A Darwinian Counterterrorism Strategy

Nothing that the scientist in this article has to say about counterterrorism strategy would be regarded as news in this general area of the blogosphere but it is interesting that a marine biologist came up with conclusions similar to those of leading defense thinkers.

Take A Darwinian Approach To A Dangerous World: Ecologist Preaches ‘Natural’ Security For Homeland Defense

….Sagarin, an ecologist who’s normally more concerned with the urchins and starfish in tide pools, got to thinking about these things as a Congressional science fellow less than a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He saw Washington building an expensive new shell, erecting large barriers around buildings and posting guards and cameras in every doorway.

“Everything was about more guards, more guns, and more gates,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘If I’m an adaptive organism, how would I cope with this?'”

….In nature, a threat is dealt with in several ways. There’s collectivism, where one meerkat sounds the alarm about an approaching hawk, or camouflage, where the ptarmigan hides in plain sight. There’s redundancy, like our wisdom teeth, or unpredictable behavior, like the puffer fish’s sudden, spiky pop.

Under the unyielding pressure of 3.5 billion years of evolution, the variety of defenses is beyond counting. But they all have a few features in common. A top-down, build-a-wall, broadcast-your-status approach “is exactly the opposite of what organisms do,” Sagarin says.

An immune system, for example, is not run by a central authority. It relies on a distributed network of autonomous agents that sense trouble on the local level and respond, adapting to the threat and signaling for backup without awaiting orders from HQ.

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6 comments on this post.
  1. Lexington Green:

    This is very cool. 
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    "-down, build-a-wall, broadcast-your-status  approach"
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    Will a politian ever be able to accept anything else?  How do you build alternative systems in the face of opposition and incomprehension?
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    Perhaps if this thinking were to catch on, it will allow us to abolish the TSA.  I must admit that htey have much better uniforms these days, and it seems to make the TSA personnel act more professionally to simply look more professional.  Intangibles matter.

  2. Arherring:

    This kind of thinking roughly parallels with an interview I heard not too long ago about how the NYPD is approaching counterterrorism.
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    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100559912
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    "Will a politian ever be able to accept anything else?  How do you build alternative systems in the face of opposition and incomprehension?"
    .
    Give it to them in terms politicians can understand. ‘It will bring this many jobs to your district. We will put your name on the side of this crisis center and let you cut the ribbon. We’ll call our system the (congressperson’s name here) Emergency Response Initiative. If you can think of any other ways to look good doing this, let us know and we will make it happen as long as you secure the funding.’

  3. Interessantes woanders (2009.02.25) › Immersion I/O:

    […] A Darwinian Counterterrorism Strategy […]

  4. Barnabus:

    …and how does your immune system defend against a club to the head?  It doesn’t, it wasn’t designed to deal with that threat.  We need to be able to deal with a bunch of threats in multiple forms.  In the analogy, the police officer on the beat would probably correspond to the immune system and we have indeed increased funding for them.  However, we still need to find ways of protecting against other threats, some of which may involve the shell or the puffer fish (although I’m trying to imagine a skyscrapper with inflatible spikes that pop out at the first sign of an airplane but it’s just not working for me.)

  5. zen:

    That would be cool though. :)

  6. Interessantes woanders (2009.02.26) › Immersion I/O:

    […] A Darwinian Counterterrorism Strategy […]