PerspectiveComputer Science

What Can Virtual Worlds and Games Do for National Security?

Science  27 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5957, pp. 1201-1202
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182660

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Summary

Military planners have long used war games to plan for future conflicts. Beginning in the 1950s, defense analysts began to develop computer-based models to predict the outcomes of military battles that incorporated elements of game theory. Such models were often restricted to two opposing forces, and often had a strict win-lose resolution. Today, defense analysts face situations that are more complex, not only in that conflicts may involve several opposing groups within a region, but also in that military actions are only part of an array of options available in trying to foster stable, peaceful conditions. For example, in the current conflict in Afghanistan, analysts must try to estimate how particular actions by their forces—building schools, burning drug crops, or performing massive security sweeps—will affect interactions between the many diverse ethnic groups in the region. We discuss one approach to addressing this prediction problem in which possible outcomes are explored through computer-based virtual-world environments.