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Technology, Society, and the Adaptive Nature of Terrorism: Implications for Counterterror


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As technology continues to advance and increasingly permeate society, generating violence that makes a societal group feel vulnerable is not difficult. Generating the desired interpretation of that violence is hard, however, and is critical to the coupling we need between future U.S. counterterrorism (CT) and information operations (IO) strategy. This latter space, with all of its socio-technical nuances, is where threats we classify as “terrorists” have excelled. This paper will begin by explaining the nature and importance of socio-technical complexity and its relevance to terroristic adaptation. A true sociotechnical confluence perspective, distinct from the traditional view that treats the dimensions as distinct elements that happen to coexist, promotes awareness of active and passive influences that exist bidirectionally between the social and technological elements. The cyber realm then becomes both a means through which terroristic attacks are conducted or directly targeted and an ecosystem. In this latter view, individual and community (up to state and even trans-state) patterns of organization are transformed via completely new paradigms across temporal and spatial scales of communication and information sharing across societal sectors. This has significant ramifications for emergence of terror cells, their coordination, and passive support of their activities in a global scale. Behavior of terror cells in this complex environment may be more intuitively understood from an entrepreneurial business model analogy, which naturally expands into a consideration of the multiple dimensions associated with both conducting terror and striving to build protective measures against it. Since adaptation is a hallmark of living systems, the U.S. cannot stifle innovative advances by a terroristic adversary through reliance on a static U.S. counterterror strategy. Rather, the U.S. must lead disruptive innovation in order to drive strategic surprise and strain the capacity of these threat groups to adapt
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IntroductionBasic AnalysisOptimality ConditionsShifts in the Behavioral RelationsFinesSummary and Concluding Remarks