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Identifying a would-be terrorist: An ineradicable error in the data processing?

Serge Galam

Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, 2023, vol. 168, issue C

Abstract: Processing fragments of data collected on a monitored person to find out whether this person is a would-be terrorist (WT) is very challenging. Moreover, the process has proven to be deceptive, with repeated dramatic failures. To address the issue I suggest a mirror simple model to mimic the process at stake. The model considers a collection of ground items which are labeled either Terrorist Connected (TC) or Terrorist Free (TF). To extract the signal from the ground data items I implement an iterated coarse-grained scheme, which yields a giant unique item with a label TC or TF. The results obtained validate the processing scheme with correct outcomes for the full range of proportions of TC items, beside in a specific sub-range. There, a systematic wrong labeling of the giant item is obtained at the benefit of WT, who are wrongly labeled not would-be terrorist (NWT). This flaw proves to be irremovable because it is anchored within the processing itself in connexion with the treatment of uncertain aggregates, which inevitable appear. The “natural” allocation of uncertain aggregates to the TF label, in tune with the ethical application of the presumption of innocence in force in democracies, confines the wrong diagnosis systematically to the benefit of some WT, who are labeled NWT. It happens that applying the presumption of guilt, instead of that of innocence, to label the indeterminate aggregates, shifts the systematic errors to another sub-range of proportions of TC items with then zero errors in identifying a WT. But instead, some NWT are wrongly labeled WT. Despite of being quite far from reality, my results suggest that, just in case, intelligence agencies should investigate the overall effect of seemingly inconsequential “natural” labeling that, applied locally when data are uncertain, are without any immediate detectable impact on the data processing. If the bias proves to be true, making public the choice of presumption of innocence, could avoid the misunderstanding of people when dramatic mistakes are repeated.

Keywords: Collecting data; Data processing; Coarse-grained; Presumption of innocence; Would-be terrorist (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1016/j.chaos.2023.113119

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