Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Isaac Asimov's idea that the movements of masses of people can be predicted may not be quite so fictional after all as Markus Hammonds writes that researchers at the University of Edinburgh have constructed a statistical dynamic model that makes predictions on levels of violence in conflicts such as the recent war in Afghanistan. Their methodology is to analyze how a conflict unfolds by treating outbreaks of violence the way other researchers model the spread of infectious diseases modeling complex underlying processes in conflicts, such as diffusion, relocation, heterogeneous escalation, and volatility (PDF). The researchers first tested the performance of their methods on a WikiLeaks release which contained over 75,000 military logs by the USA military, describing events which occurred between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2009 that provided a high temporal and spatial resolution description of the Afghan war in that period. "Remarkably, based entirely on written reports between 2004 and 2009, they were able to predict with impressive accuracy, what events would occur in 2010," writes Hammonds. "Even accounting for sudden changes, like the dramatic increase of US forces in Afghanistan in 2010, the predictions remained accurate. Evidently, events will continue unabated despite any large military offensives which may be taking place." In Baghlan province, for instance, the simulation predicted a 128 percent increase in armed opposition group activity from 2009 to 2010. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting aid workers in dangerous parts of the world, reported that activity in Baghlan rose by 120 percent from 100 incidents in 2009 to 222 incidents in 2010. "This kind of work offers some hope in resolving serious conflicts as quickly as possible", concludes Hammonds. "Whatever your feelings on it, the ability to predict violence in conflict situations the same way meteorologists predict the weather has some potentially very useful possibilities.""
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