Monday, January 12, 2015

Terrorism and the emergence of Stand alone complex behavior

Recently terrorist acts of seemingly disconnected individual started to rise [ 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 ]. What is rather concerning is most of those represent a phenomenon where unrelated, yet very similar actions of individuals create a seemingly concerted effort.

We are witnessing the emergence of a group of self-interested individuals who have no connections or ties to each other but who unconsciously and collectively act towards what is seen as a common purpose. This events are very quickly dismissed as isolated events and/or copycats effect. However, this a rather reductive and dismissive explanation of a new emergent demeanor.

What we have is, for the first time, a perfect combination of various groups, media outlets and information dispersal over the internet that create the prerequisite conditions for a Stand Alone Complex (STC) development within western countries. By manipulating and amplifying the fear and frustration of certain group as well as creating false information it plants the seeds for the rise of individual action loosely connected under the same banner. However, none of these event are connected in anyway beside a logo, fuzzy ideology or keywords/sentence. This is why quite often such acts are categorized under copycat / isolated individual attack.

What the authority and other entities are missing, is that without understanding and creating active countermeasures within the data stream we might very quickly face a dramatic rise of such events. This behaviors might even spread outside of the "classical" current terrorism ecosystem (religious groups/individuals tend to be more receptive but other Alter-globalization group will be quick to catch up) .

One of the most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon is that these type of individual are almost impossible to intercept before they reveal themselves through despicable actions. The natural and I would guess obvious approach for governments is to turn toward mass surveillance of population in order to establish deep profile of every individual hoping to spot sign of "auto-radicalization". And to be honest the backlash from this mass privacy invasion might just create an equivalent of a kessler syndrome within the "infosphere" with a fragmentation and radicalization of groups and individual source of content. As a result multiply the potential fertile ground for more STC individuals to rise from while making the curtail job even more difficult.

The hardest part is to understand that in order to limit the spread of stand alone complex individuals you need to first understand how the underlying fertile soil of information spreads. Second, how individuals evolve in contact with it. Third, generate counter measure to disrupt the process while also generating traps for rooting out the individuals that are too far down the road of “auto-radicalization”.  Information warfare is entering a new age, social media, bigdata, and machine learning will be the new weapons.