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June 21, 2001, New York Times

Game Simulations for the Military Try to Make an Ally of Emotion

By KATIE HAFNER

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- On a quiet street in a village in the Balkans, an accident suddenly puts an American peacekeeping force to the test. A Humvee has hit a car, and a child who has been injured in the collision lies unmoving on the ground. A medic leans over him. The child's mother cries out. A crowd of local residents gathers in the background. How they will react is anyone's guess.

A lieutenant arrives at the scene and is confronted by a number of variables. In addition to the chaos unfolding in the village, a nearby unit is radioing for help. Emotions — not only the lieutenant's own and those of his sergeant, but also those of the panicked mother and the restive townspeople — will clearly play a role in any decision he makes.

This seven-minute situation is a simulation, generated on a large computer screen with sophisticated animation, voice synthesis and voice recognition technology. It is the product of about six months of work here by three research groups at the University of Southern California: the Institute for Creative Technologies , largely financed by the Army to promote collaboration among the military, Hollywood and computer researchers; the Information Sciences Institute; and the Integrated Media Systems Center.

The only human player is the lieutenant. The rest of the characters, including the sergeant who has been conferring with the lieutenant, have been generated by the computer.

For years, the Pentagon has used computers to simulate a wide range of battlefield experiences as realistically as possible. The Army has simulators that allow hundreds of soldiers in different locations to engage in a tank battle on the same virtual battlefield. And the more sophisticated the models, the more adeptly they take into account the effects of noise, vibration, heat and long hours of marching on an individual or group.

But the modeling has gone only so far, confined for the most part to what the Pentagon calls doctrine, or prescribed procedure. A computer-generated mission rehearsal that models human behavior and the emotions that govern it crosses a military frontier.

"It's a complicated, unexpected situation where you have to deal with individuals and not just tanks," said Dr. Paul S. Rosenbloom, a computer scientist who is deputy director of the Intelligence Systems Division at the Information Sciences Institute.

Dr. Richard W. Pew, a principal scientist at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass., and an expert on military simulations, said, "It's a big enough challenge to model the doctrine, but ultimately we'd like to model the variations because the reason these models are potentially useful for training is they behave the way real people do."

Such simulations are still experimental. But when they are ready, they will be used at bases around the country to train soldiers and officers alike to make decisions under stress.

The University of Southern California exercise illustrates the latest challenge among researchers: to focus on the more unpredictable side of the human psyche, simulating emotions and the unexpected effects that panic, stress, anxiety and fear can have on actions and decisions when an officer or a soldier is deep in the fog of war.

"How does a hand-grenade explosion a few feet away from you motivate you if you've just been marching 16 hours in tremendous heat?" asked Dr. Barry G. Silverman, an engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Of course, video and computer games are the closest most people come to experiencing situations like that. In fact, Dr. Silverman said one of his students had recently asked him why he even bothered with his research when there are games like Age of Empires, Microsoft's popular warfare strategy series.

The similarities, Dr. Rosenbloom acknowledged, are obvious. "You're in an environment and interacting with characters trying to accomplish something," he said. "The difference is in the underlying technology."

But there are also important distinctions. Simulations like those he works on, he said, are more concerned with trying to understand how people really react in a variety of circumstances.

"It can react appropriately to you under a wide range of things you might do and essentially intelligently adapt its behavior," he said. "There are no computer games that have anywhere near that flexibility. There aren't characters who have a deep understanding of a situation."

Dr. Silverman agreed. "Most of the games out there are artistically and stylistically impressive, but not entirely faithful to real human behavior," he said. "We can't take those games and easily replace their made-up forces with ones we'd like to fight against."

Current models of human behavior are known to be brittle, in computer simulation parlance, which means they are unreliable. "They can't react to unanticipated circumstances," said Dr. Harold L. Hawkins, who oversees behavior modeling programs for the Office of Naval Research, "and they lack the adaptability and basic cognitive and perceptual functions all of us take for granted. The goal is to try to improve the realism to minimize the brittleness."

