Motive, Opportunity, and Means as a Predictor of Behavior

I’m a man of many genres, and one of my favorites by far mystery/detective fiction. Whether it’s hard-boiled private eye’s or that jabbering blue-blood Albert Campion, count me in. One of the keys to that genre (and solving crimes in real life too), is in identifying who has Means, Motive, and Opportunity. But it is also, of certain utility when it comes to predicting what might happen. More on that later, but first let’s dive into these three categories of evidence.

Means: Who has access to a weapon or poison consistent with the evidence (a gun, golf club, etc.). But owning a gun isn’t enough to make you  a murderer (despite what some folks on the Left would have you believe).

Motive: Who had the motivation to do such a thing? Was there a big inheritance at stake? some nasty billionaire planning to make the Corporation for Public Broadcasting the primary beneficiary of his will? (I’m looking at you, Arthur Vining Davis) Did someone use all the milk and forget to add it to the shopping list?

Opportunity: Who was on hand for the deed? If the estranged son of Arthur Vining Davis had a mallet like the one used to kill his father, was heard swearing his revenge at the local Applebee’s after one too many Appletinis, but wasn’t within 50 miles of the Vining Davis mansion on the night in question.

These things matter.

In fiction, the idea is to use these elements to muddy the waters for the reader and give them a few plausible (but mostly misleading) suspects. Then Hercule Poirot gathers everyone around the table and BAM! You get hit with the real killer.

In real life crimes, the police are using this framework to narrow the list of suspects and make their jobs a little easier. This is assuming there isn’t a bunch of video of the killer putting on the bunny costume and fueling up her chainsaw with the appropriate 50:1 ratio of gas to oil. In that case its just a man hunt.

In the field of prediction, which is to say guessing, these three elements can help you determine whether something will happen or has already happened. What to I mean by this?

Here’s an example, let’s say a cabinet level official in the U.S. government used a non-government e-mail server to send and receive a good deal of classified and/or sensitive material. Now, while the theoretical server was far more secure than the personal e-mail address us peons use, let’s also assume that the standard government servers are far more difficult someone to hack than the official’s private one. How likely is that server to be hacked by agents in the employ of foreign powers (especially those that don’t like us)?

Applying the MMO framework discussed above, do you think there’s anyone in the world with Means, Motive, and Opportunity to pull this kind of thing off? I think almost any government with a well-funded intelligence department likely has all three. Even long-standing U.S. allies probably possess all three criteria. Everyone spies on everyone.

Remember that time we were tapping German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s phone?

If you see a system or a situation where Means, Motive, and Opportunity are prevalent and the likelihood of being caught is low, chances are someone will hack it. If they haven’t already, that is.



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