New Computer Program Predicts Likelihood Of Violent Civil Unrest Abroad


Scientists working on a project sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory now have a forecasting model that they claim can accurately predict civil unrest against foreign governments.

A team composed of academics at Kansas State University and New York’s Binghamton University developed the Predictive Societal Indicators of Radicalism Model of Domestic Political Violence Forecast. The KSU/Binghamton plans to integrate their forecasting model into applications developed by Milcord, a firm that develops web and mobile applications for various government agencies. According to Milcord’s Alper Caglayan, the model “will be integrated into strategic planning, early crisis warning and contingency planning-type operations.”One of the scientists behind the statistical model, Kansas State’s Sam Bell, said that the methodology behind the project took into account events occurring in 150 states and variables associated with three factors: government coercion (such as fear of human rights violations); the ability of individuals to coordinate group actions (such as easy access to social media in Tunisia and Iran); and state capacity (infrastructure, military personnel, etc.).

According to Bell, the events included “anything from a sit in that turns into a violent riot, to a suicide terrorist attack against the government, to missile strikes in a civil war.”

The data and methodology behind the risk assessment model were released in an academic paper that is currently under review. However, Milcord is already releasing some of the results and predictions of future geopolitical chaos extrapolated from the model.

According to the model, Iran, Sri Lanka, Russia, Georgia and Israel are the five countries most likely to face “political violence” between 2011 and 2014.

Russia was the target of a major terrorist attack on Monday. Other countries on the top 25 list include some surprising predictions — the Czech Republic (#10), Italy (#12), Jordan (#17) and Ireland (#21) alongside Colombia (#13) and Tunisia (#25), which has seen major protests against the government in the last few days that included occasional violence.

Egypt, however, only ranked 36.

Another academic involved in the model’s development, Kansas State’s Amanda Murdie, says that the most surprising discovery made during the coding and analysis project had to do with human rights:

For me, the most surprising thing was that human rights matter: If a country uses political imprisonment or political disappearances, domestic violence against that country is likely to increase. This is pretty big stuff; historically, many have argued that countries can coerce their population into not rebelling against them. We find, however, that this coercion often backfires, actually leading more people to “micro-mobilize” and take to the streets against their government. A state must have the capacity to quell violence but must not use this capacity in ways that violate physical integrity rights in order to prevent domestic political violence.

The Domestic Political Violence Forecasting Model was sponsored by the Air Force Research Labs Rome Research Laboratory, which is tasked with leading “the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting information technologies for our air, space and cyber force.”

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