Transcript: Thomas Homer-Dixon on Public Security and Terrorism | May 14, 2005

Thomas Homer-Dixon stands behind a lectern in a wood-paneled room and addresses an unseen audience.
He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and brick-red tie.

He says JOSHUA
GOLDSTEIN, THE ORGANIZER OF
TODAY'S EVENT ASKED ME TO DO A
THEORETICAL PRESENTATION.
BUT, I'M GOING TO TRY AND KEEP
IT NOT TOO THEORETICAL.
I REGARD THAT CHARGE AS AN
EXPRESSION OF A DESIRE TO TAKE
THAT PHENOMENON OF TERRORISM
AND BREAK IT APART AND PROVIDE
YOU WITH AN ANALYTICAL
FRAMEWORK OF SOME KIND SO THAT
WE CAN UNDERSTAND IT'S INNER
WORKINGS A LITTLE BIT BETTER.
AND THAT'S WHAT I'M GOING TO DO
TODAY, I'M GOING TO DISSECT IT
A BIT, AND I THINK WE CAN START
BY LOOKING AT TWO VARIABLES
THAT CONFLICT THEORISTS ALWAYS
THINK ABOUT WHEN THEY THINK
ABOUT THE CAUSES OF CONFLICT OR
THE FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO
CONFLICT.
VIOLENT CONFLICT IN PARTICULAR,
THESE ARE MOTIVES AND
OPPORTUNITY.
SO I'M GOING TO BREAK MY TALK
INTO TWO PARTS, I'M GOING TO
DISCUSS MOTIVES FOR TERRORISM
AND MOST OF MY DISCUSSION WILL
BE ABOUT OPPORTUNITY FOR
TERRORISM.
I'M GOING TO FOCUS ON
OPPORTUNITY WITH RESPECT TO
ONTARIO AND ONTARIO SOCIETY.
BECAUSE, WHEN IT COMES TO
MOTIVATIONS FOR TERRORISM
THERE'S LITTLE THOSE OF US IN
ONTARIO THAT WE CAN REALLY DO
TO CHANGE OR REDUCE THE
MOTIVATIONS FOR TERRORISM.
TERRORIST SUCH AS AL KAEDA ARE
MOTIVATED BY EVENTS, ISSUES AND
POLITICAL DISPUTES THAT ARE FAR
AWAY IN ONTARIO IN TIME AND
SPACE.
WE HAVE VIRTUALLY NO LEVERAGE
OVER THESE PARTICULAR ISSUES AS
CITIZENS OF ONTARIO.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Thomas Homer-Dixon. University of Toronto. The rise of complex terrorism. Munk Centre for International Studies (U of T). April 1, 2005."

Thomas continues SECONDLY, I'M GOING TO MAKE THE
ISSUE OF MOTIVATION SECONDARY
TO MY TALK BECAUSE, THE PROBLEM
OF MOTIVATION IS
EXTRAORDINARILY COMPLEX.
IT'S EMPIRICALLY COMPLEX, WE
DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND
PSYCHOLOGICALLY WHAT DRIVES
PEOPLE TO TERRORISM IN MANY
CASES.
AND DISENTANGLING THIS
COMPLEXITY IS MADE FAR MORE
DIFFICULT BY THE IDEOLOGICAL,
EMOTIONAL AND ETHICAL TRAPS IN
THIS DEBATE, TRAPS THAT WE'RE
ALL VULNERABLE TO.
PEOPLE GET DIVERTED FOR
EXAMPLE, BY DEBATES ABOUT
WHETHER WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT
MOTIVES AT ALL AND MOTIVES OF
TERRORISTS.
WHETHER WE SHOULD FOR INSTANCE
REFER TO THE ROOT CAUSES OF
TERRORISM.
SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT TO DO SO
SOMEHOW ABSOLVES OR EXCUSES
TERRORISTS OF MORAL
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR
ACTIONS.
BETTER, THESE PEOPLE WOULD SAY
SIMPLY TO RECOGNIZE THE ROLE OF
EVIL IN HUMAN AFFAIRS, AND IN
THE WORLD.
TERRORISTS ATTACKS ARE EVIL,
EVIL ACTS COMMITTED BY EVIL
PEOPLE AND THAT'S THE END OF
THE STORY FOR A SIGNIFICANT
PROPORTION OF THE PUBLIC, WHEN
IT COMES TO THIS ISSUE.
BUT, I DON'T THINK THIS GETS US
VERY FAR, UNDERSTANDING
MOTIVATIONS BEHIND TERRORISM IS
CRITICALLY IMPORTANT ESPECIALLY
IF WE'RE GOING TO REDUCE THE
FREQUENCY OF TERRORISM.
AS WE TRY TO DEAL WITH ANY
SOCIOPATHIC BEHAVIOUR, FOR
INSTANCE VIOLENT CRIME IN
OUR SOCIETY WITHIN OUR
SOCIETIES.
WE LOOK TO THE ROOT CAUSES OF
THAT BEHAVIOUR, NOW THAT'S NOT
THE ONLY THING WE DO, THERE ARE
A NUMBER OF RESPONSES.
BUT, ONE OF THE THINGS WE DO
WHEN WE TRY TO DEAL WITH
VIOLENT CRIME IS TO LOOK TO ITS
ROOT CAUSES.
THESE MIGHT INCLUDE ECONOMIC
DISLOCATION, UNEMPLOYMENT,
CHILDHOOD ABUSE OF THE
PERPETRATORS OF THE CRIME.
AND WE LOOK TO THESE ROOT
CAUSES TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHY
PEOPLE DO THESE THINGS.
AND THEN THAT TELLS US
SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT WE CAN DO
TO PREVENT CRIME OR REDUCE IT'S
PREVALENCE.
