U.S. Military’s “Human Terrain Mapping” Concerns Anthropologists

June 2, 2010 -

The growing reliance of the U.S. military on high-tech recreations of foreign villages and their inhabitants has some social scientists concerned.

A Boston.com story on the subject begins by outlining the work of University of Pennsylvania engineer Barry Silverman, who has been funded (by an unnamed U.S. agency) to the tune of over $500,000 in order to recreate a 3D computer model of an actual village in Afghanistan. Silverman is supplied with data from U.S. Army social scientists, who interviewed residents of the actual village.

Dubbed “human terrain mapping, it’s hoped that this technology can assist the U.S. in fighting terrorists and insurgents, but the whole idea has Hugh Gusterson, a George Mason University anthropologist, concerned. Gusterson asked, “Are we going to detain someone if a computer predicts that he will become an insurgent?"

He continued:

The real danger of models is their seductiveness. They can be so realistic and powerful that it is easy to forget they are just a model, and they start to rely on them more and more.

Similarly concerned, the U.S. Department Energy has banned its employees from working with data about specific individuals, “citing fears that it could violate a federal law mandating that human research subjects never be harmed.”

Another group to come out against the practice of embedding social scientists in foreign locations is the American Anthropological Association, which claimed “that military work violates the profession’s code of ethics.”

Anthropologist John Allison, who was a member of the human terrain mapping team before resigning, indicated that teams “were taught to upload the data into a classified Pentagon database known as SIPRNet, where is it distributed to a host of US agencies, some of whom pass it on to analysts like Silverman.”

Budgets for the Human Social Culture Behavior Modeling Program (HSCB), which operates under the Office of Naval Research (ONR), have grown to $25.0 million, while the entire budget for supporting human terrain teams has shot up from $20.0 million in 2005 to $100.0 million in 2010.

An HSCB newsletter stated that the purpose of the organization “is to enable DoD and the US Government to understand and effectively operate in the human terrain during nonconventional warfare and other missions."


Saw that Neeneko also posted this in the Shoutbox, thanks!


Comments

Re: U.S. Military’s “Human Terrain Mapping” Concerns ...

 The complaint I tend to have about this piece, and its quoted critisism, is that they seem to attack projects and applications that do not actually exist.  It is like being handed an apple and complaining oranges are too tart.

These projects are not terribly useful for profiling.  They are good for training soldiers about a cultural landscape, and they are useful for trying to predict what consequences various actions might have.  In short, they are tools for understanding cultures other then our own, which is why I find it so baffling that people rant against it for removing the human element or other such complaints.

Re: U.S. Military’s “Human Terrain Mapping” Concerns ...

This is what I was thinking as well as I read this.  Unless I am missing something, I don't see the problem here.

Re: U.S. Military’s “Human Terrain Mapping” Concerns ...

Sounds like high-tech profiling if nothing else.  Just rename the "social scientists" to "insurgent profilers" (like "criminal profilers") and everyone will be happy-happy-joy-joy.  There seems to be no problem with such "profilers" working with government organizations such as the FBI. 

The difference is that they are taking the population of a village and "profiling" who may be a danger, rather than creating a "profile" to determine who might be a suspect of certain acts.  Actually, that's also pretty similar.

It is also true that some profiling, based on race, gender, etc, has received negative reception.  Usually only when the "target" has organizations to say that the act is wrong.

But, in this case, it's a village of individuals and factors other than race, at least, would be used.  Gender would possibly be a factor.  Religion, maybe, but not so much as a village may contain a population of very similar or same religious beliefs.  The larger the population, however, the more diversity could exist.

Nightwng2000

NW2K Software

http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000

Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl
 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
prh99John Romero's Christmas present, a custom Icon of Sin sculpture. http://www.pcgamer.com/john-romero-gets-the-icon-of-sin-for-christmas/12/25/2014 - 3:37am
Matthew Wilsonthe interview will be on youtube/xb1/ andriod today.12/24/2014 - 1:05pm
james_fudge1900's?12/24/2014 - 12:56pm
james_fudgeYeah we could go way way back :)12/24/2014 - 12:56pm
E. Zachary KnightCopyright law in general has been broken since at least 1976. Could be even earlier than that.12/24/2014 - 12:24pm
james_fudgeWhat he said :) They want to make it worse than it already is.12/24/2014 - 12:14pm
Papa MidnightDMCA has been broken since 1998. Good luck getitng Congress to do something about it.12/24/2014 - 11:39am
Craig R.At least they owned up to the mistake. But doesn't change the fact that DMCA is thoroughly broken.12/23/2014 - 5:23pm
MaskedPixelanteSpeaking of Dark Souls OMG I'M MAKING ACTUAL PROGRESS WTH IS THIS WHAAAAAAA12/23/2014 - 10:49am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=144500932&postcount=740 Yup, DSFix was part of an unrelated take down, and is being resolved.12/23/2014 - 8:04am
prh99Of course had they not done such a rush on the port we wouldn't dsfix to make the game not look and play like ass. 720 internal renders aren't so hot scaled to 1080.12/23/2014 - 7:38am
Papa MidnightIt was most likely an automated tool. Happens all the time. Just another case of the broken DMCA Claim and Takedown process that puts the entirety of the burden of proof on the accused instead of the claimant.12/22/2014 - 10:09pm
Conster*applauds IanC*12/22/2014 - 7:37pm
MaskedPixelanteSounds like BN was going after an unrelated mod, and took out DSFix in the process. Probably once a counterclaim goes out, this'll all be sorted out.12/22/2014 - 7:04pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=144440299&postcount=1 wtf is namco thinking.......12/22/2014 - 6:17pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/12/22/read-the-fine-print-ubisoft-free-game-offer-waives-lawsuits/12/22/2014 - 6:00pm
Papa MidnightI kind of liked the movement to have Terry Crews play him instead, but this will do.12/22/2014 - 3:40pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://marvel.com/news/tv/23866/mike_colter_to_star_as_luke_cage_in_marvels_aka_jessica_jones#ixzz3MeuUl63P Mike Colter is Luke Cage.12/22/2014 - 3:23pm
IanCBecause that isn't Max Payne 3. It might have the name, but it isn't an entry in the series.12/22/2014 - 12:48pm
IanCOh theres a Max Payne 3? A proper one, or are we referring to that abomination that Rockstar crapped out a few years ago12/22/2014 - 12:48pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician