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 :

Poll

Which Feminist Frequency video are you looking forward to most?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
prh99Probably not unless you can prove they knew and did nothing. ianal01/30/2015 - 12:16pm
InfophileIs it possible to sue advertisers for breach of contract or something if they do that? Or sue the ad providers if they don't take reasonable measures to enforce their rules on advertisers?01/30/2015 - 12:06pm
prh99AdBlock fixes the problem :) Since these ad network do a terrible job at screening. With the recent exploits for Java and Flash, it's just a mess.01/30/2015 - 11:46am
Neo_DrKefkaHad my browser hijacked five times in a row well trying to view this site.01/30/2015 - 11:18am
Wonderkarpafter deep thought, I can live in a world with 2 Ghostbusters Franchises. Though I highly doubt the new film will top the original(And still wish it were a sequal), The new film's cast won me over hardcore.01/30/2015 - 10:43am
PHX Corphttp://www.tssznews.com/2015/01/30/former-sega-of-america-employees-voice-mistreatment-greed-racism/ there is alot of problems with sega but this is new01/30/2015 - 9:33am
Matthew WilsonI cant say anything though I am stupid lucky. I have a 75/75 line01/29/2015 - 11:27pm
Matthew Wilsonthat isnt awful 1.2MBs, but yeah 100bucks a month is over priced to all hell. ps 8mbs=1MBs01/29/2015 - 11:24pm
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.speedtest.net/my-result/410086446201/29/2015 - 9:12pm
ZippyDSMleeMatthew Wilson Dunlap, TN, its the only game in town and they only started in 08 or so.01/29/2015 - 9:12pm
MechaCrashThe explanation for the misanthropy of the character in Hatred comes from "we want to be super edgy and get those controversy dollars."01/29/2015 - 8:34pm
Andrew EisenI'm interested in giving it a try. I think it has some cool ideas but I haven't been "feeling it" when watching continuous gameplay.01/29/2015 - 8:04pm
Matthew Wilsonif you dont know, the code name STEAM demo is out, and it it downloading very slowly. It might be more popular that I thought, or it could just be the eshop.01/29/2015 - 8:02pm
Goth_SkunkPlayer/Playable Character, yes. As opposed to the NPC.01/29/2015 - 7:36pm
Andrew EisenOh, Player Character! Heh, that one took me a few moments!01/29/2015 - 7:29pm
Goth_SkunkIt really bothers me that there is no explanation for the PC's misanthropy. Even the Saw movie series, despite the level of violence in them, had a premise that fascinated me. The only thing about Hatred that fascinates me is the controversy.01/29/2015 - 7:27pm
Goth_SkunkI can't think of a time a game has made me simultaneously want to both buy it and not buy it. On the one hand, I find the premise disturbing and repulsive. On the other hand, I find the controversy fascinating and want to play it just to say I did.01/29/2015 - 7:25pm
Andrew EisenTrailer for new Van Damme movie, Pound of Flesh. "They just stole the wrong man's kidney!" http://vimeo.com/11808880501/29/2015 - 7:24pm
Andrew EisenNew Hatred trailer. Destructible environments, vehicles, light buildings and people on fire! http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/7bzwzs/hatred-devastation-gameplay-trailer01/29/2015 - 7:12pm
Goth_Skunk@WonderKarp: And that's why I don't read or watch mainstream news.01/29/2015 - 5:06pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician