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Contours of Conflict in the 21st Century

Contours of Conflict in the 21st Century

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Published by: Silendo on Apr 26, 2011
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The HCSS team developed similar search strategies for collecting as wide

a range as possible of publicly available6

, serious foresight studies on the

future nature of confict for the various domains. Every ecosystem-partner
searched the internet and some academic full-text databases using a
search algorithm that consisted of two main broad ‘semantic baskets’:

(The nature of)

conflict: i.e. various words such as war, conflict,

struggle, etc.


future: words as foresight, forecast, scenarios, trends, drivers, in

the future, 21st

century, etc.

An example of an early search query in the English-language domain was

‘(Nature OR character OR Type) AND (War OR Confict OR Warfare)

AND (future OR scenario OR foresight OR century)’. As stated, one of the
most important guiding intuitions of this study was that we did not want
to impose any preconceived notions on our search (and analysis) efforts.
The initial search query which, barring some translation nuances, was
identical for all language domains, was therefore continuously adjusted

6 This is an important caveat. Much security foresight work continues to be done behind the veil
of secrecy – the restrictions of which continue to be widely (even if begrudgingly) accepted
throughout the world, including by this team. The HCSS team still feels that the public sources

covered in this study represent a sufficiently diverse and rich set of insights to warrant the

treatment we give it here. Governments increasingly are putting security foresight studies in the
public domain (see e.g. 'Multiple Futures Project - Navigating towards 2030' (Supreme Allied
Commander Transformation, 2009), http://www.iris-france.org/docs/pdf/up_docs_
bdd/20090511-112552.pdf.; 'UK Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre,' in The DCDC
Global Strategic Trends Progamme 2007-2036, 3rd ed. (London: Development, Concepts and
Doctrine Centre, 2007).'Verkenningen houvast voor de krijgsmacht van de toekomst' [Future
Policy Survey. Mainstay for the Armed Forces of the Future] (Ministry of Defence, the
Netherlands, 2010).) – also in an effort to build public support for defense and security efforts.
Furthermore, some of the most imaginative work on the future (also of security) continues to be
done outside of government. This study includes an important part of both the publicly available
governmental AND the non-governmental literature on this topic. We do want to point out that
this study does not include some of the most imaginative work in this area that has been done in
the science fiction community – an omission that we still hope to redress in the future. Having
worked on both sides of the classification firewall, the HCSS team still feels that the real deficit
(especially in terms of wealth of ‘new’ and potentially important insights) lies more in the latter
community than in the classified community.



Contours of Conflict in the 21st


and refned through an iterative process. The main criterion for tuning
the search query was very utilitarian in nature: it should gain the most
and most relevant studies across language domains (again taking into
account subtle and less subtle language differences). All search queries
in all language domains were recorded in an Excel spreadsheet, meaning
that search strategy can be fully retraced. A detailed overview is available
upon request.

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