OTPIC Officially Retired
As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.
The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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The complexity of most issues makes it impossible to completely predict what will happen if a particular decision is made or if a dispute is resolved in a particular way. This is very clear in scientific and technical disputes (on the severity or implications of greenhouse warming, for example), but it occurs in non-scientific disputes as well. (For example, how many people will lose their jobs if the government adopts a new economic policy.)
Often even the best technical analyses are likely to leave an irreducible element of uncertainty. In these cases the best that the experts are likely to be able to do is identify a number of possible outcomes for each option. They may also be able to make some estimate of the likelihood of each possible outcome.
For example, an analysis of a new chemical plant might conclude that:
In such a case it is up to the parties to decide whether the benefits associated with the option make this level of risk acceptable.
Often, however, people (decision makers and/or the public) are very reluctant to make such decisions. Rather, they avoid making any decision, preferring to wait for more conclusive technical studies. This often leads to what we call "analysis paralysis" when no decision is made, while study after study is conducted. The end result is the status quo--which may be agreed to be the least desirable option, but the one taken nevertheless, due to the decision makers' inability to adequately deal with uncertainty.
Links to Related Approaches
Dealing With Uncertainty
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