Complex Adaptive Systems and International Security Analysis


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Overview of how various USG agencies use CAS concepts for analysis of international security problems. Presented as a university seminar to graduate students in international security policy studies at University of Maryland

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  • WMD proliferation has become complex involving understanding of social systems beyond traditional models of political-military strategy SNL is systems engineering lab. We do lots of development of systems models for policy makers.
  • CAS thinking provides a framework for understanding the ‘systematic patterns of thought” that remain after a particular government or its capabilities have been “torn down”. This is key to countering proliferation of WMD. What motivates governments or non-state actors to proliferate WMD? How do socio-cultural, economic, and political systems constrain those decisions?
  • The questions that are asked for WMD proliferation policy analysis are much the same, in the abstract, as other issues in international security. The same framework of Complex Adaptive Systems can be used. This aids in looking at the linkage between issue areas.
  • Ky characteristics of CAS are 1) purposeful agents; 2) self-organizing and adaptive; and 3) emergent behaviors. Structures provide architecture (topology) through which resources are transmitted. They can change over time. They lead to specfic, measurable metrics for predicting network behaviors. Dynamics - the observed network behaviors; are related to structure.
  • The term was originally coined by Horst Rittel in early 70’s when studying civil engineering problems for traffic systems in northern california. Wicked problems always occur in a social context -- the wickedness of the problem reflects the diversity among the stakeholders in the problem. Because the group or team's understanding of the wicked problem is evolving, productive movement toward a solution requires powerful mechanisms for getting everyone on the same page. There will be volumes facts, data, studies and reports about a wicked problem, but the shared commitment needed to create durable solution will not live in information or knowledge. Understanding a wicked problem is about collectively making sense of the situation and coming to shared understanding about who wants what.
  • The problem is ill-structured, an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints. Since there is no definitive "The Problem", there is also no definitive "The Solution." The problem solving process ends when you run out of resources. simply "better," "worse," "good enough," or "not good enough." There are so many factors and conditions, all embedded in a dynamic social context, that no two wicked problems are alike, and the solutions to them will always be custom designed and fitted.
  • The “rules” that self-organizing, purposeful elements in a systems are guided by are often referred to as “schema” in complexity literature.
  • From the Cynefin framework for organization theory and sense-making
  • Murray Gelman points out that adaptation can take place on one of three very different levels. One is a response to changes in the environment, but does not require a change in the way the elements of the system think about themselves, their functions, or their relationships to each other and the environment. A second occurs when there is competition among the way that various elements function, with winners and losers. The performance of the winner is learned and copied. . The third is the familiar evolutionary process. Stephen Jay Gould; Ernst Mayer
  • From Cynefin Framework
  • While globalization is making the world “smaller”, we will continue to live in a world of increasing cultural, economic, and technological divides that have the potential to fuel the fires of hate and resentment against the west. In the studies done since September 11, including our own study within the ACG, one repeatedly sees calls for understanding and addressing “root causes” of terrorism, as well as understanding and protecting against our vulnerabilities. A key part of security will be understand what this means, and find ways to deal with these root causes, drawing on communication and cooperation across these divides. Current administration recognizes these factors and is engaged in proactive research partnerships globally. One such initiative is the US – Mexico Cooperation.
  • System dynamics was created during the mid-1950s[3] by Professor Jay Forrester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Forrester's insights into the common foundations that underlie engineering, which led to the creation of system dynamics, were triggered, to a large degree, by his involvement with managers at General Electric (GE) during the mid-1950s. At that time, the managers at GE were perplexed because employment at their appliance plants in Kentucky exhibited a significant three-year cycle. The business cycle was judged to be an insufficient explanation for the employment instability. From hand simulations (or calculations) of the stock-flow-feedback structure of the GE plants, which included the existing corporate decision-making structure for hiring and layoffs, Forrester was able to show how the instability in GE employment was due to the internal structure of the firm and not to an external force such as the business cycle.
  • Convenient GUI system dynamics software developed into user friendly versions by the 1990s and have been applied to diverse systems. SD models solve the problem of simultaneity (mutual causation) by updating all variables in small time increments with positive and negative feedbacks and time delays structuring the interactions and control.
