Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Facebook Twitter YouTube Trending Globally Podcast Instagram LinkedIn Tumblr Email list

Michael O'Hara — The Theory of the Game: Computational Power and Human Decision Making

Michael O'Hara

Thursday, December 1, 2022

4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Barus and Holley Room 168, 184 Hope Street

Light refreshments will be served outside of the seminar room at 3:45pm.

This talk explores the application of technology to aid human decision making in the context of war games and simulations. For decades, increasing computational power and the availability of data have promised to improve timely analyses and aid decisions in the complex context of war. Yet, for all its benefit, technology misapplied can obscure the mechanisms of human decision. To the victorious Admiral Nimitz reflecting on World War II, the analog war games of the interwar period were of such value for developing the Navy’s strategic thinking that the only surprise was the kamikaze. Since 1958, efforts to apply computing to military war games have sought formulas for victory. Yet, in the complex strategic interactions of conflict, greater computational power may not support human decision makers in the ways intended without a shared understanding of the theory of the game and a thorough understanding of its purpose. This seminar is part of ENGN1931J – “Societal Impact of Emerging Technologies”. Host: Prof. Arto Nurmikko, School of Engineering Contact: Agnes Madriaga, (401) 863-1415

Captain Michael O’Hara serves as Chair, War Gaming Department at the U.S. Naval War College. His work focuses on strategy, decision making, and emerging technologies. He is a career naval officer with operational and leadership experience in naval aviation and naval intelligence. As a faculty member in the Department of Strategy and Policy, he was founding Director of the NWC Future Warfighting Symposium. He previously held a National Security Fellowship at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He holds an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Rhode Island. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval War College.