I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the “Force Multiplier” lately. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s pretty simple. If you have a force of 10 men with bolt action rifles, issuing them each semi-automatic rifles will multiply their firepower significantly. Thus, when compared to a bolt-action rifle, a semi-automatic rifle can be considered a force multiplier.
I believe the term has its origins in military strategy. Its most significant historical MISUSE, to my knowledge, was when the germans introduced the machine gun to the field of operations in WWI. and some German strategists believed the war would be over in DAYS. According to my source (my Dad, now beyond questioning matters mortal), these Germans blithely assumed that every bullet fired from a machine gun would be as effective as each bullet fired from a bolt-action rifle. They’d never seen “spray and pray.”
Anyway, force multipliers… I’ve been watching the final season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time (do NOT post spoilers in here. I’ll delete your post and then ban you. Clear?) and it has AGAIN occurred to me that the Scooby Gang and their allies need force multipliers. Swords are better than stakes, and crossbows are better than swords, but what they REALLY need is a semi-automatic shotgun that fires hardwood-jacketed slugs. A paintball gun with pellets full of garlic/holywater slurry would be less effective, but it would keep the Vamps far enough back for safety, and it would be less likely to kill your friends. Of course firearms are anathema in the Buffyverse — we ONLY see them as instruments of evil — so their non-inclusion is not a matter of Joss Whedon not thinking of them. He just put a rule in front of his writers saying “No guns. Period.”
Then again, in the Angel universe (again, no spoilers. We watch these for the first time when the DVDs come out) you’ve got Gunn and his gang, who, as I recall, DID use force multipliers. They’re not stupid. They’ve got no slayer backing them up, so they tooled up for the job, and then got the job done.
Force multipliers appear in other contexts. Keenspot, for instance, is a force-multiplier for webcartoonists. The cross-promotion it provides ensures that even comics that really, really SUCK will have a reasonably large audience — or, at the very least, they’ll get exposed to a much larger number of people than they would if they depended on word-of-mouth. The “force” of “people looking at a web page” is multiplied by the links of the newsbox and the dropdowns. By comparison, Modern Tales lacks this force-multiplier, and compensates by charging much more money for content. The subscription model can be viewed as a massive force-multiplier if your only source of revenue has been ad banners, but, like the WWI machine gun, you can’t compare apples and oranges when you do the math.
When I look at the cartooning work I do, ownership of the intellectual property I create (Schlock Mercenary) is a force-multiplier. The custom commercial work I’m doing currently pays quite a bit better, but I only get paid ONCE. The Schlock I’ve already drawn will continue to generate revenue for me long after I’ve drawn it.
On that note, work progesses on Schlock Mercenary Book I. I’m not stupid enough to think that every Schlock reader is going to buy the book (“I’m RICH!”), but even if only 1% of them do I’ll be ahead of the game. I’ll say more when my publisher says I can say more, and believe you me I’ll be saying it until YOU are blue in the face, but until then you’ll just have to wait.
I’m interested to see in what other contexts (especially academic/scientific) the term “force multiplier” appears. “What’s that you say? Google is my friend? *sigh* That’s no fun.”