Pentagon Wants Sim Iraq to Test Propaganda

Screenshot_5_bigLast year at a workshop at a military institution I was promoting and exploring this idea.  My question was whether you could take Second Life, or even some other virtual world, to bring together role players around the world to test information effects, or propaganda.  If we do role playing in real life to prepare soldiers for COIN situations, then why not through an online collaborative environment? 

Noah posts that OSD is now doing the same but instead of role playing they’re looking at AI:

The Office of the Secretary of Defense is trying to figure out how to beat jihadists in the propaganda war.  One tool they figure could help: a computer model of "Human, Social, and Cultural Behavior" in Middle Eastern locales.  OSD isn’t the first arm of the Pentagon looking to build its version of Sim Iraq.  But this is the first one I’ve heard of that focuses in on the touchy subject of strategic communications.

The OSD’s new "Human, Social, and Cultural Behavior Modeling" program is looking for ways to combine  "game-based, agent-based, [or] systems dynamics" sims (and maybe even "cellular automata") into a virtual country close enough to real that it can "validate and verify interactions against real world scenarios."

By running these Sim Iraqis around, OSD hopes to get a better understand of:

how people communicate; what avenues of communication are traditionally trusted; who in that culture holds power and influence; how do tribal and trade associations interact; and where/how can societal behaviors contribute to options for stability and reduction in conflict potential.

These models are also supposed to "provide greater insight into how strategic, operational, and tactical operations may be impacted by individual and group socio-cultural dynamics."  Specifically, OSD would like the pixelated place to help with:

identify[ing] how media and information propagation affect beliefs and behavior within individuals, groups, societies, states, and regions. Additionally, proposals shall address the development of dynamic and semantic media and rumor propagation models/social network models.

And that’s just for starters.  When the program is over, OSD hopes, it will have "generate[d] a universal
meta-language that is meaningful to the user communities and is relevant to the socio-cultural ‘space’ supported by the underlying models."

I also pitched the idea of using the same environment for armed robots to test their rules of engagement.  However this idea veered into SIM land away from role playing (and toward World of Warcraft and away from Second Life).  (…and, yes, I did insert Cylons into a presentation…)

See also USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies