Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Wargaming the peace?

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You have to love The Register for getting a DARPA request-for-proposals on “social computing” down to its essence:  “…it’s more like gas dynamics for human beings.” 

Sort of. What it really seems to come down to is an attempt to wargame the kind of dynamics that clear thinkers can discern through a deep sense of history and culturally sensitive perception. In other words, an attempt to computerize the dynamics that General David Petraeus’ group understood in Iraq (author’s note:  I might be biased, since Thomas Ricks’ The Gamble is on my nightstand).

This isn’t just happening in classified labs at DARPA. The Economist has an article in its recent technology quarterly on agent-based crowd simulation, and technology has been in place to identify potential conflict indicators via aggregation of news reports for some time. 

As Wired’s recent piece on the financial crisis suggests, the success of models like these depends on the assumptions involved. Common sense, really. The more you assume away, the more modest the aspirations you need to have for your model. Yet I suspect there’s something inherent in models like these that tend to seduce people away from modest aspirations. Especially when they come loaded with datasets and cool visualizations.

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Written by Mark

March 8, 2009 at 10:59 pm

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