now be leveraged to shape global sentiments. Their vast reach and the inherent virality of their content mean that in the hands of the right strategist, they become potent tools for directing public opinion and behavior. This blend of entertainment, technology, and potent influence strategy showcases the evolved power dynamics of our era.


While the democratization of media access allows for a broader range of voices to participate, it's undeniable that the ultimate narrative power remains strongly centralized, perhaps even more so than in previous eras. As these dominant narratives emerge, they have the potential to eclipse smaller, alternative voices, solidifying a singular perspective at the global level. This consolidation of narrative control raises pivotal questions about whose stories get told and whose get overshadowed. In a world where narrative is power, mastering the art and science of storytelling in the mobile-digital era holds the key to shaping global perceptions and realities.


Furthermore, the ubiquity of smartphones and the advent of global digital platforms have not just rendered geographical, economic, and cultural borders virtually irrelevant but have also revolutionized the dynamics of influence. With nearly 7 billion smartphone users globally today (86% of the global human population!) (7), and this number continually rising, the world witnesses a unique phase of interconnectedness. What this translates to is that entities equipped with the right technological prowess to execute consensus-creating strategies are in a powerful position to shape global narratives. A sentiment seeded in one corner of the globe can, within moments, be propagated, amplified, and accepted internationally, all thanks to this interconnected mesh.


Disintegrating Boundaries: Military Technology Meets Commercial Influence


In the same vein, the retail and commercial sectors have begun to grasp the profound potential of harnessing consensus-creating technologies — methodologies once reserved for the realm of military and governmental operations. Just as government-orchestrated psychological operations campaigns can sway the sociopolitical climate of a nation, brands can employ a similar strategy to shape consumer perception and behavior.


The civilian-facing side of GoVi's INCEPT ("Infrastructure for Neurotargeted Consensus Engineering and Population Tuning") technology is, in essence, the commercial world's first adoption of these powerful military techniques, utilizing the same technology and methodology that has quite literally shaped (and is actively shaping) the geopolitical landscape of today. Our INCEPT technology furnishes brands with the capability to discern sentiments in real-time, adapt to shifting consumer patterns, and, of particular note, to stimulate entirely new market trends on-demand. With this technological prowess, brands can formulate strategic initiatives that don't merely reflect pre-existing sentiments but actively mold them. Envision a brand pinpointing a nascent appreciation for sustainable practices. By endorsing this sentiment with well-chosen content, an organized influence network, and authentic user accounts, the brand not only cements its stance as a vanguard of sustainability but also induces the belief that a significant section of consumers is ardently demanding eco-friendly products.





Moreover, GoVi's INCEPT technology enhances a brand's ability to spotlight and intensify micro-trends. Drawing parallels to our earlier discussion on how a simple confident stance can influence a group, brands can magnify specific user testimonials, presenting them as if they are the collective voice. As this sentiment is amplified, more consumers align with it, motivated by the observed validation, even if they were initially unaware or neutral.


Another tool in the arsenal is the innate human response to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). By illustrating a product as coveted or a sentiment as ubiquitously embraced, brands can generate a fervor among consumers to be a part of the narrative. This isn't purely about product promotion; it evolves into instigating a movement, a tidal force that consumers feel they must be a part of to stay relevant.


In addition, brands can harness GoVi's INCEPT technology to nurture an army of brand enthusiasts from their existing clientele. These champions, analogous to the initiators in our standing ovation example, can trigger a cascading effect. Their endorsement, when magnified, can become the guiding force for broader consumer sentiment, leading others not just to buy, but to champion the brand themselves, amplifying the sentiment further. However, one might ask: Why can't brands achieve this magnitude of influence using conventional marketing tools and platforms? The answer lies in the intricate and specialized nature of large-scale population mobilization. Conventional tools, while adept at surface-level consumer engagement, falter when faced with the sheer complexity of managing vast populations and the avalanche of information that comes with it.


This is where GoVi's specialized INCEPT technology distinguishes itself. First and foremost, managing and engaging with an extensive population isn’t just about broadcasting messages—it’s about maintaining multifaceted interactions on a massive scale. Traditional platforms might allow for generalized broadcasting, but GoVi's INCEPT technology offers a robust infrastructure capable of handling the intricate communication dynamics required to motivate and direct vast groups.