I WOULD SAY THAT PROBABLY,
ULTIMATELY, RESEARCH IN THIS
AREA IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE
IT WILL HELP US IN THE AREA OF
TERRORISM, AND THE ROOT CAUSES
OF TERRORISM, AND THE
MOTIVATIONS OF TERRORISM.
IT'S VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT
WILL HELP US DO THE SAME THING
AS WE TRY TO DO WITH VIOLENT
CRIME IN OUR SOCIETIES.
NOW TO WADE INTO A REALLY HOT
DIFFICULT AREA, CONTENTIOUS
AREA, I WOULD SAY THAT IN THE
CASE OF TERRORISM A CENTRAL
MOTIVATION.
AND THIS IS IN AMONG SEVERAL,
BECAUSE IN ALL INSTANCES OF
COMPLEX SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR AND
VIOLENCE, THERE ARE ALWAYS
MULTIPLE CAUSES.
BUT, IN THE CASE OF TERRORISM
ESSENTIAL MOTIVATION APPEARS TO
BE FEELINGS OF HUMILIATION,
ESPECIALLY HUMILIATION OF ONE'S
IDENTITY GROUP.
AND BY IDENTITY GROUP I SIMPLY
MEAN, THAT GROUP THAT YOU THINK
OF WHEN YOU THINK OF "WE."
IT'S THE GROUP THAT YOU BELIEVE
YOU ARE A PARTICIPANT IN WHEN
YOU THINK OF THE "WE" OR THE
COMMUNITY THAT YOU BELONG TO.
IT APPEARS THAT HUMILIATION IS
A COMMON DENOMINATOR ACROSS
MANY OF THE PERPETRATORS.
IT'S A PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE THAT
IS COMMON DENOMINATOR ACROSS
MANY OF THE PERPETRATORS OF
TERRORISM, INCLUDING SUICIDE
BOMBERS.
BUT, THEN WE SHOULD ASK WHAT
PRODUCES THIS HUMILIATION?
HERE AGAIN, WE'RE INTO A VERY
COMPLEX STORY THERE ARE
MANIFOLD FACTORS THAT COULD
CONTRIBUTE TO HUMILIATION AND A
LONG LIST.
SOME MIGHT INCLUDE FOR
INSTANCE, WIDE DIFFERENCES AND
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY.
WEALTH GAPS, STARK WEALTH GAPS
BETWEEN RICH AND POOR IN
SOCIETY OR BETWEEN SOCIETIES.
I THINK ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT
ARE DIFFERENCES IN POLITICAL
OPPORTUNITIES, OR INADEQUATE
OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEMOCRATIC
EXPRESSION IN MANY SOCIETIES
AROUND THE WORLD.
WHICH, MAKES PEOPLE FEEL THAT
THEIR GROUPS ARE EXCLUDED FROM
POLITICAL PROCESS AND DON'T
HAVE A VOICE.
ALSO IMPORTANT AND THIS IS
ALWAYS A LITTLE BIT MORE
SENSITIVE, AN ISSUE THAT IS
MORE CONTENTIOUS, OUR CULTURAL
ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE GROUPS OR
INDIVIDUALS PARTICULARLY
SENSITIVE TO CERTAIN KINDS OF
PERCEIVED INJUSTICES.
NOW, WHATEVER THE CAUSE AND
WHETHER JUSTIFIED OR NOT,
FEELINGS OF HUMILIATION ARE
EXTRAORDINARILY DANGEROUS IN A
WORLD WHERE OPPORTUNITIES TO
VIOLENTLY REDRESS THE PERCEIVED
CAUSE OF ONE'S HUMILIATION ARE
EXPANDING.
AND THAT'S THE KIND OF WORLD
WE'RE LIVING IN NOW, WHICH
BRINGS ME TO THE SECOND FACTOR
THE ONE THAT I'M GOING TO SPEND
MOST OF MY TIME TALKING ABOUT
TODAY WHICH IS THE ISSUE OF
OPPORTUNITY, A SECOND KEY
FACTOR.
AND WHEN I TALK ABOUT
OPPORTUNITY, THE OPPORTUNITY
FOR TERRORISM I'M REALLY
TALKING ABOUT THE ISSUE OF
BALANCE OF POWER.
THE BALANCE OF POWER BETWEEN
THE STATE AND SOCIETY ON ONE
HAND AND TERRORIST GROUPS ON
THE OTHER.
AND I THINK THERE ARE TWO
TRENDS AFFECTING THIS BALANCE
OF POWER AND YOU CAN THINK THE
BALANCE OF POWER IS IMPORTANT
BECAUSE THE SUGGESTION IS THAT
AS TERRORIST GROUPS BECOME
RELATIVELY MORE POWERFUL,
RELATIVE TO THE STATE AND
SOCIETY THEY'RE GOING TO
BELIEVE THAT THERE IS LIKELY TO
BE MORE GAIN TO BE HAD FROM
ENGAGING IN TERRORIST
ACTIVITIES.
WHAT ARE THE TWO TRENDS THAT I
THINK ARE AFFECTING THIS
BALANCE OF POWER?
THE FIRST IS THE INCREASE OF
CAPACITY OF GROUPS TO DESTROY.
DESTROY THINGS AND PEOPLE, AND
THE SECOND IS THE INCREASE IN
VULNERABILITY OF OUR ECONOMIC,
TECHNOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL
SYSTEMS TO ATTACK.
BASICALLY, IF YOU WANT TO
SUMMARIZE MY THESIS, I'M SAYING
THAT THE BAD GUYS ARE BECOMING
MUCH MORE POWERFUL THAN THEY
WERE PREVIOUSLY, AND THIS IS
HAPPENING VERY FAST.
