Monday, April 21, 2008

Control through Chaos

Armor(Assistant for Randomized Monitoring over Routes) is a Homeland Security-sponsored research project at University of Southern California that is already helping to tighten security at LAX airport in Los Angeles. It could soon be used across the country to "predict and minimize risk".

From the article:
"Here’s how it works: Computer software records the locations of routine, random vehicle checkpoints and canine searches at the airport. Police then provide data on possible terrorist targets and their relative importance. These data may change from one day to the next, or if there have been any security breaches or suspicious activity."

"The computer runs, and—voilĂ —police get a model of where to go, and when. The software comes up with random decisions that are based on calculated probabilities of a terrorist attack at those locations, using mathematical algorithms."

"The result: Security with airtight unpredictability. With the software, it’s extremely difficult to predict police operations."

“What the airport was doing before was not truly statistically random; it was simply mixing things up,” said computer science professor Milind Tambe. “What they have now is systematized, true randomization.”

But, wait: What if terrorists get hold of ARMOR and use the same information" Couldn’t they solve the predictability puzzle" Not really, Tambe said. “Even if they got the software and all the inputs, it’d be like rolling 50 different dice and expecting to correctly roll one combination of all 50 pairs.” Read the complete news release

ARMOR is reminiscent of Harlan Ellison's creation, the cyber overlord AM, isn't it?

image by Gary Larsen

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