APL Colloquium

May 1, 2003

Colloquium Topic: Threat Anticipation Program: Agent-Based Simulation of Factors Motivating Terrorism

The rise of Islamic terrorism around the world is considered to be the result of many complex and interrelated issues associated with globalization and cultural penetration of the West into predominantly Muslim regions. Many of the perceived causes for this social unrest, such as US military bases located in sacred regions or alliances between the West and corrupt secular regimes, have been well-stated by Islamic fundamentalists as obvious determinants of social conflict. Other causal factors, especially long term ones, may not be as obvious and might be better understood by applying methods from Computational Economics and Sociology, “agent-based” approaches, to this complex and important situation. We are developing a simulation framework for this purpose. Our end goal is to provide policy makers with decision support based on socio-economic computer experiments -- scenario generation representing known militant and terrorist groups, ethnic and culturally defined groups of agents, Western and Eastern regimes, and their interrelated political economies. The lecture will describe the building blocks of this model and demonstrate our progress made to date.

Colloquium Speaker: Edward MacKerrow

Dr. Edward MacKerrow has been a researcher at Los Alamos since 1990. He received his PhD in Physics from the University of New Mexico in 1995. His past research has been in non-linear optics applied to multi-photon absorption, statistical optics applied to understanding laser speckle and modeling optical coherence effects in laser remote sensing. During a recent sabbatical from Los Alamos he was the Vice President of Science at the Bios Group, a specialty consulting firm led by Stuart Kauffman that builds agent-based models for international corporations. Ed MacKerrow focused on modeling operational risk in the banking and energy sector. In 2002 he returned to Los Alamos as a staff member in Complex Systems Group, Theoretical Division, where he continues to focus on socio-economic simulation and supply chain dynamics. His current research focuses on agent-based simulation applied to complex problems in socio-economics, organizational modeling, and social systems.