The Las Vegas Massacre – Are there lessons to be learned?

A distant possibility is the ultimate extension of artificial intelligence called quantum computing which could establish quantum technology that could unravel indecipherable and unshakable communication links.

by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

If you keep doing things that expose you to risk, eventually, your luck will run out ~ Attributed to Charlie Munger, American investor, businessman, and philanthropist

( October 3, 2017, Montreal, Sri Lanka Guardian) On Sunday October 1st, a gunman fired at people gathered at an open-air country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, and killed 58 people (the death toll is expected to rise) and wounded over 550.  The massacre (identified as a probable act of domestic terrorism) is the latest outbreak of gunfire and bloodshed perpetrated in a public place in the United States and follows in pattern and trend the carnage that killed 49 persons in a crowded night club in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.  The assailant fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, a hotel-casino next to the concert venue.

It is of course impossible for law enforcement to stop an unexpected attack from taking place.  It would also be unwise to put a stop to public gatherings of any sort whether they be conventions, festivals or rock concerts – just to obviate future attacks.  This brings to bear the question whether something could be done to mitigate the risk.  The International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) identifies three phases where the risk of such attacks occurring could be mitigated and managed.  The first phase relates to threat identification and initial site assessment.  IRMI suggests that this could be achieved by identifying and determining the potential for attack, scenario evaluation and prioritization.  The second phase concerns detailed risk assessment involving personnel and vulnerability of facilities through operational assessment and engineering analysis.  The third and final phase is risk management which includes protection of the facility and the development of an emergency plan.   In this three-pronged approach, identifying the possible methods of attack becomes an important factor.

In this context, it is worth inquiring whether deep learning (which is a new area of research on machine learning which would lead us to the application of artificial intelligence in its full format) may be able to help with algorithms that could deduce possible methods of attack and scenarios   We have already seen how artificial intelligence (AI) has boomed with such innovations as Google’s DeepMind and Tesla’s self-driving and self-navigating cars. If DeepMind could beat any human being at Go (a more complicated game than Chess) one could wonder how AI could recommend better procedures than human intelligence could conceive for security. IBM’s Watson (a super computer which could read millions of academic articles in a few minutes and synthesize solutions) came into the limelight in 2016, bringing to bear the immense possibilities that technology would offer in the future. IBM’s Watson is a real find, which consists of 10 racks of IBM POWER 750 servers running Linux, uses 15 terabytes of RAM and 2,880 processor cores (equivalent to 6,000 top-end home computers), and operates at 80 teraflops. Watson needed this amount of power to quickly scan its enormous database of information, including information from the Internet. These technologies can substantially assist security enforcement in its many facets by providing correct information in a matter of seconds to assist humans involved in law enforcement.  The downside to this is that such marvels as Watson could also access questionable information available in the internet that could compromise its productivity and performance.

A distant possibility is the ultimate extension of artificial intelligence called quantum computing which could establish quantum technology that could unravel indecipherable and unshakable communication links.  Although this is still a distant theoretical possibility in terms of its practical application, quantum computing which would introduce what is called a “contractor” could make even the most unfathomable measurement decipherable. The possibilities this technology would present to biometric identification and scanning as well as record handling would be extremely important (although at the time of writing there was no available evidence  as to whether the process of digital scanning could have identified the perpetrator of the LA massacre).

The other issue of course pertains to gun control in the United States.  How could the assailant (whether sane or insane) have obtained a sophisticated automatic rifle? The fundamental premise of democratic government is that one must allow the government to control the governed, particularly to ensure the protection of the people. John Jay wrote that “[A]mong the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their safety seems to be first”. The US Supreme Court handed down in 2008 its decision in the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment applied to protect an individual’s right to possess firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.  The Patriot Act of 2001 (the full title of which is Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) was adopted as a response to the attacks of 11 September of that year which covers all aspects of the surveillance of suspected terrorists, those suspected of engaging in computer fraud or abuse, and agents of a foreign power who are engaged in clandestine activities. President Bush in a 2005 speech explained that it is to protect the people and explained that The Patriot Act was essential to ensuring the protection of the American people against terrorists. The Act removed the wall between law enforcement and intelligence officials so that they could share information and work together to help prevent attacks.

When 22,000 people gather at a concert (whether indoors or outdoors) there could be certain fundamental assumptions. Arguably the most important of these is the value of predictive management which captures system performance as it happens in real-time normal operations to identify potential future problems.

The operative words here are “real time normal operations to identify future problems”.  Armed attacks inside nightclubs or at cinemas or even for that matter in crowded outdoors   have occurred with some regularity.  The application of trends to possible scenarios would therefore logically lead one to address the situation with a massive crowd of unsuspecting people.    The greatest danger in this scenario would be to let predictive, anticipatory management be allowed to flow into reactive management.  To avoid this catastrophic possibility, managements responsible for the safety of crowded places should use certain management tools among which are in compliance with regulations and laws; threat intelligence; threat modelling; event coding; and event detection. The application of these tools would involve logical and critical thinking against forecasting and trend analysis as well as human judgment.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

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