Analyzing Adversaries as Complex Adaptive Systems
INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA
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The objective of this study was to assess information technology tools to counter asymmetric threats when considered as complex adaptive systems CASs. We focused primarily on the use of agent-based modeling and simulation technology. This report describes both agent-based modeling ABM and an agent-based model developed to explore the utility of ABM technology to counter asymmetric threats. We conclude that while terrorist groups considered qua systems are undoubtedly adaptive, it is not obvious that they are complex in the strict theoretical sense of that term. As a consequence, it is not clear that terrorist threats are amenable to the analytic techniques afforded by complexity theory. Moreover, while ABM technology may offer significant value in many fields, it is not at all clear that the technology offers tactical value to counter these growing asymmetric threats. We argue that human behavior is too complex and too poorly understood to be accurately modeled in anything but a simplified and unenlightening way using the technology and agent-based modeling techniques currently available particularly for tactical advantage. The real value potentially inestimable value lies in the systematic and methodical process of making explicit the assumptions regarding the fundamental factors governing agent behavior used in the models.
- Unconventional Warfare