Correspondence | Published:

Sustainable development

Turn war rooms into peace rooms

Nature volume 549, page 458 (28 September 2017) | Download Citation

The resurgence of terms such as 'cold war' and 'clash of cultures' in the media reflects a dangerous social dynamic that could drive societies to the brink of recession, civil war and societal collapse. We suggest that a more modern, open and scientific strategy might help to prevent history from repeating itself.

Today's strategic 'war rooms' use big data, artificial intelligence and cognitive environments to manage conflicts and crises or run big business. Recasting them as 'peace rooms' would be better in tomorrow's world — they would then be more democratic and would operate with greater transparency for legitimacy. This would help to build trust and expose flaws in the system.

Peace rooms could be run by interdisciplinary, international scientific teams to integrate the best available knowledge. They would rely on input from multiple stakeholders — including cities, civil society, non-governmental organizations, citizen scientists and crowdsourcing — to find solutions that work for as many people as possible. The rooms would be supervised by ethics experts to ensure that innovative outcomes are used responsibly.

This is in line with approaches such as democratic capitalism and digital democracy (see also and D. Helbing and E. Pournaras Nature 527, 33–34; 2015). Peace rooms could change how strategic decisions are made in crisis situations, guiding us from uncontrollable conflict to the sustainable development that the world needs now.

Author information


  1. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

    • Dirk Helbing
  2. University of Lugano (USI), Lugano, Switzerland.

    • Peter Seele


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Competing interests

D.H. was granted a contract on 11 July 2017 as scientific adviser for a project entitled ‘Establishment of a Data Science and AI-based Humanitarian Cognitive Environment Lab for Sustainability, Resilience and Humanitarian Affairs in The Hague’, which is funded by the City of The Hague, a public body. The paying institution did not see this Correspondence nor did it have any influence on its content. The writing of a joint paper proposing to create a peace room was suggested by P.S. and started in February 2016, long before D.H. was asked by the City of The Hague to make propositions for the specifics and use cases of a Cognitive Environment Lab.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dirk Helbing.

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