USA — Army Researchers Study Computer, Human Networks

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 — Com­put­er net­works and social net­works depend on inter­ac­tion between indi­vid­u­als –- whether it’s indi­vid­ual machines or human beings. The sci­ence of these com­plex inter­ac­tions shares some com­mon under­ly­ing themes, and a team of Army researchers hopes that exam­in­ing these net­works will pro­vide fea­si­ble solu­tions.
“Today’s war­fare and all types of mil­i­tary activ­i­ties are tru­ly per­me­at­ed, if you wish, with net­works. The most obvi­ous ones are com­put­er net­works and com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works, and our sol­diers use them con­stant­ly and for numer­ous pur­pos­es in numer­ous diverse ways,” Alexan­der Kott, chief of the Army Research Laboratory’s net­work sci­ence divi­sion, said yes­ter­day dur­ing a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table.

Kott said his posi­tion focus­es on net­work-relat­ed phe­nom­e­na and serves him well in his oth­er role as man­ag­er of the Net­work Sci­ence Col­lab­o­ra­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Alliance, a pro­gram ini­ti­at­ed by the Army about a year ago, which involves about 27 uni­ver­si­ties, a few com­pa­nies, and about 200 researchers who look at the basic sci­ence of net­works. Despite being well-versed in the tech­nol­o­gy of net­works, Kott said, mod­ern sol­diers aren’t just inter­act­ing with com­put­er systems. 

“Our sol­diers also deal on a dai­ly basis with even more impor­tant genre of net­works — human net­works, net­works of humans con­nect­ed by com­plex social and coor­di­na­tive links,” he said. These social links that can be chal­leng­ing to tra­verse, he added, not­ing that troops often have to deal with cul­tur­al, ide­o­log­i­cal and adver­sar­i­al issues in addi­tion to nego­ti­at­ing between civil­ians and local gov­ern­ments. This com­plex inter­ac­tiv­i­ty between var­i­ous tan­gi­ble resources can be prob­lem­at­ic, he said. 

“All these dif­fer­ent gen­res of net­works — they’re not inert mass­es,” he said. “They are not some­thing pre-engi­neered and con­stant. They are liv­ing, evolv­ing crea­tures. They live their mys­te­ri­ous lives. They grow. They shrink. They branch out. They merge. They have these mys­te­ri­ous inter­ac­tions between them­selves and with­in them­selves. They are com­plex, adap­tive sys­tems. They pro­duce all kinds of puz­zling, non­lin­ear, dif­fi­cult-to-pre­dict behaviors.” 

To ensure net­work reli­a­bil­i­ty, the Army is look­ing into a tech­nol­o­gy known as dis­rup­tion-tol­er­ant net­work­ing, said Robert Cole of the Army’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Elec­tron­ics Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Center. 

“That’s a tech­nol­o­gy that will be impor­tant in future Army net­works,” Cole said. This focus on reli­able and sta­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions, he explained, is why the Army has been hes­i­tant to adapt com­mer­cial tech­nolo­gies such as cel­lu­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which could be com­pro­mised on the bat­tle­field despite recent advances in smart phone tech­nol­o­gy. “Cel­lu­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tions means you have to have some type of cell phone tow­ers on the bat­tle­field,” Kott said, “and they are tremen­dous­ly attrac­tive and vul­ner­a­ble tar­gets.” How­ev­er, he added, the mil­i­tary does see the tac­ti­cal advan­tage such a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool would pro­vide, and is work­ing toward adapt­ing a more depend­able, less vul­ner­a­ble ver­sion of that technology. 

“The Army has been invest­ing research and devel­op­ing the mobile, ad hoc net­works where every radio on the bat­tle­field is known in the net­work and you are not reliant on a cell-phone tow­er or one node. … Of course, many of the fea­tures of the smart phones that are so attrac­tive today and will grow, [and] inevitably, cer­tain­ly will be explored in our mil­i­tary net­works as well,” he said. 

Researchers also are con­duct­ing projects to direct­ly ben­e­fit ground teams in Afghanistan and Iraq to give them an advan­tage in both com­bat and non­com­bat sit­u­a­tions. “For exam­ple,” Kott said, “we have recent­ly com­plet­ed research that shows prop­a­ga­tion process­es, prop­a­ga­tion of influ­ence, prop­a­ga­tion of trust and dis­trust, prop­a­ga­tion of beliefs and con­vic­tion with­in human net­works. This process can actu­al­ly be at least par­tial­ly pre­dictable. It can be mod­eled. It can be ana­lyzed.” Kott said it’s clear why the Army is mov­ing in this direction. 

“We are oper­at­ing on a new bat­tle­field — a very, very com­plex, net­worked bat­tle­field of insur­gency in par­tic­u­lar,” he said, “where it is so impor­tant to under­stand those com­plex net­work phe­nom­e­na and to be able to influ­ence them.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →