Vast troves of historical data exist on negotiations and responses and agreements. The trick is a means to read it.
Digital disinformation, cyberwarfare and AI-driven military campaigns have changed the face of geopolitics and raised the stakes for diplomatic negotiations. In a complex and rapidly technologising world, can we conceive of diplomacy to also be enhanced by computation?
Computational diplomacy is a nascent field of computational social science that seeks to marry insights from complexity science with international relations to illuminate the nature of diplomatic activity and its effects.
Computational diplomacy can assume several forms. Diplomatic network analysis aims to study the mutual influence of such networks, be they formal or informal, rigid or loose, global or local. “Big data” analytics of diplomacy mines vast troves of electronic documents from multilateral institutions such as the G20 and APEC to identify patterns characterising diplomatic successes and breakdowns with the goal of “reverse engineering” diplomatic successes. Gamification via the simulation of geopolitical crises could allow policymakers to experiment with alternative solutions to resolving diplomatic stalemates.
Although diplomacy in this globalised and tightly linked world has incorporated more technological elements in the form of encrypted communication, digitalised propaganda, intelligence gathering and sentiment analysis, the actual practice of diplomacy has been conservative in incorporating computational approaches. And yet diplomacy today is a fraught exercise involving the intersecting interests of a long tail of diverse stakeholders including states, regional groupings, corporations, interest groups, think tanks, civil society and beyond. The rising complexity of diplomatic negotiations – via a dense web of official and informal channels – may be well served by computational diplomacy.