The technological future of conflict management is a mixed bag of goodies: My 2018 findings

Having spent many years in the information technology business, I retain a soft spot for technology. Once I thought technology was the Holy Grail for furthering social justice. That dream has faded somewhat over the decades. Nevertheless, promise holds external… here are ten of my favourite technology-oriented conflict management findings of 2018:

  1. Are men talking too much? This nifty little app provides a simple timer. Use it in your next meeting. You can’t control what you can’t measure!
  2. Dress for respect. Researches built a smart dress to show how often women are groped at clubs. This is a  variant on ‘you can’t control what you can’t measure’.
  3. Algorithms that track our emotions. Emotions are the result of a biochemical process. The merger of biotechnology and information technology will result in (computerized) algorithms that measure our emotions. Those same algorithms may get to know us better than we know ourselves. Then what? (Check out the writings of the brilliant Israeli thinker and historian, Yuval Harari, for what’s in store for us.)
  4. Building compassion and empathy through virtual reality A Stanford-developed virtual reality experience, called “Becoming Homeless,” is expanding research on how this new immersive technology affects people’s level of empathy. Suffice to say, in the world of conflict, and bridging differences, seeing the ‘other’ perspective is big.
  5. My Country Talks. A German news site is bringing people of liberal and conservative views to talk it out. “The ultimate goal is a less polarized debate and a less polarized, more open and plural public.” Nice. After all, people transform through conversations.
  6. Podcasts about conflict. There are many good ones to choose from; e.g., Overthinking Conflict, a podcast “exploring the business, skills and styles of peacemaking”… it has young hosts (well much younger than me, anyways), creative programming, and its’ made in B.C.
  7. Where Should We Begin?” Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel extends the potential of the podcast medium with recordings of her actual couples counselling sessions. A real life master class.
  8. Bringing values to life. A New York “Construction company rolls out first inclusive ‘at work’ signs. A nudge towards a healthier workplace. Old school technology.
  9. We Speak Translate.  A Google translation app, and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria training that accompanied it, came in real handy for me earlier this year, when I was on a CESO (conflict management) assignment in Bolivia. Communication is about “making common” – it’s fundamental to bridging the gap.
  10. Modernizing the courts? Eagle feathers are now recognized by Nova Scotia (Canada) courts and can be used to take legal affirmation. Now, you can challenge me on this, yet as eagle feathers are a symbol of wisdom and courage, among other positive attributes, I see them as an inclusive, respectful, upgrade to court process. So be it.

Merry Christmas!

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