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by Alex Rutherford and Yaneer Bar-Yam
Science of Ethnic Violence
Crowd-sourced ethnic violence related information in Kenya after the 2008 elections. (Ushahidi)

Conclusions for Policy

Does the reduction of social phenomena to a series of equations demonstrate contempt for individual free will? A key theme to understanding complex systems is recognizing that the emergent behavior of a large system may be determined by just a few of many potential parameters. The very identification of these parameters tells us something about the system which cannot be deduced from studying a single agent. Consequently, while any single agent may at any time act independently or unpredictably, the observed emergent behavior of the group as a whole is still based on these few parameters.

This work raises the question of the role of boundaries. The effect of the imposition of arbitrary administrative divisions in and between post-colonial and post-soviet countries cannot be underestimated.[3] Today the idea of imposing boundaries based on social identity is politically contentious. Still, carefully choosing where boundaries are drawn, whether between nations or within a nation between semi-autonomous areas can help to avoid much bloodshed. Further, our results demonstrate that mathematical modeling within social science can give valuable insight to policy and even offer considerable predictive power.

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