It was a huge privilege to be invited by Lord John Alderdice to Hamilton Manchester College last week for a 2-day workshop exploring how complexity theory interacts with conflict resolution. An incredible group of people – from theorists at the Santa Fe Institute to those with enormous experience (as John has) with conflict resolution – it really was an honour to be amongst some brilliant thinkers.

I first met John when he contacted me having read my book Other, which is an extended meditation on how we should ‘love our neighbours’ in a world that is so fractured, and what we might learn from self-organising, emergent systems as we do that.

It was also the book that led me to writing about TAZ for the first time – a core strategy for non-violent interventions that seek to change the environment within which we are co-existing, and thus offer a sense of how things can be different. I subsequently built on that to write my book Mutiny!

More recently, I was honoured to be invited to write an edition of Yo-Ho – a journal set up in response to Mutiny! in which I reflected on TAZ ten years on… and proposed – in the age of Trump and other populists – how that strategy needs itself to adapt.

Jonny Baker wrote a very kind blog post about that work here. In short, I argue that TAZ is at risk of being exploited by trickster populists, and that we need instead to think about rooting ourselves more carefully.

That was part of my contribution to the workshop in Oxford: our digital world offers a facsimile of complexity because of the high number of horizontal connections we have – all those ‘friends’ on social media. But these won’t give rise to self-organising, and to the kinds of emergent behaviours that can seed conflict resolution at ground level. They can also be exploited by the dazzle of the TAZ.

What we need, I’d argue, is a set of stronger connections, and means to build them. That, if you’ve read God-like, is where the book ends up: a clarion call for re-encountering one another in deeper ways, in smaller clusters of trust and transparency.

Lots to reflect on. And hopefully a visit to the Santa Fe Institute coming up (my cousin is getting married very close by, coincidentally, in June… we’ll see).

Delighted to say that I keep on having to take more stock of signed books up to my local bookshop… so someone must be buying them! Thank you. Get one here. And please, please… if you can write a review, that’d be so appreciated.