Speaker: Lawson, S. (University of Utah)
Date: 26 March 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Sean Lawson (University of Utah) as a part of its SMA General Speaker Series. During his presentation, Dr. Lawson presented a brief history of the ways in which ideas from nonlinear science have impacted US military thinking, doctrine, and strategy, while focusing on the post-World War II time period. He also argued that understanding the US’s prior attempts is crucial to the US military’s current efforts so that more lessons can be learned from nonlinear science. Dr. Lawson also defined nonlinear science and stated that it has the following characteristics: a large number of interacting elements, positive and negative feedback, sensitivity to changes in initial conditions, path dependency, an emergent effect, self-organization, and unpredictability. He then highlighted the thinkings of influential military figures who applied non-linear science to look at national security issues and warfare. Arthur Cebrowski and Thomas Barnett were two of these military thinkers. Dr. Lawson also provided an assessment of prior attempts by the US military to learn lessons from nonlinear science and identified several areas in which nonlinear science could be applied in the future. To conclude, Dr. Lawson discussed the efforts that the US military has made over the past few years to study and learn more from nonlinear science and stressed that it is important that the military continues to do so.