This article presents some prototypes of conflict situations that follow from different pathways to chaos. The substance of the conflicts can be extracted from empirical analysis using orbital decomposition (symbolic dynamics), nonlinear regression, or simulations, depending on the nature of the problem. Examples from the political science literature are presented. A distinction is also made between conflicts that are centered in chaos and those that are more similar to the hysteresis feature of catastrophe models.
Complexity science and conflict theory are two relatively new interdisciplinary fields that have much to learn from and offer each other. One benefit of their cross-fertilization is that data from real life conflicts becomes available for complexity scientists, and new models of conflict dynamics from complexity science become available for conflict practitioners. Challenges to effective cross-fertilization are the extreme jargon, disinclination for knowledge transfer, and few opportunities for practitioners and researchers of either field to meet across each specialty’s boundaries. Another important barrier to cross-fertilization is that espoused theory from complexity science does not yet easily translate into a theory-in-use for conflict practice. I suggest that one possible method for interpreting complexity science concepts for use in real life applications is to import complexity science principles into conflict practitioners’ conflict mental maps.
Environmental conflict situations are typically messy; a tangle of complexity, controversy, and uncertainty. As a means for addressing environmental conflict and decision situations and making progress on matters of substance, relationship, and procedure, Collaborative Learning integrates concepts and techniques from systems thinking, negotiation, experiential learning, and participatory communication. This essay establishes a context for understanding the creation and evolution of the CL methodology. Following that discussion, the Collaborative Learning approach is explained. A current comprehensive project in forest planning provides a case illustration.
The author identifies a Law of Requisite Cognitive Capacity in human communication, conflict resolution, and cooperation solicitation. Based on Ashby’s Law of the Requisite Variety and Jaques’s theory of cognitive capacity and by combining the author’s previous work on the cognitive model of improving communication efficiency, a quantitative limitation for people to understand each other can be identified. On the Jaquesian Cognitive Capacity Strata, it is necessary for the person on a higher stratum to make extra efforts to explain/translate his/her mental model for the person (or P-individual) on a lower stratum, using the language/mental model available at the lower stratum. Without such explanation/translation, the person on a lower stratum cannot cognize the mental model being used and will misunderstand, therefore effective communication cannot be achieved. The existence of such limitation explains a number of interesting social and organizational phenomena.
Structure of organizations tends to affect the complexity of their behavior during the process of organizational transformation. As a result, organizations that are more complex structurally tend to transform in the environment that is more conflict-prone. We suggest that by affecting the structure of an organization during the process of organizational transformation, its behavior and conflict environment can be controlled. This paper examines the process of organizational transformation from the perspective of the complex systems theory and chaos theory. It offers insights and implications that could lead to better strategies for managing a conflict environment of organizations.
The evolution of cooperative, pro-social behavior under circumstances in which individual interests are at odds with common interests—circumstances characterized as social dilemmas—remains a largely unsolved, multidisciplinary puzzle. Approaches to these types of problems have, for the most part, been applications of evolutionary game theory. While the study of networks, complex systems, and nonlinear dynamics has pervaded most scientific disciplines, the application of related tools to the study of social dilemmas represents a very new, but extremely promising means of shedding light on the quandary of cooperation. In this work, we situate agents engaging in social dilemma games on complex social networks, allowing us to more fully investigate the impact of average degree and degree variance, or heterogeneity of degree, on the evolution of pro-social behavior. Our results suggest that increasing homogeneity of degree produces network effects that make the emergence of pro-social behaviors more likely thereby increasing overall social welfare. As such, homogeneity of degree is properly thought of as a collective good.
It is usually assumed in debates about systems thinking, complexity and the philosophy of science that science is primarily about observation. However, the starting point for this paper is intervention, defined as purposeful action by an agent to create change. While some authors suggest that intervention and observation are opposites, it is argued here that observation (as undertaken in science) should be viewed as just one type of intervention. We should therefore welcome scientific techniques of observation into a pluralistic set of intervention methods, alongside methods for exploring values, reflecting on subjective understandings, planning future activities, etc. However, there is a need to explicitly counter a possible pernicious interpretation of this argument: intervention could (erroneously) be viewed as flawlessly pre-planned change based on accurate predictions of the consequences of action. This is the mechanistic worldview that systems thinking and complexity science seek to challenge. Therefore, having redefined scientific observation as intervention, the paper revisits insights from systems thinking and complexity to propose a methodology of systemic intervention. Some brief reflections are then provided on the wider social implications of this methodology.
Emergence makes no moral presumption. It simply happens. Evidence the recent financial meltdown that has emerged after years of greed and plunder and is now taking down rich and poor alike. But as with any glacial pullback, the barren crust of existence that has become exposed, offers some new adjacent opportunities that had lain previously […]