Book review: A new map for relationships – creating true love at home & peace on the planet

Published in the 2018 Yearbook, Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security. University of Oxford.


An applaudable account of the long-lasting efforts to transform idealism into reality – Dorothie and Martin Hellman provide an inspiring account of the long journey that saved their marriage. Through holistic thinking and compassion, they built a relationship of deep love and care for each other. Based on their personal experiences, the authors thought-provokingly take on matters of international relations and posit how a holistic way of thinking and lived compassion might help the matters of international affairs and foreign policy. This unconventional approach is in line with Martin Hellman’s earlier efforts to argue for nuclear disarmament, manifested in his 1988 book Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking [i].

A new map for relationships is split into two parts. The first half of the book describes the struggles but also the ultimate success of their “navigating” through the wild sea the relationships once was. The second part of the book not only uses learnings from their personal relationship to highlight how international conflicts retrospectively could have had a different outcome, or avoided in their entirety, but also takes on contemporary issues of foreign policy.

About the authors

Dorothie and Martin Hellman married as a young couple 50 years ago. Martin taught electrical engineering at MIT and Stanford and is known for his contributions to cryptography. Dorothie worked as a CPA before leaving professional live behind and becoming a full-time volunteer at the Beyond War Foundation, fighting nuclear war. Martin soon joined her in fighting for this cause. Whereas Martin’s thinking was driven by the logic his profession had taught him to apply, Dorothie spent her life “studying anger, fear and grief, as well as joy, love and compassion”[ii]. Her understanding and insights into compassion are essential to this book.

As a cryptographer, Martin Hellman’s is undoubtedly regarded as one of the most influential computer scientists of the 20th century. His work with Diffie and Merkel provided the basics for modern cryptography, used in many applications in our daily life. As a child of the Cold War, it was during the 80s that his attention shifted toward nuclear disarmament and war theory. Later he focussed on risk analysis of nuclear deterrence, advocating the urgent need for nuclear disarmament, a passion his wife shares deeply.

“Thirty-five years ago, during the height of the Cold War and with Dorothie acting as a catalyst, I shifted my research from encryption to international security. What was the point in developing fantastic, new encryption schemes if no one might be around to use them in fifty to a hundred years?” [iii]


Compassion and Holistic Thinking – Approaching Challenges

Without exploring the interplay between conventional and modern ICT-based warfare, the cyber domain of warfare, during his career Hellman was professionally invested in many aspects of science we include in the contemporary definition of cyber security. This book also reflects on his wife’s and his own personal history. Thus and besides lessons for our personal relationships, this book does not only offer a new way of thinking about foreign policy but also provides links to character traits [A4] and lessons on how to employ them, that might bear a helping hand for doctoral students.

Disbelief would be the intuitive reaction to the claim of not having had a fight in 10 years of marriage. In illustrating the magnitude of their project, Dorothie and Martin Hellman first quote Mark Twain saying, “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”. Later, Martin Hellman draws on Plato’s cave allegory to illustrate that it is not only personally challenging to leave known shores behind, but even more so to convince others to follow a ground-breaking change in thinking. Whilst this should not encourage one to set unrealistic goals, it points toward a subtle difference between something being impossible and something being inconceivable, or unbelievable as the authors put it. Beyond this humble goal, another lesson is to still set ambitious but realistic goals, and also to be comfortable having a clear goal but less so having a straight path to follow. During their process of learning, the authors also describe several obstacles they encountered. As they frame it, the best way to deal with hindrance is seeing the positive side in whatever obstacle that might show up on your way. And finally, as the ultimate goal might not be achieved easily, getting ever closer to the goal should be perceived as a learning process. The Hellmans refer to a friend who jokingly described their efforts as being similar to NASA’s definition of success: “longer and longer times between failures” (p. 41).

