The Temporal-Probabilistic Rule System developed by Venkatramana Subrahmanian, University of Maryland, which not only predicts terror attacks but also suggests counter strategies.
The programme is based on two frameworks:
- The Stochastic Opponent Modeling Agents (SOMA)
- The Multiplayer Game Theory Models
Both are built on data reflecting hundreds of variables relevant to terror groups in South Asia like the LeT, JeM, and SIMI. These variables describe both the environment in which a group operates as well as the intensity of the group’s actions.
SOMA identifies environment conditions favourable for the group’s actions and predicts the probability ‘P’ that it will carry out action ‘A’ with intensity ‘I’, when some condition is true in the environment.
The Multiplayer Game Theory correlates sets of actions that each player can perform and assigns a “payoff” for each combination of actions that a group can take. This yields something called a ‘payoff matrix,’ showing all possible combinations of actions, and the payoffs for each scenario.
In the LeT game theory, these actions include covert action or coercive diplomacy that policy makers could use. So in a hypothetical situation with five players (LeT, Pak military, Pak civilian government, US, and India), for each combination of actions these players could take, the model evaluates how good or bad that scenario could be for them.
If, for instance, the US increases aid to Pakistan and the LeT carries out major attacks, the payoff for the US would be very low.
Prof. Subrahmanian’s programme derives from Nash equilibria (mathematical techniques for determining action combinations that depend on ‘stable’ situations) and calculates both ‘pure’ equilibria—where each player may or may not take an action, and ‘mixed’ equilibria—where each player can take probabilistic combinations of action (e.g., the Pak military may talk peace for some of the time, while funding and training the LeT for the rest of the time).
During World War II, the US Navy neutralised Germany’s U-boat threat by asking chess grandmaster Reuben Fine to analyse the probability of U-boats surfacing at certain points in the sea. And Britain recruited several chess masters to devise a mathematical model to crack the German Enigma code, which virtually won the war for the Allies. More than six decades later, the free world is again turning to mathematical models and the science of probability to help fight a new enemy: Terrorism.