  • Complexity: Order from disorder – what does system structure look like? Random? Centralized? Growing? Directed? Degree of connectivity? Embedded? Timescale of Processes and decision making: Evolutionary dynamics look at functional role of network and how fitness functions evolve. Robustness can be examined with respect to how systems adapt, evolve in response to environmental perturbations – Self-aware? Here it is key to look at the immediate needs and threats, versus long term. Key will be timeframe of these – punctuated equilibria? Epochal? Diffusive? Function role for analysis (human or machine) -
  • Complexity: Order from disorder – what does system structure look like? Random? Centralized? Growing? Directed? Degree of connectivity? Embedded? Timescale of Processes and decision making: Evolutionary dynamics look at functional role of network and how fitness functions evolve. Robustness can be examined with respect to how systems adapt, evolve in response to environmental perturbations – Self-aware? Here it is key to look at the immediate needs and threats, versus long term. Key will be timeframe of these – punctuated equilibria? Epochal? Diffusive? Function role for analysis (human or machine) -
  • Complex Adaptive Systems and International Security Analysis

    1. 1. Understanding WMD Proliferation: Applying Complex Adaptive Systems Theory Nancy K. Hayden [email_address] [email_address] December 1, 2011
    2. 2. <ul><li>Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. Thomas Merton </li></ul>Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well-informed just to be undecided about them. Laurence J. Pete If a factory is torn down, but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves…There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    3. 3. Overview <ul><li>Policy analysis framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Policy questions and wicked problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Systems perspective </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complex adaptive systems (CAS) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What kinds of systems are there and how do they behave? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the structures, properties and behaviors of CAS? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How are they measured? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What kinds of analytic tools are useful? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Policy Applications </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Situational awareness - network analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Predicting behaviors - agent based modeling and system dynamics </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Analysis Questions Common to International Security Policy <ul><li>Situational Awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Who are Key Players? </li></ul><ul><li>What are their intentions? </li></ul><ul><li>Behavior Prediction </li></ul><ul><li>What are the “influence levers? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we stop them if we can’t influence them? </li></ul><ul><li>How can we change the outcomes? </li></ul>WMD Proliferation Social movements Civil conflict Military strategy Islamic radicalization Energy & Environment Terrorism Democratization and stability
    5. 5. Analysis Questions involve Complex Adaptive SOCIAL Systems <ul><li>Purposeful agents: leaders and followers </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Key players” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Intentions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Self-organizing and adaptive: “levers of influence” and collective action </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Structure - nodes and linkages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Key organizations, relationships, goals </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Origins, resources and support </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dynamics - transactions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What are the dominant transactions and rates over time? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What are the system chokepoints and limitations for transactions? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How do structures evolve over time and what are emergent properties? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What are structural reactions to exogenously imposed events? </li></ul></ul></ul>WMD proliferation Democratic stability Social movements Civil conflict Military strategy Domestic security Islamic radicalization Energy and Environment Terrorism Economic prosperity
    6. 6. Social Complexity Creates “ Wicked Problems” for Policy Analysts A wicked problem is one for which each attempt to create a solution changes the understanding of the problem. Wicked problems cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion, because the problem definition evolves as new possible solutions are considered and/or implemented.
    7. 7. Characteristics of Wicked Problems <ul><li>There is no definitive formulation of “the problem” …you don’t understand it till you solve it. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no end to the problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to the problem. Every instantiation of the problem is essentially unique. </li></ul><ul><li>Every solution to the problem is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly. </li></ul><ul><li>There is not an enumerable set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into a plan. </li></ul><ul><li>The problem is actually a symptom of another problem. </li></ul><ul><li>The existence of discrepancies when representing the problem can be explained in numerous ways. </li></ul><ul><li>The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution. </li></ul><ul><li>The planner has no right to be wrong. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Definitions I <ul><li>System : an internally organized whole where elements are so intimately connected that they operate as one in relation to external conditions and other systems. An element may be defined as the minimal unit performing a definite function in the </li></ul>Complex system : one whose elements may also be regarded as systems or subsystems. Structure : implies not only the position of elements in space but also their movement in time, their sequence and rhythm, the law of mutation of a process. It is the law or set of laws that determine a system's composition and functioning, its properties and stability . Any breakdown in structure, any deformation of an organ leads to a distortion of the function. Function organizes structure Function organizes structure. Structure determines function whole.
    9. 9. Definitions II Structure: Simple, Complex, Random Innovation Surprise Unpredictable Structural Complexity Randomness 0 1
    10. 10. Ordered Random Complex
    11. 11. Structure and Dynamics Related to State of System <ul><li>Closed or Open </li></ul><ul><li>Static or Dynamic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Equilibrium or Disequilibrium </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ordered, Complex, Chaos and/or Random </li></ul>
