Covert Subversive Agents and Consensus Disruption on Large Projects


  • Johannes Vorster University of the Western Cape
  • Louise Leenen University of the Western Cape



Subversive Agents, Consensus Simulation, Consensus, Multi-agent Simulation, Stochastic Consensus Models, Stochastic Consensus Simulation


Is it possible to dramatically affect and influence military and other projects through social engineering of the consensus processes? In this paper we explore the impact that subversive agents can have on the ability of projects to move forward by disrupting the social cohesion and decision-making abilities of the processes designed to reach consensus. A consensus simulator is used to model group social cohesion behaviour in the context of project deliverables and show what the effect can be on the effort to reach consensus (number of meetings) as well as the time to reach consensus (calendar time) when subversive agents attempt to influence the groups making up the project team in such a way that it delays the ability of the team to reach consensus on key decisions. Many military options are available to delay enemy projects, including the assassination of enemy scientists, sanctions aimed at denying key project components, or even direct military action such as bombing the enemy facilities. However, this paper focusses on aspects of soft-force projection through covert disruption of project timelines. A social simulator was constructed that models individual agent’s beliefs about various key topics within the context of a project. The effect that a small number of subversive agents can have on the time- and effort of a project is shown. In their covert actions, these subversive agents need to stay hidden, and thus their covert actions are limited, yet they can exert significant damage to the project in terms of delays. In this paper we present results showing the effects that such a small group can have, as well as pointing out that there seem to be a critical group size over which the subversive agents can not only have significant impact on project-delays but can also steer and direct certain key decisions.