Preface

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What happens when a big country and a small country interact with each other? If they were at war, how would that reduce their levels of capital? And if they were to cooperate, how much would each grow? If their relationship was friendly, or positive, how would they enlarge? If the relationship was negative, at what rates would they shrink?

And if you added other countries to the situation, how would that change things? With a system composed of many states, a country would have to take into consideration its relationships not just with its allies and enemies, but with their allies and enemies as well. It would also have to figure out how to allocate its power among the various states in the system. For instance, it might want to expend a bit of its positive energy interacting with one country, but focus most of its destructive power on fighting with a rival. States would have to figure out what to do at each moment, but they'd also have to anticipate what the other states were going to do, in a kind of never-ending, multiplayer chess game. And after each round of moves, the power levels of the countries would change. Some would come to dominate; others might be destroyed.

The conceptual model just sketched has only one variable, something vaguely corresponding to the notion of capital or political power. Is there a way to formulate it mathematically, to be able to say the degree to which power levels change as a result of the agents' interactions? And is there some optimal way that the agents should behave in order to survive?

This simple model provides a template applicable to a wide range of situations in the social world, not just among countries but also to political networks more generally. In any venue where there are agents struggling for power, this conceptualization seems to capture something essential about the situation.

The purpose of this wiki is to provide a technical introduction to a computational model of power and to explore how it may be applicable to problems of world order: that is, to the understanding of empires, international relations, and historical change. This is an ongoing science project. It is presented in its current state in the spirit of discovery, acknowledging that it is incomplete and in some respects likely incorrect. Consider this your invitation to participate.

The world is rife with injustice, real and perceived, and power is at the root of it. There is much to be angry about, and political anger is sometimes a constructive force. But it can also be beneficial to temporarily set aside both the moral repulsion and undeniable attraction that we feel towards power, and instead to try to gather our observations into a logical framework — abstract, austere, universal — that has no larger political purpose other than as an attempt at scientific understanding.



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