Why DARPA is studying stories is the title of another section in Humans are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin. DARPA stands for the Defense Advanced Projects Agency. At time this has been called ARPA, by simply dropping the D. But regardless of the acronym, it has been sponsoring advanced research. The internet was developed from research sponsored by DARPA, as was GPS.
The U.S. Defense establishment is convinced that stories are at the foundation of today’s security environment that it has established a program called Narrative Networks DARPA. The program asks “Why are some narrative themes successful at building support for terrorism?” The Narrative Networks program aims to understand how these stories contribute to radicalization, violent social mobilization, insurgency, and terrorism among populations.
Given that we can now destroy civilization several times over with Nuclear Weapons, it appears that we can already achieved the maximum in kinetic effects. But now our security is jeopardized by narratives. We need to know how to counter and neutralize these narratives.
A tremendous resource we had to conduct research on this problem has been overlooked, and that is the large population of terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo. This might be an overstatement as we cannot confidently say that everyone imprisoned is a terrorist as many have been languishing in prison without being tried. Some might even die having been falsely charged.
This population should have been used to develop and test different narratives with respect to their effectiveness. If it appeared that certain narratives had been effective for certain inmates, then the ultimate test would have been done by releasing them. True this is risky, but what right do we have to keep people imprisoned indefinitely without trial? If we saw that certain narratives were effective, then perhaps a more general effective campaign could be developed. This would be an effective war on terrorism, which is what we want to develop. The term “War on Terror” is nonsensical. Terror is a tactic of warfare. It is analogous to saying war on tactical dogfights, or war on amphibious warfare.
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