Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Schematics for Peace: Theories

Electronics is about the manipulation of electricity for some function. While electrons, the basic building blocks of electricity are far too small to see directly, they can be observed through indirect methods like their effects on things. These observations have generated some very durable hypotheses about the way electrons and electricity work. Extremely complex systems (like an iPod) have been built on the theories that hitherto fore have not been proven incorrect.

Some electronic systems have become so complex that they are beyond any one individual to comprehend the whole device at its smallest level. Thus, theories, formulas and subroutines break the whole into manageable parts. Since all of these conjectures seem to work consistently it is easy to forget that all of this is based on faith in working theories.

Social scientists have developed theses about how people and groups respond in the intense pressure of conflict. By observation, we understand, for example, about how trauma affects a person or the dynamics of the mob mentality. So we put those theories to work on larger more complex peacebuilding issues. As with electricity, we are still working by faith from hypotheses. The simple peacebuilding models we use break down quickly as the complexity of human interactions overtake our ability to see the whole. Electrons, it seems, are far more predictable than humans.

With that bit of philosophy we move ahead next week, in faith, to the building blocks of electronics.

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