About Sean

Bio

Co-founder and CTO of Quid, part time physicist and sometimes decathlete. I'm based in San Francisco where I spend most of my time working at Quid building the next generation global intelligence platform. Not an easy task, but luckily I have a great team of quants and engineers coming along with me for the ride. I'm originally from New Zealand where I divided my time between, studying Physics, running, surfing and organizing political rallies. Back in New Zealand I ran for National elected office, helped start New Zealand's first Nanotech company and won two national Decathlon titles. I spent best 7 years studying at Oxford and trying to understand the mathematical patterns that underly insurgent warfare. This research has taken me all over the world from the Pentagon, to the House of Lords, the United Nations and most recently to Iraq. You can see more of the 'mathematics of war' research here on TED.com

TED Conferences

TED2013, TED2011, TED2009, TEDGlobal 2005

Areas of Expertise

Quantative Analysis, Network theory, Online news, Decathlon, Mathematics of War, Physics, Nanotechnology, OSINT

An idea worth spreading

Despite all the chaos and unpredictability that surrounds modern war, war can in fact be characterized by a surprisingly simple set of mathematical equations. What is more these mathematical equations are consistent across dozens of different wars from around the world. This suggests that the fundamental dynamics of war are largely independent of the religious, political or cultural metrics that have traditionally shaped our understanding of conflict.

I'm passionate about

Predictive Analytics, understanding global conflict through mathematics, creating a platform for innovation, changing the way the VC system operates and running + jumping over things.

Talk to me about

Politics, technology, Mathematics, Physics, running, single malt scotch, the latest book I have to read or movie I should go see.

People don't know I'm good at

Pole Vault - if you want lessons let me know and I'll see if we can arrange some vaulting for TED 2011 ;)

My TED story

I managed to talk my way into TED global in 2005 - I've met some great people and told a few interesting stories.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

177437
Sean Gourley
Posted about 4 years ago
LIVE CHAT With Sean Gourley: What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors? June 17, 2PM EDT
This is like the NASA space argument - we go into space and see look at all these cool spin off technologies we get in return (like a space pen*). There are of course obvious technological gains that are made with all the military spending that is done. von Braun leveraged both the Nazi and the US military might to pursue his dreams of human space flight. As a result of Iraq and Afghanistan we have improved critical medical care and built very effective translation devices. War today though has perhaps contributed the most to the rise of two things. Robots and prosthetic limbs. The prosthetic limbs coming as a direct result of the increases in critical medical care on the battlefield. More soldiers that lose limbs are now surviving - so we generate new technologies to help them to walk again. Whilst technologies are developed as a result of war - it is pretty hard to make the case that all the money spent on war couldn't have been spent on developing these technologies without the need to kill people along the way. *note space pen not actually developed by NASA but makes for a nice story point :)
177437
Sean Gourley
Posted about 4 years ago
LIVE CHAT With Sean Gourley: What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors? June 17, 2PM EDT
another element to throw into the mix is the importance of media. Media is well known as a publicity tool - can be used to attract more resources and funding to an insurgent group. But it is also a very powerful tool for co-ordination. The media in a place like Iraq allows all the insurgent groups to maintain a high degree of situational awareness. They can know what is going on today - and with social media they can even see things like the Bin Landen navy SEAL attack unfold in real time. This is a huge information advantage. As this news is transmitted it can be used to see what strategies are effective, what works and what doesn't. In short the media is a great learning platform.
177437
Sean Gourley
Posted about 4 years ago
LIVE CHAT With Sean Gourley: What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors? June 17, 2PM EDT
the AK-47 is one of the single biggest killers in war. It is the true WMD. It has an expected lifetime of about 80 years and will keep shooting even if it has been buried and dug up. These guns are so simple, and yet so capable that they make killing literally childs play. Figure out a way to get these guns out of the system and you could potentially have a massive impact on violent deaths in conflict. You can start by buying one yourself in Africa for just about $50 :)
177437
Sean Gourley
Posted about 4 years ago
LIVE CHAT With Sean Gourley: What are some of the lessons from war we can apply to other human endeavors? June 17, 2PM EDT
it's interesting to think about pulling these second order leavers. Don't try to remove guns - just increase the price of bullets. The truth though is that our understanding of ecosystems (war, environment, business, stock markets) is actually pretty shallow. We are only just getting our heads around the mathematics of massively multidimensional networks and feedback loops. But one of the things that is clear is that it is expensive to run an insurgency. You need to have ways to make money. That is why there are very few insurgencies that are fought without a key resource being available. Cocaine in Colombia, diamonds in Sierra Leone, Opium in Afghanistan. Human trafficking etc. The insurgency needs to make money - take this away and you take away the blood of an insurgency.