The growing interest among researchers in these kinds of simulations comes with the rise in computer processing power and the growing sophistication of psychological theories. Dr. Rosenbloom said that tasks that might have required special computers five years ago could now be done with ordinary machines. "It doesn't matter what kind of computers they are," he said. "It just matters that they're getting faster."

Dr. Silverman said that not only have new theories emerged on the role of emotions in decision-making, but computer processing has also become fast and inexpensive enough that computers are able to do the complex calculations necessary to model behavior. "The agents can now think in real time and react and have emotions in real time," he said.

But the degree to which emotions can be simulated depends on the type of behavior being modeled. The effect of stress or sleep deprivation, for instance, is better understood than, say, panic, fear or anxiety.

June 21, 2001

 

 

 

Game Simulations for the Military Try to Make an Ally of Emotion

 

 


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Wayne Zachary, chief executive of Chi Systems, an artificial-intelligence research company based in Philadelphia that has done modeling work for the military, said, "Modeling emotional response to panic and fear is an area where everyone wants to go, but no one is really there yet."

The exercise simulating the Balkans mission is one step toward introducing emotional individuals into a situation so people can be trained for complex tasks like peacekeeping duties. "If the only interaction you have with an enemy is at the end of a gun," Dr. Rosenbloom said, "you don't need to know that much about them."

To enhance the realism, the Institute for Creative Technologies, with a $45 million grant from the Army, has built a theater here with a screen that wraps around roughly half the room. Three projectors and a sound system make the theater so realistic and directional that it can trick the listener into believing that a sound's source is coming from anywhere in the room.

After completing the exercise, a trainee receives an evaluation, said Dr. Bill Swartout, the institute's director of technology. "Depending on the path you took, a particular tape is played," he said. Because there are only a few possible paths in this version of the simulation, he said, it is possible to record the evaluations in advance.

As the simulation becomes more sophisticated, there will be more choices for the lieutenant, and software will put the story together on the fly.

Part of the problem with modeling emotions, Mr. Zachary said, is a dearth of experimental data in actual situations. "We just have anecdotes," he said, "because the ethics of research in modern American culture say you can't put people in experiments and scare them to death."

And few settings are more frightening than a battlefield. Even when there is information about actual behavior under dangerous conditions, it is linked so strongly to that particular time and place that few conclusions can be drawn. "You can have the best- laid plans, and once the flag goes up, those plans are gone," said Dr. David M. Nicol, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College. "Often it's the case that things hinge on the actions of one small group or one individual that shape the force or the outcome. So if you're dealing with statistical models of human behavior, you'd run into battle 10 times and get 10 different outcomes."

Modeling the behavior of one's own forces is hard, but building such models for adversaries or foreign civilians is much harder, even when their cultural and ideological foundations may be well documented.

One focus of Dr. Silverman's research, for instance, is terrorist behavior. Dr. Silverman evaluates his models by comparing them with the actual motives and behaviors observed for various groups.

In one project he is working on, the human player is the leader of a squad guarding a checkpoint at a bridge. All the other participants are simulations. In the exercise, a school bus approaches, filled with women and children. The bus also holds armed terrorists who are planning an attack.

"Throughout the ages," Dr. Silverman said, "we have been taught that emotions are the opposite of rationality and that cold logic is devoid of emotions." But new research shows that most decisions are guided by emotions, he said. "It's ironic, but to build realistic, clever software agents, we are giving them emotions and the capability of emotionally reacting to events and actions."

Dr. Silverman is optimistic about how quickly the new direction in research will prove effective. "It's definitely coming together," he said. "We're at the early stage, and there's a lot more theory than data. It's very easy to program a theory, but much harder to ground that in data and say this actually duplicates how people behave. But the field is moving rapidly forward."

