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February 15, 2007

Modeling Terrorists

By Harry Goldstein
New simulators could help intelligence analysts think like the enemy

Silverman Barry Silverman pecks at the keyboard, and suddenly his computer ­monitor is showing him the view down a scary-looking alley in the Bakhara market in Mogadishu, Somalia. On the big screen, Silverman sees the market through the eyes of his avatar, a software soldier. It’s a detailed scene, on a par with what you’d see in today’s best first-person shooter video games: in the market’s narrow lanes, militiamen scurry about, checkered headdresses flapping. It has rained recently, and the gray masonry walls of buildings surrounding the market are water stained. The streets are empty except for some abandoned cars and the smoldering wreckage of two helicopters. Silverman’s cybertrooper is part of a virtual squad replaying the scenario described famously in Mark Bowden’s 1999 best seller, Black Hawk Down, in which U.S. Army Rangers attempted a rescue after fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid shot down two U.S. UH-60 choppers.

The Ranger that Silverman controls wanders only a few steps toward the downed helicopters before he encounters a suicide bomber who blows them both to bits.

Silverman, an electrical and systems engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, restarts the simulation. As his Ranger avatar scans the scene, Silverman describes the attributes of each character—or synthetic human agent—he encounters. He knows them all intimately, their motives, emotions, and physiol­ogies, as well as their political, religious, and moral leanings. He should; he and his group created every last one of them.

To read this article, click on the link: Modeling Terrorists

Posted by ACASA on February 15, 2007 at 02:49 PM in ACASA News | Permalink


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