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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 06:33am Mar 27, 2001 EST (#1566 of 1572) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Barriers to communication may be severe, even extraordinary, between members of the same culture, when all the trappings of openness seem apparent at first. For example, ExxonMobil sometimes posts thoughtful ads on the New York Times op ed page. On the NYT on the web OpEd section, they have an ad directing people to these, and to other writings. Through links from this ad, I found some speeches by Ken P. Cohen, that I've referred to here.

I made a number of postings, all courteous, referring to Cohen, both as an individual, and as an example of an individual placed where he would have contacts and skills in which, I've argued, the Russian state is deficient. Here are links to those postings.

Ken P. Cohen references. referred to matters in

1512 - rshowalter 3/26/01 6:47am
1513 rshowalter 3/26/01 6:48am
1515 rshowalter 3/26/01 7:02am
1519 rshowalter 3/26/01 7:33am
1543 rshowalter 3/26/01 10:53am
1544 rshowalter 3/26/01 10:56am
1550 rshowalter 3/26/01 2:29pm

As a courtesy, I called the ExxonMobil News Media Desk and talked to a person. My purpose was to let Cohen know of the postings. There was no direct email contact avaliable to me. Might I have Cohen's email adress - or might I leave the numbers of the postings? Might I have another email contact, so that I might pass on the links, so that they could be looked at through channels at ExxonMobil if there was interest? The answers were very high anxiety "no's". I'd somehow surpassed the authority of the person I contacted on the phone. I was told I'd get a call back - that hasn't happened. My guess is that the contact will not occur. Here is an example, among many others, where a very "open" looking contact mechanism actually wasn't open at all.

Barriers to communication of this kind, at many, many levels, can isolate, and make complex cooperation between individuals, groups, or nation states impossible -- especially if emotions become involved -- if someone takes offense.

In this way, societies that look "open" can cut off all contacts that could actually permit complex cooperation. It can waste many, many chances, and it can be very dangerous.

rshowalter - 06:35am Mar 27, 2001 EST (#1567 of 1572) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I don't believe anyone, on either the American side or the Russian side, has anything remotely resembling an understanding of the barriers to contact, communication and understanding that exist between us.

It is possible that a great many misunderstandings, not entirely innocent, perhaps, on either side, but partly innocent on both sides, have occurred, and persist. I have a particular bias -- in the area of nuclear weapons these barriers could destroy us all.

Certainly opportunities are lost. Looking at the situation from the position of ExxonMobil exclusively, it would be in the interest of the company if people in it knew how to talk to Russians, at various levels, including informal levels, better than they can now do. It might be worth many tens or hundreds of millions to them, and the lack of it might cost the company similar or larger sums.

I'll be making an effort to get this information conveyed to ExxonMobil, if only as a reconnaisance to yeild information about how barriers of this kind are constructed.

But it is already clear that communication that should be direct and easy is very difficult indeed, and in a world where NO ONE can deal intellectually with the complexities of the sociotechnical systems they face, this is sheer loss to us all.

rshowalter - 06:58am Mar 27, 2001 EST (#1568 of 1572) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

rshowalter 3/27/01 6:30am had an incomplete sentence, without citations. Here is that sentence, with the citations:

"The difficulties, on relatively simple matters involving the determination of technical fact, are difficult. I made a suggestion on how these might be resolved in rshowalt "Science in the News" 1/4/00 7:43am
rshowalt "Science in the News" 1/4/00 7:45am
rshowalt "Science in the News" 1/4/00 7:46am

I believe that an analogous mechanism, not for determining ideas (except at the factual level of formal logic, if the ideas could be so framed) but facts might be of decisive importance in the resolution of longstanding disputes between social groups, including states. For example, the nuclear impasse, which may destroy us all, is nested in a framework of disagreement about facts, and of facts that people are refusing to admit or discuss.

Many other disagreements between human groups have similar difficulties.

Groups are, of course, entitled to their own ideas. But where complex cooperation is necessary, or when competition needs to be held within bounds, and if possible nonlethal bounds, then groups ought not to be entitled to different "facts" that are not true.

At the level where groups contact, facts must match.

lunarchick - 07:30am Mar 27, 2001 EST (#1569 of 1572)

An appreciation and understanding of the barriers between two groups might include the concept of 'empathy'.

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