This brings me to an article up at Scientific American advocating a flexible combination of the use of scenarios and computer modeling as an analytical base to deal with a concept they call “ Deep Uncertainty”. The authors are geared toward climate modeling but the premise would also apply to complex human systems equally well ( assuming of course that the mathematicians and software designers were to get cracking):

“The three of us–an economist, a physicist and a computer scientist all working in RAND’s Pardee Center–have been fundamentally rethinking the role of analysis. We have constructed rigorous, systematic methods for dealing with deep uncertainty. The basic idea is to liberate ourselves from the need for precise prediction by using the computer to help frame strategies that work well over a very wide range of plausible futures. Rather than seeking to eliminate uncertainty, we highlight it and then find ways to manage it…

…Our approach is to look not for optimal strategies but for robust ones. A robust strategy performs well when compared with the alternatives across a wide range of plausible futures. It need not be the optimal strategy in any future; it will, however, yield satisfactory outcomes in both easy-to-envision futures and hard-to-anticipate contingencies…

In contrast, for robust decision making the computer is integral to the reasoning process. It stress-tests candidate strategies, searching for plausible scenarios that could defeat them. Robust decision making interactively combines the complementary abilities of humans and machines. People excel at seeking patterns, drawing inferences and framing new questions. But they can fail to recognize inconvenient facts and can lose track of how long chains of causes relate to effects. The machine ensures that all claims about strategies are consistent with the data and can reveal scenarios that challenge people’s cherished assumptions. No strategy is completely immune to uncertainty, but the computer helps decision makers exploit whatever information they do have to make choices that can endure a wide range of trends and surprises.”

This approach would seem to be, at a minimum, complementary to the expert driven analysis at INR and the multi-field analytical model used at the CIA. It could also greatly enhance strategic planning for initiating or defending against system perturbation level attacks.

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1 comment on this post.
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