    12. 12. 2. States change over time through predictable mechanisms… … affecting structural form, function, and behaviors. 1. Systems in different states should be analyzed and managed differently Two Key Points
    13. 13. Policy Analysis Example 1 <ul><li>OSD: How can we detect adversary technological and/or procedural innovation? </li></ul><ul><li>Approach: Network analysis </li></ul>
    14. 14. Network Structures Enable Different Types of Behaviors and Outcomes Weak Links Ring Connected Ring Trees Giant Star High School Friendships High School Dating Web Sites Yeast Proteins TB Contagion Small Worlds Cliques Books on Politics Freshwater Food Web
    15. 15. <ul><li>Structural components </li></ul><ul><li>Connectivity </li></ul><ul><li>Centrality, betweeness </li></ul><ul><li>Degree </li></ul><ul><li>Clustering </li></ul><ul><li>Path length </li></ul><ul><li>Dynamic components </li></ul><ul><li>Resilience </li></ul><ul><li>Transmissivity </li></ul><ul><li>Directionality </li></ul><ul><li>Reciprocity… </li></ul>Network Metrics <ul><li>System Behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Technical innovation </li></ul><ul><li>WMD proliferation </li></ul><ul><li>Disease propagation </li></ul><ul><li>Ideological diffusion </li></ul><ul><li>Resource production </li></ul><ul><li>Violence propagation </li></ul>
    16. 16. Change Mechanisms Vary Relative to Structure and State Timing, Intentionality, Discovery <ul><li>Mutation: random or accidental variation (DNA sequencing) </li></ul><ul><li>Adaptation: processes whereby elements in a system become better suited to their environment (Gelman’s three levels) </li></ul><ul><li>Evolution (Darwin): natural selection of mutants with improved fitness; occurs smoothly and continuously over many generations </li></ul><ul><li>Co-evolution: the existence of one species is tightly bound up with the life of another species </li></ul><ul><li>Learning: acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences; may involve synthesizing different types of information (imitation, repetition). </li></ul><ul><li>Punctuated Equilibrium (Gould, Mayer): systems remain in an extended state of stasis for most of their history. Significant evolutionary change occurs rarely, and when it does so, it is rapid and involves branching speciation (discovery, innovation, surprise) </li></ul>
    17. 17. Network Structures State System Predict Adaptive Adversary Behaviors and Most Effective Policy OSD Solution: Use network metrics to anticipate and disrupt potential innovation paths Policy Strategies
    18. 18. Policy Analysis Example 2: IC efforts to Prevent Terrorism The key is to better understand the future—plan to change it, and change it Develop Understanding Logistics/ Infrastructure Social/ psychological Simulation Gaming, Statistics, Modeling MOADB indications & warnings increase hope warn first responders manipulate - deceive - control - dissuade - deter - destroy enhanced collection scenario driven hypothesis Policy decisions Reality mitigate
    19. 19. Terrorism: It’s About People <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Poor economic conditions and low human Capital Development in Arab world will continue </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Histories, ethnic tensions, hate, superstition, conspiracy…will continue to expound victimization narratives </li></ul><ul><li>Role of US/Israel as crusaders against backdrop of changing balance of powers (EU, Asia,..) </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental religious movements will continue (?) to foster rebellion against modernism </li></ul>Solution Approach: Agent Based Modeling Simple rules of interaction High loyalty = cooperation , collaboration Low Loyalty = competition, attack Samuel Huntington The Clash of Civilizations
    20. 20. Policy Example 3: Predicting Collective Action/Reactions <ul><li>What will adversary military responses be to US counter-proliferation policy? </li></ul><ul><li>How do domestic social factors shape adversary military policies for WMD? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the interdependencies between the two questions? </li></ul>Solution Approach: System Dynamics
    21. 21. Modeling System Dynamics <ul><li>Structure: defined by components and composition </li></ul><ul><li>Agent Behavior: involves interaction rules cooperative/competitive; </li></ul><ul><li>directional; positive/negative; </li></ul><ul><li>attracting/repelling; linear/non-linear; …. </li></ul><ul><li>Aggregate Behavior : involves input flows, </li></ul><ul><li>processing and outputs of </li></ul><ul><li>material, energy, information, </li></ul><ul><li>or data </li></ul><ul><li>Interconnectivity: the various parts of a system have functional as well as structural relationships to each other. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Causal Loop Diagram with Feedback System Dynamics modeling yields non-intuitive insights into relationships between stocks, flows, and agent interactions.
    23. 24. DHS problem: Understanding Islamic Radicalization <ul><li>Explore Social Movement Theory in context of Islamic countries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explanatory power or origins and influences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Predictive power of policy outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indications and warnings </li></ul></ul>
    24. 25. Arab Spring <ul><li>Democracy: What new political opportunity structures have opened up (closed) for movements and their participants and how will new players view WMD policies of Middle East? </li></ul><ul><li>Economic restructuring: What are new pathways for generating and mobilizing resources to redress social/economic grievances and how will these impact military/security budgets? </li></ul>
    25. 26. SUBMODULE A : Resource Mobilization and Public Well-being
    26. 27. SUBMODULE B: Resource Mobilization and Public Well-being
    27. 30. Putting it all together: Frame the Problem Forecast Question Epistemology Information Density/unit time System Complexity Describe Explore Interpret Infer Suggest Analysis approach depends on what question is being asked, in what timeframe Predict
    28. 31. Systems Thinking and National Security Observation Table Top Exercises Forecast Question Epistemology Information Density/unit time System Complexity Describe Explore Interpret Infer Predict Law Enforcement Explain Case Studies Field Surveys Statistical Analysis Social Network Analysis Academic emphasis Remote Sensing Evidentiary Reasoning Red Teaming Gaming Network Analysis Modeling & Simulation Intelligence/security Analysts
    29. 32. Summary <ul><li>Complex adaptive systems framework provides powerful tool for ISEP analysis: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CAS Are wicked, purposeful, and unpredictable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Co-exist with other kinds of system states </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop structure to serve function </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can be understood by observing structure </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can be shaped by their structure and transactions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emergent behavior can be anticipated/measured using structural and dynamic metrics </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create new CAS </li></ul></ul>