Joy Rohde quoted in Boston Globe article about avatar-based 'human terrain mapping'

May 30, 2010

Joy Rohde was quoted in a Boston Globe article about the U.S. military's use of reality-based computer modeling for intelligence analysis. Also called 'human terrain mapping,' this type of research creates models based on the behavior, beliefs, and habits of real people.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania received $500,000 in federal funding to create a virtual model of an Afghan village for an unidentified U.S. government agency. The program's goal is not only to train, but also to predict future behavior. Social scientists, including Rohde, are debating the ethics of this type of modeling.

Predicting behaviors might help the government anticipate and effectively handle potentially violent interactions, but has the potential to complicate issues. Regardless of the ethical debate, this isn't the government's first use of social science-based profiling. A forthcoming book by Rohde explores the military's reliance on social science to predict violent behavior during the Cold War.