June 11, 2010
The Future of Terrorism
Attention conservation notice: This post mainly concerns an upcoming Public Lecture I'm giving in Santa Fe NM, as part of the Santa Fe Institute's annual lecture series.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 7:30 PM at the James A. Little Theater
Nearly 200 people died in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, over 200 died in the 2002 nightclub fire in Bali, and at least 2700 died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers. Such devastating events captivate and terrify us mainly because they seem random and senseless. This kind of unfocused fear is precisely terrorism's purpose. But, like natural disasters, terrorism is not inexplicable: it follows patterns, it can be understood, and in some ways it can be forecasted. Clauset explores what a scientific approach can teach us about the future of modern terrorism by studying its patterns and trends over the past 50 years. He reveals surprising regularities that can help us understand the likelihood of future attacks, the differences between secular and religious terrorism, how terrorist groups live and die, and whether terrorism overall is getting worse.
Naturally, this will be my particular take on the topic, driven in part by my own research on patterns and trends in terrorism. There are many other perspectives, however. For instance, from the US Department of Homeland Security (from 2007), the US Department of Justice (from 2009) and the French Institute for International Relations (from 2006). Perhaps the main difference between these and mine is in my focus on taking a data- and model-driven approach to understanding the topic, and on emphasizing terrorism worldwide rather than individual conflicts or groups.
Update 13 July 2010: The video of my lecture is now online. The running time is about 80 minutes; the talk lasted about 55 and I spent the rest of the time taking questions from the audience.