— Volume III No. 1: February 2007 —

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Expecting the Unexpected: The Need for a Networked Terrorism and Disaster Response Strategy


Michael McKibben November 20, 2008 15:13
Thank you for this analysis. We concur. We believe some of our data was used in the White House analysis and is reflected in these two white papers: 1. Heroes in the Storm - <http://www.leader.com/docs/Leader_White_Paper_-_Katrina_-_10-27-05.pdf>. 2. Responding to the Unpredictable - <http://www.leader.com/docs/LeaderWhitePaper-RespondingtotheUnpredictable-100106.pdf>.
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Eric Bonabeau

Eric Bonabeau is chief executive officer and chief scientific officer of Icosystem, Inc. (Cambridge, MA), which uses the tools of complexity science and advanced computational techniques to provide software simulation tools for exploring business issues and strategies. He is one of the world’s leading experts in complex systems and distributed adaptive problem solving, and spent several years as a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. Bonabeau is co-editor-in-chief of the Advances in Complex Systems, and co-author of Intelligence Collective, Swarm Intelligence, and Self-Organization in Biological Systems.

W. David Stephenson

W. David Stephenson is principal, Stephenson Strategies (Medfield, MA). A former corporate crisis and Internet consultant, he specializes in creative homeland security strategies leveraging networked personal communication devices and application to empower the general public. He writes the W. David Stephenson Blogs on Homeland Security et al. blog, writes for a wide variety of print and online publications, and is a frequent speaker at homeland security conferences.

Since Hurricane Katrina, attention has focused on improving management of response to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. However, what if the current management approach is so fundamentally mismatched to the challenge at hand that, even when improved, it is still unequal to the task? This essay argues that terrorist attacks or natural disasters are likely to be so unpredictable that they frequently require improvised responses (as conventional hierarchical structures are ill-suited to such situations) and outlines a flexible and highly adaptive networked structure. Networked personal communication devices and applications that the general public can and will use in a disaster offer the possibility of a new networked strategy that can foster the “swarm intelligence” needed in a disaster, in which a community, even an ad hoc one, is capable of a higher level of collective behavior than could be predicted from the capabilities of individual members.

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Bonabeau, Eric, and W. David Stephenson. “Expecting the Unexpected: The Need for a Networked Terrorism and Disaster Response Strategy.” Homeland Security Affairs 3, issue 1 (February 2007)