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.

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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
 
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james_fudgeQuiknkold: Let me ask you- how many of those 'gamers are dead' articles did you see here? Because apparently i'm part of some vast conspiracy.09/18/2014 - 5:18am
NeenekoAh, that old straw man. That is one of the ironies about the discussion, the whole point is showing how good people can still have problems with sexism and not realize it.09/17/2014 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenYes, there have been a handful of op-eds suggesting that the term “gamer” has become tainted (two that I know of) but that’s the opinion of only a few. I've seen an equal number from those who disagree.09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenExcept, you haven't provided a single example of a site that’s actually calling gamers a "collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling Manchildren."09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
TechnogeekIf you want to make the stereotype of gamers less painful, try calling people out when they do bad shit rather than handwave it away as "not all gamers". Even if it is a few bad apples, that'll still more than enough to spoil the barrel.09/17/2014 - 8:53pm
quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldEZacharyKnight : Lemme ask you a question. We have people who cling to walls, people who fire lasers from their eyes, people who can shapeshift....and yet fabric needs to be upheld to RL physics?09/17/2014 - 6:54pm
james_fudgebody paint?09/17/2014 - 5:33pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I stand corrected on the buttcrack thing. Still, I know of no fabric that actually does that.09/17/2014 - 5:05pm
Andrew EisenSo... it's unethical to discuss the ethics surrounding public interest vs. personal privacy?09/17/2014 - 4:45pm
prh99The source for the game was just released not long ago, it's at https://github.com/keendreams/keen09/17/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99An Indiegogo champagin bought the rights to the early 90's game Keen Dreams to make it open source and release it on GOG etc. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-get-keen-dreams-re-released-legally09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
james_fudgeAlso http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/09/17/Exposed-the-secret-mailing-list-of-the-gaming-journalism-elite09/17/2014 - 4:29pm
Andrew EisenI read the Kotaku story. Nowhere does it say anything close to "Gamers are white bigoted sexist losers." It's commenting specifically on the crap being slung at people discussing gender issues in games. So, what's the problem?09/17/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenYeah, I can imagine Spiderwoman posed like in your second link.09/17/2014 - 4:00pm
 

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