Open source warfare* is now at the top of the heap in the scientific study of conflict. A new paper showcased in Nature magazine, Common Ecology Quantifies Human Insurgency (by Boorquez, Gourley, Dixon, Spagat, and Johnson)** is an attempt to provide a quantitative model for open source warfare. As a scientific study of the area, it does a great job.
Based on data (timing and severity) from 54,000 events across 9 insurgencies, the authors were able to generate models for behavior that explain why modern insurgency operates the way it does (particularly, its unique power law coefficient) -- it operates differently than convention warfare (very rare now) and civil wars (which should provide you a clue as to why the Iraqi insurgency slowed down). The model they derived has two parts:
- A grouping mechanism. Why groups fragment and form. It assumes a constant insurgent population with a fluctuating number of groups depending on counter-insurgency pressure (more pressure = more groups).
- A timing mechanism. A description of how insurgent decision making cycles (assuming lots of groups) impact the timing of attacks. The conclusion is that of cross group communication through the media (stigmergic learning) explains how this mechanism works.
The result is a graphic (a little technical for some) that describes the decision making process that each group in the insurgency goes through. What makes this very interesting to me is not the scientific support it provides to open source warfare, but rather that it provides me with additional clarity on how open source warfare could be instantiated in Darknet software. Huzzah!
* Open source warfare has become the dominant form of warfare in the 21st Century. Basically, it's a model of warfare that describes how many small autonomous groups can fight an insurgency despite the lack of a central command hierarchy. Here's a good article in the IEEE Spectrum magazine that describes how it works. For a more formal description, read Brave New War (cited in the Nature paper).
** The authors and Nature both sent me a copy of the paper and the article that accompanied it. Thanks.