Disrupted Butterfly

On December 17, 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest repeated harassment and humiliation by the police and confiscation of the produce he was selling. The unrest that followed his act, facilitated by Facebook, quickly led to the resignation of the Tunisian president. More uprisings followed in near- by countries, including Egypt, where long-time president Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office. These revolutionary events took much of the Western world by surprise, and effects of the several uprisings and regime changes continue to ripple across the region.

Above excerpt is the very beginning of the article titled “Sociocultural Behavior Research and Engineering in the Department of Defense Context” (local copy) (big file – 40MB). It’s reads like a description of presumably spontaneous events, real life example of theoretical butterfly effect where hurricane’s formation depends on whether or not a butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. Is it tacit indication or admittance of some sort involvement in this process?

Premise of this post is not to accuse anyone of conspiracy to engineer such event it’s about pointing obvious interest in engineering or exploiting such cascading events. Variations of trolley problem can be used to justify and takes care of ethical side of employing such tactics.  You sacrifice one average Joe and change lives of millions. Hard to say what exactly Tunisian police did to that poor man. Was it some sort of deliberate disruption tactics or just normal operating procedure of Tunisian law enforcement? Was it driven by some personal issues? He was so disturbed by law enforcement to the point that he took his own life. Why did police zeroed on him? Lets say corruption is rampant in Tunisia and such social order is part of everyday life, but it appears as if he felt that he was singled out for special treatment.

How does one start approaching this behavior modeling animal in terms of organized stalking, gangstalking and targeted individuals? While engineering cascading butterfly effect, butterfly itself is important, but not crucial. Looking from strategic point of view disrupting a butterfly is not the main target, the important part is timing of breaking point in relation to social network, circumstances, consequences, effects and the message. The goal of harassment itself is almost always speculative from targeted individual’s perspective. Every disruption in the society can be used as catalyst to initiate, shape or support a social transformation. Strange and expensive cultural research million EUR grants like The Principle of Disruption. A Figure Reflecting Complex Societies (archive.org / local copy) somewhat starts to fit into this picture. Cultural workshops in fear (archive.org) and fear gaming (archive.org) (german language).

I have to be clear – I have trouble understanding social cultural behavioral modeling. The concept is so new that it’s almost like trying to understand 4th dimension in terms of 3 dimensional world, like trying to relate to quantum physics when all you did before is working at the shoe shine stand or sweeping streets. Even though you polished Einstein’s, Jesus, Buddha’s or Gandhi’s shoes daily, the enlightenment will not rub to you from that process. I’m pretty sure the concept would be hard to understand even for highly educated as it requires a lot more than a narrow expertise in some particular field. Report sort of agrees with me:

In the simplest circumstances, human behavior defies easy understanding or reliable forecasting. In the context of contemporary mission demands, that behavior—driven by a variety of social and cultural variables—engenders complexity in situation awareness and the military decision space that an unaided human cannot process.

The important key is “unaided human”. Most organized stalking victims agree with a fact that community harassment manifests in forms that can’t be invented by common man ingenuity. Subtle and indirect ways of stress, threat and fear induction in organizational manner directly points towards limitations placed on that behavior which is not self determined. At the same time it doesn’t mean that you’re being harassed by the military or secret intelligence agency as research field is largely outsourced to academic and private field. Plausible deniability is the key, and infinitive monkey theorem suddenly might come to reality as there is a hidden hand guiding the monkeys.

DoD researchers often coordinate or partner with other Federal Departments and Agencies that conduct research in sociocultural behavior. These organizations include the Intelligence Community, the National Laboratories, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). A leading sponsor of relevant R&E is the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which supports cutting-edge research that has the potential to provide the United States with an intelligence advantage over adversaries. Much of IARPA’s sociocultural behavior work comes out of the Incisive Analysis Office, which focuses on maximizing insights gained from data. This work includes developing tools and methods that incorporate sociocultural and linguistic factors into analyses. One significant program sponsored by the Incisive Analysis Office is Socio-cultural Content in Language (SCIL). SCIL explores and develops novel designs, algorithms, methods, techniques, and technologies to extend the discovery of the social goals of group members by correlating these goals with the terminology they use.

Report states that most of the sociocultural models available today come from a non-military frame of reference. Language and jargon is used to describe processes in general manner that could be applied to individuals, groups, communities, societies, cultures interchangeably. At this point we can only speculate, especially considering that such research could be used for common good as well – eg ergonomics, efficiency, etc

First step would be to get to investigate neutral and neutered language, jargon and keywords used for behavioral modeling and simulation and find how/if they relate to harassment techniques of targeted individuals. Problem is this research is huge – encompassing cultures, cyberworld, politics, societies and the whole humanity.

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