258 posts tagged with intelligence.
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The birds that fear death

A study published in the journal Animal Behavior found that crows can recognize their fellow dead crows and learn to avoid the dangerous circumstances associated with death. The BBC described the study, which involved a "masked individual playing bad cop, arriving on the scene holding up a dead crow." [more inside]
posted by Rangi on Oct 2, 2015 - 37 comments

Breaking the communication barrier between dolphins and humans

“Head trainer Teri Turner Bolton presses her palms together over her head, the signal to innovate, and then puts her fists together, the sign for “tandem.” Comparative psychologist Stan Kuczaj records several seconds of audible chirping between [the dolphins] Hector and Han, then his camera captures them both slowly rolling over in unison and flapping their tails three times simultaneously. [...] Either one dolphin is mimicking the other [...] or it’s not an illusion at all: When they whistle back and forth beneath the surface, they’re literally discussing a plan.[more inside]
posted by Rangi on Sep 15, 2015 - 38 comments

The quiet death of the Human Terrain System

The Quiet Demise of the Army’s Plan to Understand Afghanistan and Iraq. "In the heyday of counterinsurgency, the United States military’s Human Terrain Teams were a bold idea. In the drone-war era, they became an anachronism." [Previously 1, 2] [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Aug 22, 2015 - 30 comments

Chimpanzees and monkeys have entered the Stone Age

We think of the Stone Age as something that early humans lived through. But we are not the only species that has invented it.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 18, 2015 - 15 comments

That's intelligent design, not Intelligent Design.

Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
posted by sfenders on Aug 17, 2015 - 22 comments

Men died in the pursuit of better maps.

"Inside the crates were maps, thousands of them. In the top right corner of each one, printed in red, was the Russian word секрет. Secret" -- Inside the Secret World of Russia’s Cold War Mapmakers by Greg Miller, WIRED
posted by The Whelk on Jul 18, 2015 - 21 comments

OBYaVLENIYA KOMANDA 135 [Command 135 initiated]

The radio signal that occupies 4625 kHz has reportedly been broadcasting since the late 1970s. The earliest known recording of it is dated 1982. Ever since curious owners of shortwave radios first discovered the signal, it has broadcast a repeating buzzing noise. Every few years, the buzzer stops, and a Russian voice reads a mixture of numbers and Russian names.
posted by standardasparagus on Jun 15, 2015 - 67 comments

There's no such thing as AN octopus

The intelligence of octopuses is increasingly recognized, but nature is more creative than us glorified chimps ever realize on first blush. You see, octopuses are just full of neurons, but their nervous structure raises all kinds of uncanny questions--What is "intelligence" for an octopus? What is it like to be an octopus?--because most of them are in its arms. [more inside]
posted by byanyothername on Jun 4, 2015 - 26 comments

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

"I don't think they're all necessarily horrible people..." In an impressive display of solid intelligence tradecraft, the IC Watch project has released the Transparency Toolkit, whereby social media sites were mined for keywords, project names, employers, and locations known or suspected to be associated with the U.S. Intelligence Community. [more inside]
posted by Emperor SnooKloze on May 11, 2015 - 74 comments

History as data science

History Lab has "focused on digitizing, structuring and visualizing large sets of declassified US government documents. This is a starting point for showcasing how computational techniques can aid historical research." Can big-data analysis show what kinds of information the government is keeping classified? [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 27, 2015 - 4 comments

Operation Red Falcon

Early on the morning of September 1, 1996, the Israeli military began moving troops to the Syrian border in preparation for a war they were convinced was imminent. The military’s actions were based on top-secret intelligence—that Syria was about to launch a surprise attack—passed on by an informant, a general at the center of Syria’s Supreme Military Council, code-named Red Falcon. Red Falcon’s information had caused panic at the highest reaches of the Israeli Defense Forces, and senior military officials and Mossad officers were urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue an order to the IDF to launch its own offensive before the Syrians could launch theirs.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 4, 2015 - 17 comments

