CHIROL'S TERROR TREE AS AN EXERCISE IN SOLVING A WICKED PROBLEMChirol
of Coming Anarchy
had an incisive post on terrorism " The Terror Tree
", one that has already caught the attention of Dr. Barnett
. An excerpt:"If you take any given terror plot and look at it through the chart. If it fails but gets media attention like today’s, it still wins in terms of system disruption and creating fear. It would have done the same had it succeeded. The question is one of degree....Given the results graphed above, the only total failure is a plot which elicits no reaction. What would such a plot look like? Probably like something we’ve already seen, something that’s yesterdays news, something we are already checking for. Thus, no change is necessary...When a terrorist can invest a few thousand dollars in a plot, even tens of thousands, and cause a hundred or thousand times more damage, things don’t look good but this is where network resiliancy comes in, but that’s a job for Dan and Mark. "Dave
and I have been discussing "wicked problems
" and Chirol's graphic
is an excellent visualization of the "wicked problem" represented by terrorism, which has the potential darwinian dynamic of "heads they win, tails we lose". That is not the feedback loop the United States or the West should accept, and as Chirol has already noted, attention to the principle of resiliency
offers a chance to mitigate, minimize or thwart the negative effects of terrorism. Resiliency will not solve the problem of terrorism but it helps limit the potential damage.
To respond to Chirol's request, the ideal
solution to counter system disruption attacks is to engineer all your physical systems, networks, grids, first and second responder plans with multiple layers of redundancy
so that no particular "hub" represents a systemic "choke point" whose elimination brings the system in question to a grinding halt. In a country with, in some areas, two centuries of established infrastructure, this would be a financial nightmare to retrofit from the top down. The ideal solution ain't going to happen here, but in rapidly developing nations, they might consider building all their new systems with great attention to lavishing resources on redundancy. The initially higher costs today ( which can be amortized) represent billions saved in terms of disasters avoided.
solution for the U.S. is to build, as cheaply as possible, decentralized systemic alternatives to the most critical
elements existing infrastructure, gaining redundancy by overlaying duplicate systems on top of one another. For example, a national wireless broadband network in addition to the heavily land-based internet-communications network. Being neither an engineer nor a high tech guru, there are more qualified people than myself to offer concrete examples or identify the most critical systems; but economically, given the size and complexity of the diverse systems used in United States, we need to shoot for cheap
solutions in order to increase our resiliency.
For more on enhancing resiliency against terrorism, I suggest looking at some of the past posts by Steve DeAngelis
- in particular, this one
and this one