But Dr. Pew of BBN Technologies is less optimistic: "I'm not sanguine that in the next five years we'll be there. People are complicated. You never do exactly the same thing twice. Every situation you face is always a little bit different, so trying to build a model that can reflect the importance of that context is where the challenges are."

To make further advances, Dr. Pew said, will require closer cooperation between psychologists and computer scientists. "If we want to be more successful with computer models, we need to go deeper into the psychology of how people perform," he said. "Because many of the models are ginned up by computer scientists who don't know anything about human behavior."


It's payback time in the aftermath of the antagonistic and unsuccessful Marin County recall campaign against District Attorney Paula F. Kamena 
by John Roemer © 2001 Daily Journal Staff Writer

A prominent Kamena backer, San Rafael City Attorney Gary Ragghianti, is seeking evidence for a defamation lawsuit against recall petitioners.

Ragghianti is acting in his private capacity as a partner at Ragghianti Freitas Montobbio Wallace in San Rafael.

A Ragghianti associate said a complaint to the State Bar is also in the works against Thomas Van Zandt, the Mill Valley patent lawyer who challenged Kamena and went down to defeat 86 percent to 14 percent in the May 22 vote.

The probe is focused on statements made by recall proponents, including Van Zandt, that a Kamena deputy suborned perjury in a high-profile criminal prosecution.

"We've been asked to look at it," Ragghianti said Monday. "I'm convinced that what [Van Zandt] said is legally inaccurate and wrong. No decision has been made to file a suit at this point."

Ragghianti's client is Kelly-Jo A. Vieira, the Kamena deputy who prosecuted Carol Mardeusz on attempted child abduction and perjury charges stemming from a custody case.

Ragghianti said his best evidence so far is a transcript of a radio interview in which Van Zandt allegedly said "the DA who was assigned to the case elicited perjured testimony."

"Unfortunately, he never used Vieira's name," Ragghianti said.

Jurors convicted Mardeusz after an emotional trial marked by the brief detention of defense lawyer Patricia J. Barry for yelling "Whore!" at Vieira and at Superior Court Judge Verna A. Adams.

Van Zandt is Mardeusz's brother. He said he decided to run after witnessing unfairness at the trial.
Recall petitioners accused Vieira of suborning perjury from witnesses who testified before the grand jury that indicted Mardeusz. Kamena, the petition said, should be recalled because she knew of the perjury and failed to call her subordinate to account.

Twenty-six Marin residents signed a notice of intention to circulate a recall petition and served it on Kamena on May 11, 2000. Ragghianti did not say whether he intends to name all of them in a complaint.
Kamena and Vieira did not return calls seeking comment.

Van Zandt said the move against him and other recall proponents validates his campaign attacks on Kamena for "vindictive prosecutions."

He pointed out that 6,735 people voted for the recall while 40,777 opposed it.

"I did agree with what is written in the recall statement," he said. "I and 6,000-plus others believed Vieira suborned perjury. Is the DA going to prosecute all of us? Is she trying to intimidate me for losing the election?"
Mardeusz, who has completed a 9-month sentence since her conviction, said Tuesday that the perjury subornation charge against Vieira is serious and substantiated.

Vieira questioned Mardeusz's ex-husband, Leo Magers, before the grand jury and asked whether he had ever been arrested on child molestation charges, Mardeusz said. When Magers denied it, Vieira let the answer go unchallenged even though the deputy district attorney had investigated Magers for that very crime, Mardeusz said.

"The recall was born out of fraud in my trial," Mardeusz said. "The DA is supposed to go to the grand jury and show them the truth."

A legal ethicist said he is troubled by the effort to gather evidence against recall proponents.

Richard Zitrin of San Francisco's Zitrin & Mastromonaco predicted that a judge would dismiss any legal action that results as a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

"It would be a SLAPP, and anyway the standard for defamation is pretty high," Zitrin said. "And I can't see the State Bar getting involved. They'd likely take a big old pass on that one.