IN THE WAR AGAINST TERRORISM,
THE ADVANTAGE IS WITH THE
OFFENCE, TERRORISTS ONLY HAVE
TO SUCCEED ONCE, BUT THE
DEFENDERS, US, HAVE TO BE
PREPARED ALL THE TIME.
SO, LET ME TALK A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT THESE TWO FACTORS, THE
INCREASING CAPACITY TO DESTROY
AND THE INCREASING
VULNERABILITY OF OUR ECONOMIC,
TECHNOLOGICAL, SOCIAL AND
POLITICAL SYSTEMS TO ATTACK.
SO, I'LL START WITH THE
INCREASING CAPACITY TO DESTROY.
BEING A GOOD SOCIAL SCIENTIST
AND BEING YET FURTHER MORE
ANALYTICAL I'M GOING TO BREAK
THIS DOWN INTO THREE FACTORS.
THE FIRST IS, IMPROVEMENTS IN
WEAPONS TECHNOLOGY.
WE CAN THINK OF THIS IN TERMS
OF A VERY STRAIGHT FORWARD
VARIABLE.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
THAT ONE PERSON OR SMALL GROUP
CAN KILL PER UNIT TIME?
MY ARGUMENT WOULD BE THAT OVER
TIME HISTORICALLY ESPECIALLY IF
YOU LOOK BACK OVER LONG PERIODS
OF TIME SAY 1000 OR 2000 YEARS
THERE HAS BEEN AN EXORABLE
INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF
PEOPLE ONE PERSON OR SMALL
GROUP COULD KILL PER UNIT TIME.
WEAPONS HAVE TENDED TO BECOME
MORE ACCURATE, MORE
DESTRUCTIVE, THEY HAVE GREATER
RANGE, THEY'RE MORE PORTABLE,
THEY'RE MORE RUGGED, THEY'RE
EASIER TO USE AND THEY'RE
CHEAPER.
NOW, THIS IS MOST OBVIOUSLY THE
CASE WITH LIGHT WEAPONS SUCH AS
ASSAULT RIFLES, SUB MACHINE
GUNS AND ROCKET PROPELLED
GRENADES.
WE'VE SEEN THE EFFECTIVENESS IN
TERMS OF REGAINING THE BALANCE
OF POWER ISSUE WHEN IT COMES TO
ROCKET PROPELLED GRENADES OR
R.P.G'S AS THEY'RE CALLED IN
IRAQ IN THE CONFLICT OF IRAQ.
IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE
CONFLICT MANY U.S. HELICOPTERS
WERE SHOT DOWN BY R.P.G.
ATTACKS.
NOW, I DID A ROUGH CALCULATION
EARLIER TODAY AND IN TERMS OF
THE COST FACTOR THAT'S ABOUT
20,000 TO 1.
AN R.P.G. IS WORTH ABOUT ONE
20,000TH OF SAY AN APACHE
HELICOPTER.
THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD RETURN FOR
YOUR INVESTMENT.
THE ULTIMATE EXPRESSION OF THIS
TREND THIS SHIFT OF DESTRUCTIVE
POWER TOWARDS SMALL GROUPS AND
INDIVIDUALS, IS UNFORTUNATELY
THE PROLIFERATION POTENTIALLY
TO SMALL GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS
TO TERRORIST GROUPS OF
CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL, NUCLEAR
AND RADIOLOGICAL WEAPONS.
WITH WEAPONS LIKE THIS AN
INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP COULD
POTENTIALLY KILL TENS OF
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN A SINGLE
ATTACK.
NOW, YOU'VE HEARD LOTS ABOUT
ANTHRAX AND OTHER CHEMICAL AND
BIOLOGICAL AGENTS, THE ONE
MATERIAL THAT I WOULD WANT TO
BRING YOU ATTENTION TO TODAY
THAT I THINK IS PARTICULARLY
IMPORTANT THAT I'VE BEEN TRYING
TO SPEAK TO MANY GROUPS ABOUT
IS HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM.
HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM WAS THE
MATERIAL THAT WAS USED IN THE
HIROSHIMA BOMB THAT WAS DROPPED
IN 1945.
MOST PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THE
HIROSHIMA BOMB WAS NEVER
TESTED.
THE TEST THAT OCCURRED EARLIER
IN 1945 WITH ALAN MCGORDO IN
NEW MEXICO WAS OF THE TYPE OF
DEVICE THAT WAS DROPPED ON
NAGASAKI, AN IMPLOSION
PLUTONIUM DEVICE.
VERY COMPLICATED TO MAKE, AND
NEEDED TO BE TESTED AHEAD OF
TIME.
THE HIROSHIMA BOMB WAS A GUN-
TYPE URANIUM DEVICE, BASICALLY
YOU TWO CHUNKS OF URANIUM THAT
WERE SUB CRITICAL, YOU PUT THEM
IN A TUBE LIKE THIS, ONE AT
EACH END.
PUT AN EXPLOSIVE BEHIND ONE YOU
FIRED OFF THE EXPLOSION TO
DRIVE THE SUB CRITICAL MASS OF
THE URANIUM DOWN TO THE OTHER
END OF THE TUBE AT A HIGH
VELOCITY COMBINE THEM TOGETHER
AND THAT PRODUCES SUPER
CRITICAL MASS THAT EXPLODED THE
NUCLEAR EXPLOSION.
THEY KNEW IT WAS GOING TO WORK
THEY NEVER TESTED IT AND THE
BOMB THAT WAS DROPPED OVER
HIROSHIMA HAD A DESTRUCTIVE
POWER OF AROUND 10,000 TONS OF
TNT, AROUND 10 KILOTONS.
YOU KNOW WHAT THE RESULT WAS,
SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
OF 100,000 PEOPLE WERE KILLED.
