DARPA Big Data
This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 19 January 2016.
As the U.S. Army prepares for the future, it has become increasingly aware that operations are more and more likely to take place in large cities. The number and size of cities continues to grow, and they are quickly becoming the dominant form of human habitation. Belligerent actors, aware of the West’s growing anxieties about collateral damage, have good reason to place forces in or around cities. Further, advanced sensing and weapons systems employed by modern militaries make hiding in remote areas of the world less and less attractive to non-state enemies of advanced powers.
America’s enemies see the advantages of the seemingly impenetrable clutter that dominates the modern city. The Army’s current approach to learning about this environment is to seek the diamonds scattered amidst this clutter. What we are missing, though, is that the clutter itself is the jewel. Enormous amounts of readily available data can reveal more about a city, its population, and the nefarious actors residing there than we could have imagined before. To truly understand this environment the Army must fundamentally change its approach to understanding the environment: It must adopt a holistic approach enabled by big data analytics.
The Army, however, seems hesitant to embrace 21st-century data analysis, instead relying largely on the same micro-level methods it has used for decades.
This must change if the Army wishes to maintain the ability to “see first” and “understand first” in the modern urban arena.
Tradition vs. modernity in China. Image: 月明 端木/Flickr
This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) on 27 May 2015.
With the majority of the world’s population already urban, people have voted cities as the place to live. This emerging trend is an outcome of the spread of globalization, which generates economies of scale by clustering economic activities -fueled by technological change, international trade, finance and foreign direct investment- in cities.
Urban congregations are nests that attract opportunities -based on accumulation of resources- and act as recipients of hazardous global challenges -climate change, security, immigration or poverty- alike. However, the unstoppable power of cities is underrepresented at a global scale, where cities still have a limited voice in the architecture of international big decision-making. Against this backdrop, what are the influence and implications of cities as a key actor for global governance? What can they bring to the world? Cities’ differentiated proposition adds a more efficient model -than nation-states- in dealing with matters of relevant global concern that hinge upon the following five advantages. » More
Clash between protesters and police in Belize, 21 January 2005. Photo: Belizian/Wikimedia Commons.
For a fleeting moment during the final decade of the twentieth century, the general trajectory of conflict across the world seemed clear. With the Cold War over, the number of interstate wars was in free-fall and the dominant form of violence was internal, within fragmenting states no longer propped up by their superpower sponsors. The age of ‘total war’ between states had thus been largely superseded by a wave of civil conflicts, often characterised as ‘new wars’, fought for the most part in rural hinterlands and widely considered as limited in scope and scale.
Over a decade into the new millennium, however, the trajectory now looks far from straightforward. Like international wars, civil wars too have been steadily declining in number. Yet from Colombia to Cairo, Brazil to Baghdad and Kenya to Kandahar, each month brings new manifestations of what Arjun Appadurai (in)famously termed the ‘implosion of global and national politics into the urban world’. Although riots, gang crime, and terrorist attacks have afflicted cities for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the increasing ubiquity of such events – even if not ‘wars’ in any conventional sense – suggest that the hallmark of the contemporary period is one of rising ‘urban conflict’ rather than ‘peace’. » More