"So is it unethical to investigate these people? Probably not, but is it unseemly? Yes. Don't these people have something better to do?"


COOKING THE BOOKS AT EDUCATION
by Accuracy in Media © June 9, 2001
http://www.aim.org/

In Washington, during congressional debate over President Bush's "Leave no child behind" education initiative, Republicans have been arguing for an increase of 11 percent in spending by the Department of Education, while Democrats have been arguing for a 35-50 percent increase. The department currently operates on a budget of $44.5 billion a year. But the sad truth, which has escaped the attention of most of the major media, is that there is no real guarantee that any of this money will actually get to the students that may need it. This is because the Department of Education has been so mismanaged that it can't account for the money that it is currently spending.

The amount of missing, mismanaged or stolen money reaches $6 billion. Outright looting and embezzlement of education department funds by agency officials in the Clinton administration cannot be ruled out, as there was no security over the obligation and disbursement of federal funds. Officials of the agency may have conspired to "cook the books" and spend more money than Congress had appropriated. This would be a violation of the federal anti-deficiency act, which bars federal agencies from disbursing more funds than authorized by Congress.

Stories about government waste, fraud and abuse are common, but the scandal at the Department of Education has reached a new and unprecedented level. This is an agency out of control. Yet the story remains largely untold. Recognizing the dimensions of the problem, Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia has suggested the department be shut down until the problems are solved.

Revelations of the limited investigations conducted so far include twenty-one Department of Education employees who wrote a total of 19,000 checks in one year, without getting approval from any other official, totaling $23 million; employees using agency credit cards to buy items such as computers, software, cell phones and Internet service that may have been diverted to personal use; and $1.9 million of Department of Education grants intended for two school districts in South Dakota diverted to buy real estate and luxury sport utility vehicles.

Ignoring a Whistleblower

At a recent background briefing in Washington, D.C., a member of the leadership of the House of Representatives was asked about the case of John Gard, the whistleblower from the Department of Education who has sparked the numerous investigations into the department's finances. The congressman had never heard of Gard. He was also not aware that the Department of Education had failed three straight audits and that the new secretary of education, Rod Paige, has expressed the hope that it may be able to pass an audit in about 18 months. This is the agency that Congress and the administration plan to give billions more dollars. It makes no sense.

John Gard has not sought the attention of the media. However, this is no excuse for ignoring his sensational charges, which have been the subject of Congressional hearings and an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigation. The OSC determined that his allegations of "gross mismanagement" to the tune of billions of dollars are true. When the OSC report was issued on January 31, the Associated Press ran a good story about Gard and some of his charges. But it was published back on page 21 of the Washington Post. This is typical of how the agency's problems have been covered.

Whistleblower Talks to AIM

Gard was recently interviewed by Accuracy in Media, which has championed the cause of whistleblowers in the federal government. As damning as the OSC report was, Gard said it amounted to a whitewash because it failed to reveal the true extent of the corruption. He told a harrowing story of how he battled to expose waste, fraud and abuse in the department only to be made the target of reprisal and retaliation, eventually being escorted from agency property by armed federal security guards. Gard was a systems accountant in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He exposed serious problems in the department's Grants Administration and Payment System (GAPS), under which dozens of agency employees were potentially able to funnel education department funds to their personal bank accounts or their friends and associates without being caught. The system was such that it was impossible for the department to monitor who was tapping into the money and how much was being diverted. It may be a stretch to say that all $6 billion was funneled out of the department in this way. Some may have been wasted or mismanaged. On the other hand, Gard asks the central question, "Where did the money go?" The system was so open to abuse that it may be impossible to determine how much money was stolen and by whom.

In one sensational incident, Gard found unsecured checks lying on top of an employee's desk and reported the matter to the Office of the Inspector General of the department. These checks could have been cashed by the employee for personal use. For blowing the whistle, Gard said he was attacked by the then-chief financial officer, Donald Rappaport, as a "spy" who could not be trusted. In a filing with the OSC, which is part of the public record in the case, Gard's lawyers also say that agency employees who helped cover up the agency's "mismanagement, waste of funds and potential fraud activity" were rewarded with "enhanced job assignments, promotions, awards, recognition or enhanced office space."