NOW, THE THING ABOUT HIGHLY
ENRICHED URANIUM IS THAT THERE
IS A LOT OF IT IN THE WORLD TODAY.
SOMEWHERE IN EXCESS OF 1000
TONS OF H.E.U. EXISTS IN THE
WORLD, OF WHICH 600 ODD TONS
ARE IN OFTEN RELATIVELY
INSECURE LOCATIONS IN THE
FORMER SOVIET UNION.
YOU MAY HAVE HEARD SOMETHING
ABOUT THIS ISSUE, YOU MAY HAVE
HEARD SOME OF THE CONCERNS THAT
HAVE BEEN EXPRESSED ABOUT
TRYING TO SECURE THIS H.E.U.
AS A FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE I THINK
THIS SHOULD BE AT THE TOP OF
OUR PRIORITY LIST.
THIS MATERIAL NEEDS TO BE
SECURED.
IT NEEDS TO BE DESTROYED FOR
INSTANCE BURNED IN REACTORS SO
IT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR
CONVERSION INTO WEAPONS.
BECAUSE IT ONLY TAKES 100
KILOGRAMS OF HIGHLY ENRICHED
URANIUM TO BUILD A BOMB THAT
COULD DESTROY NEW YORK, OR
WASHINGTON OR PARIS OR LONDON.
THAT'S ONE 10,000TH OF THE
AMOUNT OF MATERIAL THAT IS
AVAILABLE IN THE WORLD.
NOW, ONE 10,000TH ONE MIGHT
SAY, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A SMALL
AMOUNT.
I DECIDED IT WOULD BE USEFUL TO
CREATE A VISUAL REPRESENTATION
OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
TOTAL AND ONE 10,000TH SO WE
CAN START WITH THE FIRST SLIDE.

A slide pops up showing a chart with thousands of small squares on the left and a single dot on the right.

Thomas continues ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE, WE HAVE
THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF H.E.U.
AVAILABLE IN THE WORLD.
ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE, THAT
SINGLE DOT REPRESENTS THE
AMOUNT THAT WOULD BE NEEDED
THAT WOULD NEED TO LEAK OUT OF
THE SYSTEM, IN SOME RESPECT
THROUGH PERHAPS CRIMINAL
NETWORKS, THAT WOULD BE
SUFFICIENT TO DESTROY A MAJOR
METROPOLIS IN THE WORLD.
THIS IS A VERY, VERY
SIGNIFICANT SECURITY CONCERN.
ESPECIALLY, SINCE WE FOUND OUT
THE LE KHAN LABORATORY IN
PAKISTAN THAT THE DIFFUSION OF
H.E.U. TECHNOLOGY, THE
TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE IT, THE
URANIUM TO MAKE IT AND PERHAPS
EVEN THE H.E.U. ITSELF, HAS
OCCURRED WITHIN CRIMINAL
NETWORKS AROUND THE WORLD.
THE SECOND FACTOR THAT'S
INFLUENCING THE CAPACITY OF
GROUPS TO DESTROY IS
IMPROVEMENT IN COMMUNICATION
AND ORGANIZATIONAL ABILITY ON
THE PART OF TERRORIST GROUPS.
HERE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE
INTERNET, SATELLITE PHONES,
ENCRYPTION TECHNOLOGIES.
ALL OFTEN ENERGIZED BY VAST
COMPUTATIONAL POWER THAT'S
AVAILABLE TO ANYBODY NOW.
THESE TECHNOLOGIES ALLOW
TERRORISTS TO SHARE INFORMATION
ON WEAPONS AND RECRUITING
TACTICS, ARRANGE SURREPTITIOUS
FUNDS TRANSFERS AMONG
THEMSELVES AND TO PLAN ATTACKS.
LET'S TAKE FOR INSTANCE
ENCRYPTION.
ENCRYPTION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE
GROUPS WANT TO BE ABLE TO
COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER
WITHOUT THEIR MESSAGES BEING
INTERCEPTED BY INTELLIGENCE
AGENCIES.
A MODERN LAP TOP COMPUTER SUCH
AS THIS ONE I HAVE BESIDE ME
HERE, HAS AS MUCH COMPUTATIONAL
POWER AS THE ENTIRE AMERICAN
DEFENCE DEPARTMENT IN THE
1960'S.
IN THOSE DAYS, IT WOULD HAVE
FILLED A BUILDING THE SIZE OF
THE PENTAGON, TODAY WE HAVE IT
IN THIS LITTLE BOX HERE.
IT CAN BE USED TO ENCRYPT YOUR
MESSAGES USING FREEWARE
AVAILABLE ON THE WEB, ONE OF,
AND THIS IS CLOSE TO STATE OF
THE ART ENCRYPTION TECHNOLOGY.
ONE OF THE TECHNOLOGIES THAT IS
USED IS CALLED STEGANOGRAPHY,
WHICH IS THE EMBEDDING OF
MESSAGES WITHIN IMAGES AND
PHOTOGRAPHS.
THE ATTACKS THAT WERE PLANNED
BY AL QAEDA, ON THE AMERICAN
EMBASSY IN PARIS, WERE BEING
ORGANIZED AND THE GROUP WAS
INTERCEPTED BEFORE THE ATTACKS
TOOK PLACE.
THE ATTACKS WERE ABOUT TO OCCUR
AT THE SAME TIME AS 9-11.
THOSE ATTACKS WERE ORGANIZED
AND THE AL QAEDA COMMUNICATED
WITH EACH OTHER USING
STEGANOGRAPHY BECAUSE, WHAT
THEY DID WAS PUT UP IMAGES ON
THE WEB IN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE
WEBSITES AND HAD MESSAGES
IMBEDDED IN THEM.
