Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 01/04/2011

A Simple Manifesto: Simulation Technology should be Invisible

A guest PaxSims blog post from Skip Cole at the United States Institute of Peace:

A Simple Manifesto: Simulation Technology should be Invisible

When putting together my paper for SimTecT this year, a couple of thoughts crystallized in my mind. And I’ve come to realize that I really only have one professional mission in life: to turn simulation technology invisible. That is it. I’m really just a one trick pony, and that is my only trick.

What is an ‘invisible technology’?  It is a technology that has become so built into our lives that we don’t even see it or think about it. Like power lines or telephone poles these technologies fade from view, and only become noticeable when they are absent.

Word processing is an invisible technology: One does not get a blank stare when one says something like “Send me the Word document.” We all just assume that everyone has a word processor on their machine and can receive and edit documents. The list of invisible technologies is quite prodigious and can be daunting: slide show presentations, elevators, pasteurized milk, air conditioners, heavier than air flying machines, etc. Most of us don’t know how most of these things work, but we use them every day.

But simulation technology? Can that ever be invisible? Isn’t it far too complex for that?

I don’t believe so. Ultimately simulations are created by humans for humans. So we have to be able to understand at least the basics of what goes into them. Creating them should not be much more difficult that writing the scripts for the simulations we now employ, and we are getting close to that mark.

Still it has been a lot of work, and we do have a long way to go. So you might be wondering “Why do this?” I do this because I truly believe that when people can learn and even ‘play out’ ideas in a safe environment, then human decision making will improve. And when human decision making improves, we will be able to resolve many of our problems more efficiently and even more equitably. We have all seen the cost of bad decisions. Preventing even a few bad decisions now and then can prevent the enormous cascade of bad events that follow from them.

This is really what I’m all about, and I have to admit, it feels nice to have this clarity. The world has so many interconnected problems; it is hard to know even where to start in addressing them. I start with the assumption that if we help people make better decisions, then they will be better equipped to solve their own problems.

We do have a long way to go, but we do get closer every day. If you would like to join our community in this journey, please just drop an email to

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