Brains not Bullets? From Terrorism, Insurgencies and Drug Wars, to Street Gangs and World of Warcraft

author: Neil F. Johnson, Department of Physics, University of Oxford
published: July 10, 2009,   recorded: June 2009,   views: 6125

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In previous work, we suggested that common dynamical patterns underlie the evolution of irregular warfare and global terrorism. We offered a simple model to explain all these findings, based on a common ’soup’ of continually evolving attack units. This talk updates this line of research, in light of new results. In addition to confirming the robustness of our model, these results offer a quantitative explanation of why the insurgent war in Iraq, and the drug war in Colombia, have evolved in the way that they have – and how the emerging wars in Afghanistan and Mexico might evolve in the future. These findings strengthen our earlier hypothesis that the commonality of observed dynamics are a consequence of how humans naturally ’do’ conflict, irrespective of the individual conflict’s specific origin, geographic location, ideology, and religious issues. Having established the quantitative power of our model, we use it to predict the duration of wars, and test out the consequences of different intervention strategies. We then turn to look at the connection with transnational ’maras’, street gangs, and online gangs which form around Internet role-playing games such as World of Warcraft.

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