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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: "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
    ~Ernest Hemingway

    If the "team" realizes that the mission or goal is baseless, the unit will quickly begin to rot from the inside. ~Sgt Barrick OIF II
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      Jun 17 2011: Nice quotes Matt - the power of a narrative is hard to overstate. Yet in many ways the actual content of the narrative is somewhat irrelevant. We look at different wars, all fought for different ideological reasons and yet despite these differences in religion, politics, geography - we see the same patterns emerge.

      It is as though we tell ourselves that we fight war for one reason - yet we could tell ourselves any reason and the mathematical signature of the war would look no different.

      If war is truly governed by these mathematical equations - and it starts to become somewhat predictable - will people want to continue to fight?
      • Jun 17 2011: Regarding your original question: It has nothing to do with math. It's all about tenacity. If you've ever studied the Honey Badger and observed it eating a Cobra, you'll see what I mean.
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        Jun 17 2011: Have patterns emerged in any other study of wars, i.e. economic or sociological analysis, that have revealed similar or diverging patterns?
      • Jun 17 2011: War follows recognisable patterns because strategy is ultimately a rational enterprise. Actors with reasonably good intelligence, sufficient supplies and forces, and sufficient will to fight will likely choose similar methods. The patterns of war will change when the conflict environment changes or when technological innovations allow for radically different tactics (eg mass media > hostage taking; mass communications > 'netwar';). People will fight because they believe that fighting will be the best way for them to achieve their objectives, and that choice depends on a combination of social/cultural norms and permissive political environments.

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