AND IN 2002, WHEN I DID THE
RESEARCH FOR THIS PARTICULAR
PART OF MY TALK THERE WERE 140
FREEWARE SOFTWARE PACKAGES FOR
STEGANOGRAPHY FOR ENCRYPTION OF
MESSAGES INTO IMAGES AVAILABLE
ON THE WEB.
THE THIRD TENDENCY, OR THE
THIRD TREND THAT INFLUENCES THE
ABILITY TO DESTROY IS THE
RECOGNITION BY TERRORIST GROUPS
INCREASINGLY THAT THERE ARE AN
ABUNDANCE OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR
THE DIVERSION OF EXISTING NON-
WEAPON TECHNOLOGIES TO
DESTRUCTIVE ENDS.
MODERN HIGH TECHNOLOGY
SOCIETIES ARE REPLETE WITH
SUPER CHARGE DEVICES, PACKED
WITH ENERGY, COMBUSTIBLES AND
POISONS.
TERRORISTS CAN FIGURE OUT HOW
TO RELEASE AND DIRECT THE POWER
TO THEIR DESTRUCTIVE ENDS.
WE HAVE GAS PIPELINES, WE HAVE
CHEMICAL PLANTS, WE HAVE TRAINS
THAT ARE LOADED WITH TOXINS
TREMBLING ACROSS THE
COUNTRYSIDE.
AND THIS IS ACTUALLY WHAT
HAPPENED IN 9-11, PEOPLE THINK
THIS WAS A LOW TECH ATTACK.
IT WAS ACTUALLY A VERY HIGH
TECHNOLOGY ATTACK.
YES, THEY USED BOX CUTTERS TO
COMMANDEER THE PLANES BUT, YOU
CAN THINK OF THE BOX CUTTERS AS
SIMPLY KEYS THAT ALLOWED THE AL
QAEDA MEMBERS TO CONVERT A HIGH
TECHNOLOGY MEANS OF
TRANSPORTATION INTO A HIGH
TECHNOLOGY MEANS OF
DESTRUCTION.
JET AIRPLANES LOADED WITH FUEL
THAT WERE ABLE TO DELIVER
ALMOST A KILO TONE, 1000 TONS
OF DESTRUCTIVE POWER INTO THE
WORLD TRADE CENTRES.
SO THOSE WERE THE THREE FACTORS
THAT I BELIEVE ARE INFLUENCING
THE CAPACITY TO DESTROY,
CHANGING THE BALANCE OF POWER
IN FAVOUR OF TERRORISTS.
WHAT ABOUT THE ISSUE OF
INCREASING VULNERABILITY, THE
VULNERABILITY OF OUR SOCIETIES?
I WOULD SAY THAT IN SOME RESPECTS THE
RISING CONNECTIVITY AND
COMPLEXITY OF OUR SOCIETIES
MAKE US MORE VULNERABLE.
AND I SAY ONLY IN SOME RESPECTS
BECAUSE IT'S A COMPLICATED STORY.
IN SOME RESPECTS, RISING CONNECTIVITY
AND COMPLEXITY MAKE US LESS
RESILIENT AND MORE BRITTLE OUR
ECONOMIC, AND TECHNOLOGICAL,
AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS.
YOU CAN THINK OF THOSE SOCIAL
AND ECONOMICAL AND
TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS AS
NETWORKS, NETWORKS CONSISTING
OF NODES AND LINKS BETWEEN
THESE NODES.
WHAT WE'VE SEEN, OVER RECENT
DECADES IS THAT OUR NETWORKS OF
ALL KINDS HAVE BECOME MUCH MORE
DENSELY CONNECTED.
THE DENSITY OF CONNECTION HAS
INCREASED AND THE COUPLING OF
THE NODES THE TIGHTNESS OF OUR
COUPLING WITHIN OUR NETWORKS
HAS INCREASED TOO.
YOU THINK ABOUT TIGHT COUPLING
AS IF EVERYBODY IS MOVING DOWN
A HIGHWAY AT HIGH SPEED
TAILGATING EACH OTHER.
THAT'S A TIGHTLY COUPLED
SYSTEM, WE ALL ENGAGE IN IT BUT
YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IF
THERE'S A MISTAKE BY SOMEBODY,
YOU CAN HAVE A MULTIPLE CAR
PILE UP.
THAT'S EXACTLY THE KIND OF
PHENOMENON THAT WE SEE IN
HIGHLY CONNECTED TIGHTLY
COUPLED SYSTEMS, YOU OFTEN SEE
CASCADE EFFECTS, WHERE A SHOCK
ON ONE SIDE OF THE SYSTEM CAN
CASCADE OR SPILL OVER AND
AFFECT MUCH OF THE REST OF THE
SYSTEM.
IT CAN AMPLIFY AND SPREAD
RELATIVELY SMALL SHOCKS.
I THINK ABOUT THIS IN TERMS OF
THREE KINDS OF NETWORKS,
TECHNOLOGICAL NETWORKS,
ECONOMIC NETWORKS AND
PSYCHOLOGICAL NETWORKS.
WE SAW AN EXAMPLE OF CASCADE
EFFECTS AND TIGHTLY CONNECTED
SYSTEM IN THE AUGUST 2003
BLACKOUT WHERE MOST, PROBABLY
EVERYBODY IN THIS ROOM WAS
AFFECTED BY THAT BLACKOUT.
A RELATIVELY SMALL FAILURE IN
ONE PART OF THE SYSTEM IN OHIO
PRODUCED A CASCADE OF FAILURES
THAT RESULTED IN THE POWER
GOING OUT TO SOME 30 MILLION
PEOPLE.
IT WAS INTERESTING THAT THE
ARTICLE THAT I WROTE ABOUT
COMPLEX TERRORISM, WHICH WAS
WHAT THE ARTICLE THAT THIS TALK
WAS BASED ON THAT WAS PUBLISHED
IN EARLY 2002.
