Decentralize, adapt and cooperate.

Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85716, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 38.6). 05/2010; 465(7296):292-3. DOI: 10.1038/465292a
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Humankind faces a wide range of threats to its security and safety, from terrorist groups and cybercriminals to disease pandemics and climate change. All these threats share one characteristic: they are constantly changing. Decision-makers can never be sure whether the next tropical storm will be as violent as the last, or whether Taliban insurgents will use a roadside improvised explosive device or a suicide bomber for their next attack. Therefore, many of our security systems — those that are resistant to change, or that try to eliminate all risk — are doomed. Firewalls have failed to protect computers from hackers for 40 years; screening airline passengers for liquids didn't prevent Umar Abdulmutallab from taking a powdered incendiary onto a plane; and so cumbersome is the military procurement cycle that heavy armoured vehicles designed to repel improvised explosive attacks were deployed in Iraq a full three years after soldiers had identified the need.

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    ABSTRACT: I present a unified discussion of several recently published results concerning the escalation, timing and severity of violent events in human conflicts and global terrorism, and set them in the wider context of real-world and cyber-based collective violence and illicit activity. I point out how the borders distinguishing between such activities are becoming increasingly blurred in practice -- from insurgency, terrorism, criminal gangs and cyberwars, through to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and London riots. I review the robust empirical patterns that have been found, and summarize a minimal mechanistic model which can explain these patterns. I also explain why this mechanistic approach, which is inspired by non-equilibrium statistical physics, fits naturally within the framework of recent ideas within the social science literature concerning analytical sociology. In passing, I flag the fundamental flaws in each of the recent critiques which have surfaced concerning the robustness of these results and the realism of the underlying model mechanisms.
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    ABSTRACT: In military planning, it is important to be able to estimate not only the number of fatalities but how often attacks that result in fatalities will take place. We uncovered a simple dynamical pattern that may be used to estimate the escalation rate and timing of fatal attacks. The time difference between fatal attacks by insurgent groups within individual provinces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and by terrorist groups operating worldwide, gives a potent indicator of the later pace of lethal activity.
    Science 07/2011; 333(6038):81-4. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Violent extremist groups are currently making intensive use of Internet fora for recruitment to terrorism. These fora are under constant scrutiny by security agencies, private vigilante groups, and hackers, who sometimes shut them down with cybernetic attacks. However, there is a lack of experimental and formal understanding of the recruitment dynamics of online extremist fora and the effect of strategies to control them. Here, we utilize data on ten extremist fora that we collected for four years to develop a data-driven mathematical model that is the first attempt to measure whether (and how) these external attacks induce extremist fora to self-regulate. The results suggest that an increase in the number of groups targeted for attack causes an exponential increase in the cost of enforcement and an exponential decrease in its effectiveness. Thus, a policy to occasionally attack large groups can be very efficient for limiting violent output from these fora.
    Scientific Reports 03/2013; 3:1544. · 5.08 Impact Factor

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