The book advises a long process of learning through considerate behaviours, holistic thinking, and compassion. A section is dedicated to explaining the idea of the Wisdom of Foolishness. Often times, people who changed the world were looked at as fools when they proposed their ideas, with many facing severe personal consequences. Because of the mistaken belief systems [A8] that were adopted by larger parts of the society, Galileo had to take up a fight with the establishment of the Catholic Church, Max Planck faced disbelief when positing light was not a wave (until Einstein confirmed him), and Turing was convicted for being homosexual. The authors identify some misconceptions in our contemporary world: the belief that fighting is intrinsic to human conflicts; the idea of being civilized while fighting a war; a large amount of nuclear weapons being essential to both security and world peace; the idea of science of global warming being uncertain and any attempt by a single person to change any of the aforementioned issues of marginal influence, hence wasted effort. Harry Rathbun, member of the beyond war foundation, described what is needed for change against all odds as “a zealous search for the truth, with a ruthless disregard for commonly held beliefs when contradicted by the observed data” (p. 235).

As contradictory to contemporary foreign policy as this sounds, the authors approach these matters on the grounds of their own experience and ultimate success. It would be presumptuous to assume there is a solution or even a recipe, the same way as it would have been presumptuous for them to claim they did have found one. Yet, the subtitle provides a bold statement: creating true love at home & piece on the planet. In fact, the authors act as role models, demonstrate their ideas, and provide an approach different to many but with the potential of sustainable change and influence. They advocate individual change as there are precedents and reasons for this to change the more complex picture of international relations.

International Relations and Foreign Policy

For the sake of completeness and to provide further motivation for readers to pick up the book, this is a very brief summary of the case studies. If it wasn’t for the argument and explanation in the first half of this book, intuitively, the reader might have marked the book and the Hellman’s ideas as quixotic. The accuracy of events and information highlighted as part of these case studies has been reviewed by recognised experts in the fields, as is mentioned in the acknowledgments. Dorothie and Martin Hellman argue that nations base their foreign policy on hate, fear, and anger, which often leads to undesirable outcomes. They reflect on past events regarding US foreign policy:

The US stumbled into the Iraq war, misleading the public and their allies about the (Iraqi?) government’s involvement in 9/11 and the fear of weapons of mass destruction. The start of the Vietnam War was a reaction to alleged attacks on allied forces. The true story is that the US was involved in covert operations which provoked reaction. Russia had to fight wars on its own soil repeatedly. Hence, its reaction to anything that posits threats to their domestic stability is very sensitive, especially one which happens close to their borders: quarrels in Chechen, the late expansions of the NATO, or an instable and NATO-friendly Ukrainian government. In another context, Nuclear foreign policy failed to recognise the wishes and needs of North Korea. Inconsequent and unpredictable behaviours of US foreign policy were observed when Libya was first convinced to stop their nuclear program, but nevertheless invaded later. Such an established negative example of reliability and trustworthiness of the US policy cannot be ignored.

Research Ethics

Besides international relations, the matters of research ethics are part of the CDT curriculum for the first year. Commonly discussed in the context of research ethics is the Manhattan Project. It was only after they had developed the atomic bomb that the scientists working with Einstein and Szilard realised the disservice they had done to humanity. With knowledge arises responsibility, ignoring which reveals, as the authors call it, the shadow site of a person. Martin Hellman reflects on his own experiences during the first crypto-war with the NSA when introducing this idea. Although history proved he did right in standing up against the NSA, his decision then was less driven by consciousness and holistic thinking than, unconsciously, by his shadow side. He describes his hidden desire to become a war hero and to show that a nerd is capable of the unthinkable. People tend to reflect these shadow sides on others while they themselves are not aware of them. As the Manhattan Project showed, the consequences can be sometimes severe. This side of oneself might be hidden, but one cannot afford to overlook its effect on one’s judgement. The important lesson is to be aware of ones’ true motivations and not to be fooled by oneself.

The authors have created a homepage where they provide further comments and other resources on the topic: A free PDF version of the full book[iv] is also available for download.

[i] Gromyko, A. A., & Hellman, M. (Eds.). (1988). Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking: Soviet and Western Scholars Issue a Challenge to Build a World Beyond War. Walker.

[ii] Hellman, M., & Hellman, D. (2016). Who We Are. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from

[iii] Hellman, M., & Hellman, D. (2016). Who We Are. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from

[iv] Hellman, D., & Hellman, M. (2016). A new map for relationships – creating true love at home & piece on the planet. New Map Publishing.

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