Predicting Armed Conflict Events

Zee Media is launching a news channel and web cite and, somehow or other, I wound up as featured in their web site launch.

Here is the link.

Although I find it a bit harrowing to watch myself so much on camera I would say that Zee came up with an interesting and original way to present the material.

The basic idea for the piece came from this blog post from a few months back.  This research programme has been more about armed conflict than about terrorism whereas the Zee piece has pretty much the opposite priority.  Still, I think their angle works pretty well.

Like many media outlets Zee was very interested in the possibility of prediction.  Hopefully, viewers will come away from the piece with realistic expectations about the potential for prediction.  I doubt we will every be in a position to mine past patterns and then make a useful prediction saying that there will be an attack at a particular time and place.  But I do think that it is possible to make useful predictions about broad patterns in violent events, such as the relative numbers of attacks of different sizes.

I would add that we should put a lot of effort into making predictions because this is the best way for us to learn when our theories are working and when they need to be modified.  It is very easy to cling endlessly to faulty theories when you never test them with predictions.

PS – There were a couple of minor errors in the piece that I’m trying to get corrected, mainly identifying me as a mathematician rather than as an economist.

PSS – All the work that I describe in the Zee piece is joint with Neil Johnson and Stijn Van Weezel.  I mentioned this on camera but this information didn’t make it into the final version.