TED Conversations

Sean Gourley

Co-Founder and CTO, Quid


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LIVE CHAT With Sean Gourley: What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors? June 17, 2PM EDT

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Sean Gourley

Sean is a physicist and military theorist who is using data, maths and visualizations to help us understand the nature of modern war. He asks," What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors?"

This conversation will open at 2:00PM EDT, June 17th, 2011


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  • Jun 17 2011: Every breakthrough of technology has happened prior to a perceived new "generation of warfare". The technology will first be invented, but used by established institutions with old concepts that do not exploit its full potential. The ideas and processes of using this new technology will come later - causing a disruptive breakthrough.

    An example that comes to mind is the invention of tanks. The British and French applied old concepts and ideas to using these tanks prior to WWII - using them mostly for infantry support. The tanks only revolutionize warfare when the Germans applied new Blitzkrieg concepts to their use.

    Which brings us to today's perceived "asymmetry" between a "weak" group of insurgents and a "stronger" conventional army. Perhaps we need to rethink our mental models about who is "weak" and "strong", and whether the asymmetry exists at all. The effects of globalization and prevalence of networking technology has provided the new window of opportunity to revolutionize warfare. However, again, established militaries may be applying old concepts to these new technologies, whereas the "weaker" insurgents have perhaps exploit it better, to become more decentralized, network, adaptive and strategic - creating an advantage beyond conventional military might.

    The lessons that can be port over is - the last decade has seen networking technology permeate every aspect of life. However, are we still using old ideas and concepts to these new technology? The exploration of ideas and processes to harness these technologies is as important as the invention of the technologies themselves. I believe if we can rethink our concepts and processes, we can harness the full potential of new technologies to impact more areas of human activity.

    As always, the new ideas will come after the new inventions, and only together can they revolutionize human activity.

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