Game Theory – Applied

by Wendy Thomson on May 24, 2012

One Arthur Frommer, self-identified travel guru, has once again come out in favor of strip searches and gropes. Yes, we should be-oh-so-grateful to have the privilege of being assaulted by our government on a frequent basis.

Um, no. I had the honor and privilege to listen to very bright, unemotional presentations of math-based and engineering-based facts concerning the TSA this week at Freedom to Travel USA’s congressional briefing: “TSA – Failure by the Numbers” [disclosure: I am a co-founder of Freedom to Travel USA]. So, with the indulgence of Prof. Sommer Gentry and Mr. Jon Corbett, allow me to present some mathematically based facts.

Game Theory states that when one area/item of a multi-player, multi-venue situation becomes more difficult to win, then the other available areas/venues become more attractive. Each side assesses the moves of the other side and has the opportunity to react/change strategy. Fact.

Since 9/11 the TSA has caught zero terrorists. Fact.

Since 9/11, other domestic venues that have proven attractive to terrorists elsewhere in the world: police stations, recruiting stations, shopping markets, hotels, buses, trains, stadiums, airports themselves, etc. have had zero terrorist attacks in the U.S. Fact.

These other venues are not “protected” by the TSA. Fact.

We have over ten years of experience covering hundreds of millions of opportunities for domestic attack by terrorists. We have a huge and statistically acceptable sample size. Fact.

A rational person, therefore, can conclude that the incidence of terrorist attack is not sensitive to the presence (or lack thereof) of the TSA. Fact.

I know that many people might feel that I just threw ice water in their face. I did. A rational person living on top of a mountain, however, would not purchase flood insurance at the expense of food because of the extremely remote possibility that he might be overcome by ice water.

Likewise, a rational person would not tout the TSA as being effective in deterring terrorism, when the threat of terrorism in this country is so vanishingly small and when there is no evidence that the TSA has deterred it.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Pink Sherbet Photography)

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