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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: Modern American warfare can enlighten us to the reality of how malleable the American state of mind is. We are a country obsessed with the ideas of things like honor and pride. You then attach these slogans to something as unforgivable and disgraceful as killing other humans on their own soil, and many of us jump right on the band wagon. We need to separate ourselves from the propaganda that is constantly being shoved down our throats and think about these issues with independent thought. Peace is the natural social evolution of humanity and we need to get back on track.
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      Jun 17 2011: We tell ourselves that we fight for emotional reasons - and yet underlying these conflicts is a cold set of mathematical equations. Hard to imagine that people would go off to fight to be another data point in a seemingly predictable formula.
    • Jun 17 2011: Honour and pride in a tribal society can be well understood as deterrence. And there are many parallels between the international state system and tribal society. There are also many parallels between the particular political and social consciousness that nationalism generates and the bonds of kinship group - the primary unit of social organisation in a tribal society. There is rational calculation behind terrorist or insurgent strategy, as much as there is behind the military strategies of states.

      But we clearly fight for 'emotional' reasons. The fighters of the Taliban hurl themselves at well-defended ISAF bases while suicide bombers blow themselves up in acts of 'isthishad'. What can we conclude from this?

      We can conclude that these people are engaging in rational calculation but do so according to different cost-benefit calculations than what we might use.

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