STARTED WITH A SCENARIO OF AN
ATTACK ON THE NORTH AMERICAN
ELECTRICAL POWER GRID, AT A
TIME WHEN IT WAS UNDER EXTREME
LOAD ON A HOT JULY DAY.
SO, WHAT WE HAD HAPPEN IN
AUGUST WAS A RELATIVELY SMALL
FAILURE WHICH THE SYSTEM
COULDN'T COMPENSATE AND WE HAD
IT SPREADING OUT ACROSS THE
WHOLE NETWORK.
BY THE WAY, THERE WAS NO
PARTICULAR INSIGHT ON MY PART,
THIS HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT BY
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE LIKE AMERY
LEVINS FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS,
THIS VULNERABILITY.
OUR ECONOMIC NETWORKS, THINK
ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AFTER 9-11
WITH THE BORDER CLOSURES.
MANY OF OUR FACTORIES IN CANADA
HAD TO SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY,
THIS WAS AGAIN A TIGHTLY
COUPLED ECONOMIC SYSTEM.
BECAUSE OF JUST-IN-TIME
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES,
COMPANIES DON'T MAINTAIN
INVENTORIES ANYMORE.
SO, WHEN THE TRUCKS STOP
FLOWING INTO THE BACK OF THE
FACTORY, THE PRODUCTS STOP
FLOWING OUT OF THE FRONT OF THE
FACTORY AND THAT MAGNIFIED THE
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE ATTACKS.
A TIGHTLY COUPLED ECONOMY HAS
LESS BUFFERING CAPACITY IN THE
FACE OF UNEXPECTED SHOCK.
I'M PARTICULARLY INTERESTED
THOUGH, IN PSYCHOLOGICAL NETWORKS.
THIS IS THE NETWORK AMONG OUR
HEADS AND IT LINKS AMONG OUR
HEADS NOW CONSIST OF INTERNET
CONNECTIONS, FIBRE OPTIC
CABLES, CELL PHONES, SATELLITES
AND 24-7, TWENTY FOUR HOURS A
DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK NEWS
RADIO AND TALK TELEVISION.
THE MINUTES AFTER 9-11 THIS
NETWORK AMONG OUR HEADS, THIS
TECHNO PSYCHOLOGICAL NETWORK IF
YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT,
EXPLODED WITH ACTIVITIES, ALONG
THE LINKS OF THAT NETWORK
FLOWED RAW EMOTION.
GRIEF, ANGER, HORROR,
DISBELIEF, FEAR AND HATRED.
THIS NETWORK ACTED AS A
MEGAPHONE, VASTLY AMPLIFYING
THE IMPACT OF THE EVENTS.
YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER 9-11 AS
DRAMATIC AS IT WAS ABOUT THE
SAME NUMBER OF DEATHS THAT
HAPPENED OVER A PERIOD OF A
WEEK WITH TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS IN
THE UNITED STATES.
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT IN THE
CONTEXT OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMY
WAS ACTUALLY REALLY SMALL THE
DIRECT ECONOMIC IMPACT.
BUT, THAT'S NOT THE WAY ANY OF
US REACTED BECAUSE OF THIS
MULTIPLYING EFFECT WITHIN THE
INTERCONNECTED, ALMOST COMMUNAL
MIND THAT WE'VE CREATED WITHIN
OUR SOCIETIES AND THE WORLD.
NOW, THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR A
VARIETY OF REASONS INCLUDING
WHAT Keynes, GREAT ECONOMIST
JOHN MAYNARD Keynes CALLED THE
ANIMAL SPIRITS THAT DRIVE OUR
ECONOMY.
OF COURSE WE SAW A SIGNIFICANT
ECONOMIC IMPACT, EQUITY MARKETS
WERE SIGNIFICANTLY EFFECTED,
STOCK MARKETS FELL, STOCK AND
BOND MARKETS.
IN TERMS OF THE LONG TERM
IMPACT ON THE GLOBAL EQUITY
MARKETS, ESTIMATES RUN AROUND A
TRILLION DOLLARS FROM AN ATTACK
THAT PROBABLY COST ABOUT
200,000 dollars TO LAUNCH.
THAT'S A MULTIPLIER IF YOU WANT
TO THINK ABOUT LEVERAGE OF
ABOUT A MILLION FOLD ON THE
PART OF AL QAEDA.
NOW THE VULNERABILITY THAT I'M
TALKING ABOUT IN OUR
INTERCONNECTED SYSTEMS IS
POTENTIALLY FURTHER AMPLIFIED
BY THE WAY WE'VE STRUCTURED AND
ORGANIZED MANY OF OUR NETWORKS.
OUR ELECTRICAL GRIDS, OUR FOOD
SUPPLY SYSTEMS, OUR BANKING
SYSTEMS, OUR INTERNET AND THE WEB.
THESE NETWORKS ARE EXTREMELY
DEPENDANT ON HIGHLY CONNECTED
NODES WITHIN THE SYSTEM, SO YOU
HAVE SINGLE NODES THAT ARE VERY
HIGHLY CONNECTED TO OTHER NODES
THESE ARE CALLED HUBS.
IN RECENT RESEARCH IN PHYSICS
AND ECOLOGY HAVE SHOWN THAT
MANY OF THE CRITICAL NETWORKS
IN OUR SOCIETIES AND WITHIN
BIOPHYSICAL SYSTEMS, BIOLOGICAL
SYSTEMS HAVE A RELATIVELY SMALL
NUMBER OF HIGHLY CONNECTED HUBS.
I WANT TO SAY A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF THAT.
