Along with climate change and poverty, armed conflict, including terrorism, is perhaps the most important contemporary challenge to the integrity of human society and to improving individual quality of life. Yet despite its significance and a substantial investment on the part of the United States and other nations to prevent and control it, conflict persists. Its potential for causing economic and social devastation is growing. Standard theoretical approaches that were powerful during the cold war (e.g., bilateral game theory) have not proven useful in this era of high uncertainty caused by the growth of trans-national communities, multiparty interactions, and the emergence of new kinds of coercion observed in cyber warfare. Novel, empirically-grounded, predictive theories of conflict are needed.
The Santa Fe Institute, long associated with trans-disciplinary approaches to fundamental scientific questions, and the New America Foundation, which invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges, are joining forces to bring their respective new thinkers and new approaches to the understanding of terrorism and conflict. In this meeting we will explore how concepts and tools from complex systems science can inform attempts to predict and control multi-party, armed conflict in the human arena. We will also consider how fundamental principles of armed conflict, derived from comparison of conflict dynamics across a diverse set of biological and social systems, can inform conflict response decision-making strategies by identifying the conditions under which sanctions, different kinds of military interventions, and social investment make sense.
A live webcast of Wednesday's discussions will be available on this page. For a full agenda and participant list, please see the PDF attached at right.