New book by Army scientist considers the warfighter's way of thinking as a crucial element for combat success
February 02, 2017
By Jenna Brady, ARL Public Affairs
- An ARL scientist recently published a new book that addresses how thinking can affect success, including that of Soldiers on the battlefield.
- According to author Dr. Bruce J. West, there is a historical belief that a battle is won or lost in the mind of the warfighter, long before the first shot is fired.
ADELPHI, Md. (Feb. 02, 2017) -- A U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientist recently published a new book that addresses how thinking can affect success, including that of Soldiers on the battlefield.
The book, titled "Simplifying Complexity, Life is Uncertain, Unfair and Unequal," was written by Dr. Bruce J. West, ARL senior scientist of mathematics and information science.
In the book, West provides answers to such questions as why the future cannot be made certain, why the same people are always at the center of controversy and why only a select few get ahead.
"The truth is that most people think uncertainty, inequality and unfairness are destructive, if not outright evil, and ought to be abolished," West said. "And yet, uncertainty and imbalance are the central characteristics of complexity."
West's book explains why these emerging properties of complexity, so prevalent in today's society, stand in such sharp contrast to how the great thinkers of the past believed the world ought to be.
According to West, identifying the world as uncertain, people as unequal and life as unfair is not new; it is the scientific evidence that ties them to complexity, without regard to philosophy, theology or morality that is new.
Is the dissonance between what is true and what we believe ought to be true really so great?
Does our cognitive map of the world miss the mark by so much?
"Simplifying Complexity" answers these questions in a pragmatic way, calling on the lessons West has learned from forty years of scientific research and teaching, the scientific study of complex dynamic networks, as well as the methods scientists use to parse difficult problems into manageable pieces.
"Understanding the simple laws of complexity enables the passed-over and the disenfranchised to consciously determine how to modify the ways they interact with the world and consequently change how society responds to them," West said.
According to West, there is a historical belief that a battle is won or lost in the mind of the warfighter, long before the first shot is fired. This may be even truer today than in the past, given that conflict is often not against a nation-state, but against terrorists, with no political allegiance.
"I consider the warfighter's way of thinking as a crucial element for combat success and the information in the book can change that thinking to help ensure success," West said. "In particular, the book focuses on how Western individuals are influenced by cultural bias in making decisions. The book emphases what surprises us, and what surprises the warfighter can get him killed."
In all, West hopes readers will see that the more we understand the world and how it operates, the better we can control our environment.
As he stated "understanding does not guarantee control, but not understanding guarantees its loss."
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.