Furthermore, merely communicating with the masses isn't enough. To truly galvanize them, there's a paramount need to create powerful incentives. With GoVi’s INCEPT platform, brands can not only create these incentives but also have the means to verify when the intended action has occurred, ensuring authenticity and genuine engagement.


Beyond just interactions and incentives, there's a profound human need for connection that GoVi’s INCEPT platform caters to: the desire for community. By fostering a sense of belonging and offering avenues for social validation, INCEPT technology makes consumers feel they aren’t just participants but essential cogs in a vast, interconnected machine. This feeling of being part of something grander than oneself often translates into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the brand. It’s no longer a one-dimensional transaction; it evolves into a dynamic dance of mutual validation and shared purpose.


And this isn’t just a hypothesis. Studies and real-world examples have consistently shown that when consumers feel they are part of a larger community, actively shaping and contributing to a brand's narrative, their loyalty intensifies (8,9,10,11). Their relationship with the brand transcends the conventional purchase-based bond. It becomes a passion, an advocacy. In GoVi’s INCEPT framework, customers become co-authors of a brand's story, and in the process, they develop an affection for the brand that's more profound than ever.


So, while the principles of influence might be universal, the mechanisms to apply them at this unprecedented scale, with precision, authenticity, and effectiveness, are highly specialized. It's this precise confluence of technology, psychology, and strategy that GoVi's INCEPT technology offers, ensuring that brands don't just communicate, but resonate, mobilize, and inspire.


The Dawn of a New Era in Brand Influence


In short, by adopting the same consensus-creating technology and strategies that have shaped the geopolitical status quo, brands can achieve a level of influence previously unimaginable. By transforming their customer bases into veritable armies for market engineering, brands can launch campaigns that don't just promote goods and services, but incite movements. They can sculpt the market narrative, setting the tone for what is in demand, and in turn, shape consumer desires and perceptions. It's a potent blend of psychology, technology, and strategy, all converging to create a marketplace where perception is orchestrated and quickly made into a market-wide reality… a marketplace where widespread demand has been strategically and deliberately engineered.


In essence, the lines demarcating military/governmental influence strategies and commercial marketing are becoming indistinct. In the horizon, brands that master the art and science of consensus engineering stand to dominate, while those that falter will likely be left behind. This is not just an evolution, but a revolution. Its ramifications will sculpt the commercial world in manners we're only starting to fathom. It's more than just a technological advancement; it's a paradigm shift that will redefine the foundation of commerce just as it has redefined the foundation of national security and geopolitical relations. Brands that proactively embrace this shift, understanding its remarkable potential, will find themselves not just ahead but setting the pace for their entire industry. Conversely, those that hesitate or fail to recognize the magnitude of this change risk becoming relics of the past.


References


  1. Granovetter, M. (1978). Threshold models of collective behavior. American Journal of Sociology, 83(6), 1420-1443.

  2. Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 70(9), 1-70.

  3. The New York Times. (2020, June 1). Protests Over Racism and Police Violence Sweep Across the U.S. and Beyond.

  4. Howard, P. N., & Hussain, M. M. (2011). The role of digital media. Journal of Democracy, 22(3), 35-48.

  5. Al Jazeera. (2011, February 11). Mubarak resigns – bringing an end to his 30 years of rule. Retrieved from Al Jazeera website.

  6. Deibert, R., & Rohozinski, R. (2010). Liberation vs. control: The future of cyberspace. Journal of Democracy, 21(4), 43-57.

  7. Turner, A. (2023, September 1). HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE SMARTPHONES?. BankMyCell. https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world

  8. Muniz, A. M., Jr., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), 412-432.

  9. McAlexander, J. H., Schouten, J. W., & Koenig, H. F. (2002). Building brand community. Journal of Marketing, 66(1), 38-54.

  10. Fournier, S., & Lee, L. (2009). Getting brand communities right. Harvard Business Review, 87(4), 105-111.

  11. Algesheimer, R., Dholakia, U. M., & Herrmann, A. (2005). The social influence of brand community: Evidence from European car clubs. Journal of Marketing, 69(3), 19-34.


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