« Workshop: Nonlinear Dynamics of Networks | Main | On the frequency of severe terrorist attacks; redux »

January 12, 2010

The future of terrorism

Here's one more thing. SFI invited me to give a public lecture as part of their 2010 lecture series. These talks are open to, and intended for, the public. They're done once a month, in Santa Fe NM over most of the year. This year, the schedule is pretty impressive. For instance, on March 16, Daniel Dennett will be giving a talk about the evolution of religion.

My own lecture, which I hope will be good, will be on June 16th:

The Future of Terrorism

One hundred sixty-eight people died in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, 202 people died in the 2002 nightclub fire in Bali, and at least 2749 people 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.

Also, if you're interested in my work on terrorism, there's now a video online of a talk I gave on their group dynamics last summer in Zurich.

posted January 12, 2010 10:53 AM in Self Referential | permalink


The talk in Zurich was very informative. People need to learn more about different cultures and terrorism to prevent future disaster.

Posted by: Real Estate Blogger Pete at January 12, 2010 01:45 PM

Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. At present, there is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror) are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).

Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence and war. The history of terrorist organizations suggests that they do not select terrorism for its political effectiveness. Individual terrorists tend to be motivated more by a desire for social solidarity with other members of their organization than by political platforms or strategic objectives, which are often murky and undefined.

The word "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. Studies have found over 100 definitions of “terrorism”. The concept of terrorism may itself be controversial as it is often used by state authorities to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state's own use of armed force against opponents (such use of force may itself be described as "terror" by opponents of the state.). A less politically and emotionally charged, and more easily definable, term is violent non-state actor (though the semantic scope of this term includes not only "terrorists," while excluding some individuals or groups who have previously been described as "terrorists").

Terrorism has been practiced by a broad array of political organizations for furthering their objectives. It has been practiced by both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. One form is the use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.

Posted by: Matt John at February 1, 2010 12:38 AM