WHAT WE'VE DISCOVERED IN THIS
RESEARCH IN PHYSICS AND ECOLOGY
THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY TWO
CATEGORIES OF COMPLEX NETWORKS
IN THE WORLD THAT ARE CALLED
Random and SCALE-FREE.

Another slide pops up with the title "two types of network." It shows two similar maps of the U.S. The one on the left shows dots connected by straight lines in a grid pattern. The one on the right shows dots connected by curvy lines, where each dot is connected to several others.

Thomas continues YOU CAN SEE HERE SIMPLISTIC
DIAGRAMS OF THE TWO, ONE
REPRESENTING THE INTERSTATE
HIGHWAY SYSTEM IN THE UNITED
STATES, WHICH IS A RANDOM
NETWORK.
AND ANOTHER SCALE-FREE NETWORK
WHICH IS A REPRESENTATION OF
THE AIR TRAFFIC SYSTEM IN THE
UNITED STATES.
AND YOU NOTICE IMMEDIATELY THE
DIFFERENCE THAT THE AIR TRAFFIC
SYSTEM CONSISTS OF A CERTAIN
NUMBER OF HIGHLY CONNECTED HUBS
SUCH AS HERE IN LOS ANGELES,
AND CHICAGO, AND NEW YORK,
MIAMI DOWN HERE, I SUPPOSE
THAT'S DALLAS.
WHAT DO WE FIND OUT WHEN WE
EXAMINE THIS DIFFERENCE MORE
SPECIFICALLY?
I'M GOING TO PUT UP A COUPLE OF
BELL CURVES, DON'T WORRY ABOUT
IT I'LL EXPLAIN WHAT THEY MEAN.

Another slide shows two charts with functions that relate the number of nodes to the number of links per node. The one on the left looks like a bell curve, whereas the one on the right is a curve that declines steeply at first and then tends asymptotically to zero.

Thomas continues WHAT WE HAVE HERE ARE A COUPLE OF
GRAPHS WHERE ON THIS ACCESS,
THE Y ACCESS WE HAVE THE NUMBER
OF NODES IN THE SYSTEM THEY'RE
BASICALLY FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTIONS.
THERE'S A NUMBER OF NODES HERE THE
NUMBER OF NODES ON THIS ACCESS
AND ACROSS THE BOTTOM WE HAVE
THE NUMBER OF LINKS PER NODE.
IN A RANDOM NETWORK, WE FIND
THAT IT'S REASONABLE TO TALK
ABOUT AN AVERAGE NODE.
YOU HAVE A NODE THAT MAY HAVE
SAY THREE OR FOUR LINKS, A
RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF
NODES HAVE VERY FEW LINKS AND A
RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF
NODES HAVE A LOT OF LINKS.
WITH THE SCALE FREE NETWORK,
YOU HAVE A VERY DIFFERENT
FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION.
MOST NODES, BY FAR THE MAJORITY
HAVE A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER
OF LINKS, BUT YOU HAVE A FEW
NODES THAT ARE EXTREMELY HIGHLY
CONNECTED AND THIS TAIL MAY GO
WAY OUT HERE.
THIS IS WHAT'S CALLED
TECHNICALLY A POWER LAW
DISTRIBUTION.
IT'S CALLED A SCALE-FREE
NETWORK, BECAUSE THERE'S NO
AVERAGE NODE.
YOU CAN'T SPEAK OF AN AVERAGE
NODE, IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE
BECAUSE THERE'S NO PLACE WHERE
YOU'D FIND THE MIDDLE IN THAT.
NOW, IF YOU LOSE A NODE IN THIS
NETWORK HERE, WHAT HAPPENS IS
IF YOU LOSE A BUNCH OF THEM,
THE NETWORK AS A WHOLE WILL
FRAGMENT INTO DISCONNECTED
PARTS IF YOU RANDOMLY LOSE A
NODE IN THIS NETWORK.
IF YOU RANDOMLY LOSE A NODE IN
THIS NETWORK, YOU'LL FIND THAT
FOR THE MOST PART IT DOESN'T
HAVE MUCH EFFECT, BECAUSE MOST
OF THE NES IN THE NETWORK
AREN'T VERY HIGHLY CONNECTED.
HOWEVER, IF YOU LOSE A HUB, THE WHOLE
NETWORK CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN
VERY QUICKLY.
THE REASON THAT THIS IS
IMPORTANT IS THAT SCALE-FREE
NETWORKS ARE VERY RESILIENT IN
THE FACE OF THE RANDOM LOSS OF
NODES, WHICH IS THE KIND OF
THING YOU COULD EXPECT IN AN
ECOLOGICAL SYSTEM.
BUT, IF THERE'S AN INTENTIONAL
ATTACK AGAINST SAY, SOMETHING
LIKE AN INTERNET SYSTEM, OR AN
ELECTRICAL GRID, OR THE FOOD
SUPPLY SYSTEM, WHICH ARE ALL
SCALE FREE IN THEIR
ORGANIZATION, YOU CAN HAVE A
HUGE EFFECT ON THE ENTIRE
NETWORK.
NOW, YOU CAN BE SURE THAT THERE
ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO HAVE
RECOGNIZED THIS ABOUT OUR
SOCIETIES AND ABOUT OUR
NETWORKS AND ARE THINKING ABOUT
HOW THIS KNOWLEDGE CAN BE USED
AGAINST US.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO TO RESPOND
TO THESE VARIOUS TRENDS THAT I
HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING TODAY?
I CAN ANSWER SOME OF YOUR
QUESTIONS IN THE Q AND A.
BUT, LET ME JUST MENTION A
COUPLE OF THINGS.