Embodied Cognition

The Deep Mind of Demis Hassabis - "The big thing is what we call transfer learning. You've mastered one domain of things, how do you abstract that into something that's almost like a library of knowledge that you can now usefully apply in a new domain? That's the key to general knowledge. At the moment, we are good at processing perceptual information and then picking an action based on that. But when it goes to the next level, the concept level, nobody has been able to do that." (previously: 1,2) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 19, 2015 - 9 comments

A Dispatch From The Future

Evgeny Morozov writes for the New Yorker: The Planning Machine, on Project Cybersyn (previously) and Big Data.
Greg Grandin in The Nation responds: The Anti-Socialist Origins of Big Data
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 29, 2014 - 46 comments

Super Intelligent Humans are Coming

...the implication is clear: If a human being could be engineered to have the positive version of each causal variant, they might exhibit cognitive ability which is roughly 100 standard deviations above average. This corresponds to more than 1,000 IQ points.
posted by latkes on Oct 19, 2014 - 133 comments

Family Planning: The short, long and speculative issues

Some interesting recent links on family planning in the short, long and speculative senses.

- Catherine Rampell examines the "information gap" surrounding birth control and family planning amongst young people with lower levels of education.
- Sarah Perry examines the history of fertility transitions over the last 300 years.
- Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom examine the potential effects of human genetic selection in the next 50 years. [more inside]
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory on Oct 19, 2014 - 6 comments


Why not eat octopus? [New Yorker]
"I like to think of an octopus as a blobby, eight-fingered hand with a mind of its own. And then I’m suddenly not so keen on the idea of eating it."

posted by Fizz on Oct 3, 2014 - 73 comments

Annoying beasts and where to find them

The CIAs' Bestiary of Intelligence Writing (PDF) is an illustrated guide of buzzwords written by CIA employee ███████ and published in 1982 in the Agency's newsletter "Studies in Intelligence": Older employees may recall that when the Headquarters Building was being constructed, guard dogs stalked the corridors by night to sniff out trespassers. Practically no one is aware, however, of the collection of strange fauna in a corner of a sub-basement, the location of which must remain secret. This collection known as the Bestiary of Intelligence Writing, consists of specimen samples of cliches and misused or overused word combinations that CIA editors have encountered frequently over the years. More information about the bestiary at War is Boring. [more inside]
posted by elgilito on Oct 3, 2014 - 13 comments

Animal Spirits

The more we learn about the emotions shared by all mammals, the more we must rethink our own human intelligence [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 21, 2014 - 69 comments

'that's so stupid that one can only cry at the foolishness of it.'

In the past week, Germany has found and fired an American mole in their intelligence agency, investigated another suspect in their defense ministry, and asked the CIA station chief to leave the country. Media reports offer an interesting view of a post Cold War world grappling with the unexpected* - spy vs spy among friends and allies, while traditional intelligence targets Russia and China play the part of bemused bystanders. [more inside]
posted by infini on Jul 11, 2014 - 56 comments

'Whoa… big brain huh… cool!'"

Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they'd have more success. - stories from the NASA- funded project to teach Dolphins to talk using LSD (among other methods. )
posted by The Whelk on Jun 29, 2014 - 37 comments

Supercomputer fools Kryton from Red Dwarf

A supercomputer has fooled judges a third of the time that it is a 13 year old Russian schoolboy named Eugene Goostman.
posted by 0bvious on Jun 8, 2014 - 65 comments

"Usually I just do a Google search"

Studying the "wisdom of the crowd" the Good Judgement Project has been asking average citizens to predict global events over the last 3 years. A weighted average shows these participants, who do not have access to classified materials, are more accurate than the Intelligence community. And the projects "elite" forecasters are 30% more accurate.
posted by fontophilic on Apr 2, 2014 - 30 comments

