Article by David Gilbert: “…The application of artificial intelligence technologies to conflict situations has been around since at least 1996, with machine learning being used to predict where conflicts may occur. The use of AI in this area has expanded in the intervening years, being used to improve logistics, training, and other aspects of peacekeeping missions. Lane and Shults believe they could use artificial intelligence to dig deeper and find the root causes of conflicts.
Their idea for an AI program that models the belief systems that drive human behavior first began when Lane moved to Northern Ireland a decade ago to study whether computation modeling and cognition could be used to understand issues around religious violence.
In Belfast, Lane figured out that by modeling aspects of identity and social cohesion, and identifying the factors that make people motivated to fight and die for a particular cause, he could accurately predict what was going to happen next.
“We set out to try and come up with something that could help us better understand what it is about human nature that sometimes results in conflict, and then how can we use that tool to try and get a better handle or understanding on these deeper, more psychological issues at really large scales,” Lane says.
The result of their work was a study published in 2018 in The Journal for Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, which found that people are typically peaceful but will engage in violence when an outside group threatens the core principles of their religious identity.
A year later, Lane wrote that the model he had developed predicted that measures introduced by Brexit—the UK’s departure from the European Union that included the introduction of a hard border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK—would result in a rise in paramilitary activity. Months later, the model was proved right.
The multi-agent model developed by Lane and Shults relied on distilling more than 50 million articles from GDelt, a project that monitors “the world’s broadcast, print, and web news from nearly every corner of every country in over 100 languages.” But feeding the AI millions of articles and documents was not enough, the researchers realized. In order to fully understand what was driving the people of Northern Ireland to engage in violence against their neighbors, they would need to conduct their own research…(More)”.