Big Data: Sensing and Shaping Emerging Conflicts
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and US Institute of Peace (USIP) co-organized a fascinating workshop on “Sensing & Shaping Emerging Conflicts” in November 2012. I had the pleasure of speaking at this workshop, the objective of which was to “identify major opportunities and impediments to providing better real-time information to actors directly involved in situations that could lead to deadly violence.” We explored “several scenarios of potential violence drawn from recent country cases,” and “considered a set of technologies, applications and strategies that have been particularly useful—or could be, if better adapted for conflict prevention.”
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This explains why Sanjana is right when he emphasizes that “Technology needs to be democratized […], made available at the lowest possible grassroots level and not used just by elites. Both sensing and shaping need to include all people, not just those who are inherently in a position to use technology.” Furthermore, Fred is spot on when he says that “Technology can serve civil disobedience and civil mobilization […] as a component of broader strategies for political change. It can help people organize and mobilize around particular goals. It can spread a vision of society that contests the visions of authoritarian.”
In sum, As Barnett Rubin wrote in his excellent book (2002) Blood on the Doorstep: The Politics of Preventive Action, “prevent[ing] violent conflict requires not merely identifying causes and testing policy instruments but building a political movement.” Hence this 2008 paper (PDF) in which I explain in detail how to promote and facilitate technology-enabled civil resistance as a form of conflict early response and violence prevention.
Phi Beta Iota: Absent a strategic analytic model and an intelligence community capable of doing cultural, historical, linguistic, and tribal nuances, “aid” will continue to be another form of pork and corruption on both ends. Ada Bozeman has it right when she says that intelligence must deal with “the thing entire.” Neither the member nations, nor the UN, EU, or NATO, have a clue what that means. We are not sure about the BRICS, but we do see the BRICS being much much more clever about soft power and information power.