Presented by Professor Ross McKenzie, Faculty of Science, Maths and Physics, UQ

Abstract: The changing international order involves many unanticipated phenomena including the emergence of new entities, agents, interactions, and instabilities. This is happening on a wide range of scales: whether time scales, distance scales, or institutional size. One of the most important concepts to develop in both the natural and social sciences over the last sixty years is that of emergence. In complex systems of many interacting components new phenomena can emerge that are difficult to predict and are qualitatively different from the properties of the system components. In the social sciences such emergent phenomena can be simulated on a computer with agent-based models. Development and understanding of these models has been enhanced by interactions between physicists, mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, and social scientists. Specific models describe phenomena including the emergence of racial segregation, political polarisation, outbreaks of civil violence, and shifting geopolitical boundaries. Understanding this seminar does not require any knowledge of physics, mathematics, or computers.

About Futures of International Order | Seminar Series

There is a widespread fear that the modern, ‘liberal’, international order is in crisis. Faced with multiple global challenges, from climate change and economic governance to nuclear arms control and global people movements, existing institutions increasingly appear outmoded, inefficient, and at times, dysfunctional. Meanwhile, existing institutional arrangements are being challenged by a diverse array of actors, from great powers (such as Russia) and transnational insurgents to right-wing nationalists. This university-wide seminar series is designed to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue on the possible futures of the modern international order. What challenges does it face, how will it evolve in the face of such challenges, what futures are desirable if it is to meet human and planetary needs?

Scholars are wrestling with these issues in a wide range of disciplines, from climate science and economics to history, philosophy, law, and political science. We invited scholars from all fields currently working on issues relating to ‘futures of international order’ to present in this seminar series. 

This program was convened in 2019 by Associate Professor Jacinta O’Hagan, Associate Professor Sarah Percy & Professor Chris Reus-Smit.