Predicting Actions of Mobs with Mathematics
Give me MATHEMATICS, MODERN WAR, DATA and PSYCHOHISTORY and I will tell you the FUTURE
Mathematics is the language with which God had written the universe – Galileo GalileiGalileo understood where numbers belong in life and this article is NOT the subject of beliefs or religion however it is a definite peering into the world of mathematics and its countless possibilities.
Regardless of what you believe the overwhelming evidence pouring out of all parts of the scientific community indicate a crucial role mathematical data plays analysis of events, especially pertaining to war. Interestingly Psychohistory is a fictional science invented by Isaac Asimov which proposes use of mathematics to predict the actions of masses of people.
AFGHAN WAR DIARY – WIKI LEAKS
This is fabulously demonstrated by the work of a group of scientists in New York. Their collation of data came from over 77, 000 reports from 2004 – 2009 made available via Wiki Leaks entitled Afghan War Diary. These highly detailed reports contain all manners of incidents and activities outlining information from routine checks to full-fledged combat.
This data was filtered using spatiotemporal modelling tools for the identification of complex underlying processes in conflict, such as diffusion, relocation, heterogeneous escalation, and volatility. Using ideas from statistics, signal processing, and ecology, the work provided a predictive framework able to assimilate data and give confident estimates on interesting future outcomes.
Conflict Intensity and Regression Parameters: The statistical data indicated patterns forming in conflict escalation and location based on key variables. The forming of a ring like pattern in the picture below indicates the consistent targeting of the country’s ring road system as an area of intensified likelihood of conflict and activity. The variables included were the geography, local populous, proximity to a major city and many more. Most of the data in the AWD was derived from highly populated urban areas (or close to) allowing the accuracy based on the population variable to be far more accurate.
Conflict Escalation and Volatility
A major advantage of the model and processing of this information allows a quantifiable prediction on conflicts intensification and increased volatility in various areas. In the image below the increased level of activity in correlation to the location along the Pakistani border is absolutely undeniable. This model is not based on the number of occurring events rather solely on their consistent increase over the 5 year period.
“The key advantage of dynamic point process modelling is the ability to make statistical predictions of the system’s behaviour for decision making” states Zammit-Mangion one of the researchers. Furthermore he adds “results demonstrate that statistical spatiotemporal modelling can be an extremely valuable tool in the analysis of conflict. The analysis of the AWD data shows that data modelling can yield insights that cannot be achieved by simple visualization or by the use of descriptive statistics”
“The most striking result of our analysis is the ability to accurately predict (in a statistical sense) conflict dynamics for a whole year after the end of the AWD data on which the model was trained” stated Zammit-Mangion
It is highly interesting to note that the US increased their troops by 30 000 in 2010. It cannot be denied that such sophisticated data is analysed, processed, modelled and then employed to make accurate predictions for future military movements. This paper certainly blows Isaac Asimov’s fictional theory into a light of factual reality. Taking the highly sophisticated maths equations and statistical data modelling and giving it a life like 3D reality based up all the captured variables is truly amazing and ground-breaking. Can there be a flaw in what appears a fictional game of number.
Certainly so! The omission of many variables such as government in power, cultural behavioural patterns and weather at time of data acquisition is all a factor to be considered. However the results are what matter and the evident demonstration that the most powerful nation on earth is moving congruently with these models is certainly food for thought. It is wonderful step forward in mankind’s pursuit of knowledge and the use of this knowledge in beneficial terms rather than for war would be a delightful sight to see.