WE CAN'T DO VERY MUCH ABOUT THE
FIRST TREND, ABOUT TERRORISTS
INEXORABLY RISING CAPACITY FOR
VIOLENCE, EXCEPT PERHAPS WHEN
IT COMES TO THINGS LIKE THE
AMOUNT OF HIGHLY ENRICHED
URANIUM IN THE WORLD.
WE SHOULD DO WHATEVER WE CAN TO
GET HOLD OF THAT MATERIAL AND
GET IT OUT OF THE INSECURE
LOCATIONS WHERE IT'S CURRENTLY
LOCATED.
WHAT WE CAN DO A LOT TO REDUCE
OUR VULNERABILITY TO ATTACK.
AND EVEN THOUGH THESE TERRORIST
ATTACKS SHOULD THEY OCCUR IN
THE FUTURE MIGHT NOT EFFECT
CANADA DIRECTLY AND MIGHT OCCUR
IN THE UNITED STATES.
BECAUSE WE'RE IN AN EXTREMELY
TIGHTLY COUPLED SYSTEM IN NORTH
AMERICA NOW, HIGHLY CONNECTED
SYSTEM THE SPILL OVER EFFECT
WILL HARM US.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO WITHIN
ONTARIO?
HERE ARE SOME GENERAL
PRINCIPALS.
WE WANT TO CREATE SYSTEMS WHERE
WE LOOSEN THE COUPLING AMONG
THE NODES WITHIN THE SYSTEM.
SO, THIS MIGHT INVOLVE FOR
INSTANCE GREATER USE OF DE-
CENTRALIZED ENERGY PRODUCTION
AND FOOD PRODUCTION.
TO THE EXTENT THAT WE'RE ABLE
TO PRODUCE ENERGY LOCALLY,
RIGHT DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF
HOUSEHOLDS OUR GRIDS WILL BE
MORE RESILIENT IN THE FACE OF
ATTACK, IN THE FACE OF SUDDEN
OUTSIDE SHOCK.
WE NEED INCREASED BUFFERING CAPACITY
WITHIN OUR SYSTEMS.
THIS MEANS HAVING INVENTORIES
ON HAND THAT ARE AVAILABLE WHEN
THE FLOWS WITHIN OUR ECONOMIC
SYSTEM STOP FLOWING.
WE NEED INCREASED REDUNDANCY OF
CRITICAL HUBS.
SO, IF WE ARE DEALING WITH
SCALE FREE NETWORKS LIKE OUR
ELECTRICAL GRID OR FOOD SUPPLY
SYSTEM, WE SHOULD THINK
CAREFULLY ABOUT WHERE THE HUBS
ARE, IF THEY'RE VULNERABLE TO
ATTACK AND IF THEY ARE
VULNERABLE TO ATTACK MAKING
SURE THAT THERE ARE ADDITIONAL
REDUNDANT HUBS THAT CAN TAKE
OVER IN THE EVENT THAT WE LOSE
ONE.
WE CAN INTRODUCE CIRCUIT
BREAKERS INTO OUR COMPLEX
NETWORKS.
WE NEED TO THINK SERIOUSLY
ESPECIALLY, ABOUT HOW
INFORMATION FLOWS AND WHAT THE
CONTENT OF THAT INFORMATION IS
IN OUR SOCIETIES IN THE EVENT
OF AN EMERGENCY.
WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT HOW WE
CAN REDUCE THE LIKELIHOOD OF
PANIC, AND BY A CIRCUIT BREAKER
I MEAN SOMETHING THAT WE SEE ON
THE DOW JONES STOCK EXCHANGE OR
THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE.
WHEN YOU GET A PANIC IN THE
STOCK EXCHANGE AND PEOPLE ARE
SELLING AND THE SELLING IS
PROVOKING MORE SELLING, THE
MANAGERS OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE
HAVE THE RIGHT TO INTERVENE AND
SIMPLY STOP TRADING FOR A
WHILE, TO LET EVERYBODY COOL
DOWN.
NOW, THERE MAY BE WAYS IN
MANAGING THE FLOW OF
INFORMATION IN THE EVENT OF AN
EMERGENCY I COULD RECOGNIZE
THIS COULD BE VERY
CONTROVERSIAL, THAT COULD
REDUCE THE LIKELIHOOD OF PANIC.
AND FINALLY, WE CAN DISPERSE
HIGH VALUE ASSETS, I THINK IT'S
POSSIBLE IN 20, OR 30, OR 40
YEARS IF THERE ARE A COUPLE
MORE ATTACKS AGAINST HIGH VALUE
ASSETS LIKE THE WORLD TRADE
CENTRE.
ESPECIALLY, AGAINST SKY
SCRAPERS OF ONE KIND OR
ANOTHER, THAT WE WILL COME TO
REGARD SKY SCRAPERS AS AN
ACRONYMS.
AS A KIND OF SOCIAL AND
PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION THAT IS
NO LONGER REASONABLE OR VIABLE
IN A WORLD WHERE SO MUCH
DESTRUCTIVE CAPACITY CAN RESIDE
IN THE HANDS OF A FEW.
NOW, ALL OF THESE CHANGES ARE
THE BEGINNING OF A CHANGE OF A
PARADIGM A WAY OF LOOKING AT
THE WORLD TO A NEW MORE
RESILIENT SOCIETY.
RESILIENT TO THE FACE OF ALL
KINDS OF SHOCK, OF ALL KINDS OF
SUDDEN SHOCK, NOT JUST
TERRORIST ATTACKS.
THESE CHANGES WILL HELP US
WITHSTAND THE SPREAD FOR
INSTANCE OF DISEASE, MAKE OUR
ELECTRICAL GRIDS MORE RESILIENT
AND IN GENERAL ULTIMATELY MAKE
OUR SOCIETIES BETTER OFF.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

(Applause)

Watch: Thomas Homer-Dixon on Public Security and Terrorism