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Sandia National Laboratories
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Defining Example Links

Conflict End Games

Nuclear Stockpile Management

Global Nuclear Nonproliferation

The Global Energy System

Global Climate Change

Large Natural Disasters

Long Term Maintenance of Complex Infrastructures

The Global Economy

The Internet

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Defining Example: Conflict End Games

System: The system is two or more entities (e.g. nation-states) embroiled in conflict. Each entity involved in the conflict engages in any activity relating to war. Interactions between the entities can include hostilities, negotiations, trade, etc. Consider unintended as well as intended interactions, spanning at least economic, business, military, diplomatic activities.

Environment: The environment includes the world system within which the conflict is being engaged. World considerations can limit the number of permissible means of engaging in the conflict.

System of Systems: The entities embroiled in conflict are considered here to be aggregate groups of people. Those groups can be further decomposed into governing bodies, combatants, innocents, businesses. Many of these can be further decomposed.

Complex: The interactions between the people involved are complex. Soldiers don’t necessarily agree with their leaders; soldiers might be brothers to enemy soldiers; people on opposite sides might share a common religion. These concerns can cause people to act very differently than they are commanded to act. The number and kinds of these interactions are large, so opportunities for complex behavior are large.

Adaptive: Actions vary with the nature of the conflict: when one combatant starts to lose, he may give up, retreat, or he may fight harder. Actions vary due to outside influences: when it rains, the combatants may not come out to fight. Or they may attack because it’s raining. Actions decided upon are dependent on what worked in the past or what didn’t work.

 

Aspirations: Ending the conflict (cause) can save lives and resources, and removes significant strain from the parties in conflict. Contrarily, continuing the conflict (cause), perhaps at some different level, is an opportunity to make significant profits selling equipment/aid to the combatants. Entities that are cashing in on the opportunity may not think of the conflict as a problem, and may be in opposition to any solution proposed. Another aspiration might be preventing war in the first place.

Approaches: The conflict can be ended by controlling aspects of the game so that all sides (or at least a critical mass) see mutual benefit in ending the conflict that is larger than any benefits they’re receiving by continuing the conflict. It could also be ended by preparing parties in such a way that the conflict ceases to affect them – there’s no point in continuing a conflict where you’re not changing anything or getting anything from it. It is useful to determine how to monitor progress to ensure that the conflict is ending on some schedule; what variables to check is a potentially difficult question. Managing the environmental interfaces is also important (prevent an insurgency).

Attainability: Ending the conflict is difficult because this is a complex system – the solution might be as complex as the system itself in order to produce lasting results. The solution might need to include agreements at many levels in order to ensure any kind of complete answer, because disagreements occur at all levels (jealousy across a border about whose grass is greener). Indirect links through the system produce much more opportunity for continued difficulty (e.g. terrorists are still being educated and funded through parties in a different country).

 

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