Gard said his concern all along has been that the agency obey the laws of the United States. He believes agency employees have violated several federal laws on financial record keeping and other related matters. He is still being paid, but he has no assigned duties. He spent most of his time on his lawsuit against the department. He is willing to return to the department under the Bush administration and try to help solve the problems which have plagued the agency. But his offer to do so has been ignored

Gard emphasizes that he is not advocating the elimination of the department but wants to see the funds that are disbursed recorded properly and accounted for. He has said, however, that the problems are so large that the department should be placed under the supervision of a special master appointed by a federal court or put into receivership. This has been done in the past with grossly mismanaged agencies of the Washington, D.C. city government.

Paige Turns the Page

The corruption problem is so massive that Secretary Paige was forced to hold a press conference on April 20 specifically on the issue of fraud and mismanagement in the department. Putting a happy face on the problem, it was at this event that he said his hope was that the agency could pass an audit in 18 months. Paige also announced that Deputy Secretary-designate Bill Hansen and Under-Secretary-designate Gene Hickok would head a reform effort. Hansen has been approached by one of Gard's lawyers about Gard helping try to clean up the mess. Gard said he hasn't heard anything back from Hansen.

At the press conference, Paige suggested the problem in the agency involved the mismanagement or loss of only $450 million, and that $250 million of that had been recovered. The $450 million figure was put forward at an April 3 Congressional hearing, where the agency's inspector general testified. The hearing was covered by the Associated Press, the Washington Times on page 6, and the Washington Post back on page 21. This event also featured a discussion of the agency's failure to pass three consecutive audits. However, the evening news programs of the three major networks completely ignored the hearing.

But Gard emphasizes that this $450 million figure is far too low. Both the AP and the Washington Post have noted a discrepancy with the Department of Treasury's accounting of what the Department of Education has spent that amounts to $6 billion over the last three years under Secretary Richard W. Riley. Gard believes this is a more accurate figure reflecting the true amount of how much money is missing or unaccounted for. Again, this is because there was no security over the disbursement of federal funds when the agency implemented GAPS. Gard says that, despite the change in administrations, there's still a reluctance to tell the American people about the full extent of the problem because both parties want to spend more on education.

Officials at Paige's news conference claimed that financial problems are going to be addressed through the installation of a new software program, Oracle Federal Financials. Gard told us that this would not solve the GAPS disbursement and security problems that currently exist. Gard said the Oracle software may resolve some accounting problems if it is installed correctly. He said he knew of one federal agency that had used it properly. Ironically, it had been installed at the Corporation for National Service by one of his former associates at the Department of Education, after he had been relieved of his duties. The Department of Education has been without a chief financial officer for two years and it is apparent that the agency has had a very difficult time finding a new one. The agency has been without an Assistant Secretary for Management for five years. This suggests the problems are simply too large to be addressed and that the agency may not be salvageable

Honor Gard

President Bush has called upon federal employees to "disclose waste, fraud, abuse and corruption to the appropriate authorities." Gard did just that and has suffered for it. He is suing the Department of Education. Gard should be compensated for the damage to his career. President Bush should restore Gard to his previous position or even promote him. If Secretary Paige wants to make sure that Department of Education money is used to "teach children," he should take the initiative himself and immediately put Gard back to work. Yet Gard's name was never raised during Paige's news conference. That's a strange way of encouraging employers to expose corruption. Yet, without Gard back at the department, it will be hard to have any confidence that the financial problems will be solved. The only reporter at the press conference who seemed familiar with the extent of the corruption was George Archibald of the Washington Times, who produced a page two story for that paper. Archibald has an understanding of the agency, having worked there under the president, Ronald Reagan, who wanted to abolish it

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