So who is a terrorist?
Algorithmically speaking, there are people who have attempted to discover terrorists simply by taking a look at their lives. I'm lifting this one from SuperFreakonomics.
The banking history of nineteen terrorists from the September 11 attacks reveals the following:
- They opened an account of roughly about $4000 in a branch of a well know bank.
- Typically used a P.O. Box number as an address that changed frequently instead of a fixed address.
- Regularly had wire transfers from multiple countries below limits that would actually trigger alerts in Banking reports.
- Normally had one large cash deposit and several small withdrawals.
- Banking did not reflect normal expenses like rent, insurance, food, etc.
- No consistency in money withdrawals.
- Ratio of cash withdrawals to checks written was unusually high.
- Didn't use savings a/c or safe deposit boxes.
- Since most of the suspects arrested were Islamic fundamentalists, one of the strongest demographic markers in the algorithm would be to have an Islamic name.
- They were also likely to own a mobile phone, be a student and rent rather than own a house.
- Not withdraw money from an ATM on Friday afternoon. (This corresponds to the Friday mandatory prayer service for Muslims and is again worked around the assumption of terrorists being Muslims).
- Not buy life insurance because insurance companies do not pay out if you die in suicide, lest pay for being a suicide bomber.
What if in all this statistical science we end up blaming a set of people who have nothing to do with terrorism (Obviously, Terrorists don't follow any religion, they just religiously follow terrorism and that could be just about anyone) ? What if our very fundamental visualization of 'guy with suicide bomb' as a terrorist is wrong (I definitely believe it is)? Maybe the reasons and forces behind terrorism are powerful and remain seemingly hidden because in all likelihood terrorism is just another political gimmick? I would rather leave those trivialities to open-minded self-opinionated intelligent readers like you :)
P.S - My name is Pratik, and I'm not a terrorist. Marry Me?