“Without Mercy” –U.S. Strategic Intelligence and Finland in the Cold War

Finland and American Intelligence: A Secret History
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 31, 2014 - 4 comments

mais comme bonnes à penser

Animals aren’t tools for thinking. Animals are some of the basic building blocks of thought itself
When he’s teaching, my friend the writer William Fiennes sometimes asks students to write about an encounter they have had with an animal at some time in their lives. What they soon discover is that the animal is always some unspoken aspect of themselves. The rat in the compost bin. The teenage girls escaping from a predatory geography teacher who stumble on a sheep giving birth. The deer shot by two boys who’ve stolen a gun. Put an animal in a story and it is never just an animal.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 29, 2014 - 45 comments

Doña Quixote

My Dementia: Telling who I am before I forget, by author Gerda Saunders
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2014 - 16 comments


Inside The One-Man Intelligence Unit That Exposed The Secrets And Atrocities Of Syria's War
He had no formal intelligence training or security clearance that gave him access to classified documents. He could not speak or read Arabic. He had never set foot in the Middle East, unless you count the time he changed planes in Dubai en route to Manila, or his trip to visit his in-laws in Turkey. Yet in the 18 months since Higgins had begun blogging about Syria, his barebones site, Brown Moses [previously], had become the foremost source of information on the weapons used in Syria's deadly war. Using nothing more sophisticated than an Asus laptop, he had uncovered evidence of weapons imported into Syria from Iran. He had been the first person to identify widely-banned cluster bombs deployed by Syrian forces. By The New York Times' own admission, his findings had offered a key tip that helped the newspaper prove that Saudi Arabia had funneled arms to opposition fighters in Syria.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 9, 2014 - 12 comments

"Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted"

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. "We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity," a Yahoo spokesperson says in a statement to The Verge. But...what about all the webcam sex?
posted by josher71 on Feb 27, 2014 - 39 comments

Deep Blue See Me Not

Cuttlefish: Kings of Camouflage – (SLYT HD 53:26) PBS NOVA, April 2007. Wikipedia article, more images.
posted by cenoxo on Jan 26, 2014 - 9 comments

New Frontiers In Science

Can plants think? Michael Pollan asks the question. (SLNewYorker)
posted by Diablevert on Dec 23, 2013 - 75 comments

Would you believe...

What do you need to be an international CONTROL super spy fighting the forces of KAOS? A Shoe-Phone. A Cone of Silence. A Bulletproof Invisible Wall and a Laser Blazer. Then, and only then, can you Get Smart. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 16, 2013 - 52 comments

"People in power ... will routinely lie to their population,"

The Men Who Leaked The Secrets
To the likes of Brooks, Snowden was a disconcerting mystery; Glenn Greenwald, though, got him right away. "He had no power, no prestige, he grew up in a lower-middle-class family, totally obscure, totally ordinary," Greenwald says. "He didn't even have a high school diploma. But he was going to change the world – and I knew that." And, Greenwald also believed, so would he. "In all kinds of ways, my whole life has been in preparation for this moment," he says.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 10, 2013 - 46 comments

"one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don't"

"Psychologists Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzesniewski, and Carol Dweck [found that] convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades. The intervention had the biggest effect for students who started out believing intelligence was genetic."
posted by jeffburdges on Nov 12, 2013 - 64 comments

‘PRISM: The SIGAD Used *Most* in NSA Reports!’

How would you, as a junior analyst in S2C41, the branch of the Signals Intelligence Directorate, navigate the millions of records logged daily, in order to find the nugget to get you noticed? “EVILOLIVE, MADCAPOCELOT, ORANGECRUSH, COBALTFALCON, DARKTHUNDER: the names are beguiling. But they don’t always tell us much, which is their reason for existing: covernames aren’t classified, and many of them – including the names of the NSA’s main databases for intercepted communications data, MAINWAY, MARINA, PINWALE and NUCLEON – have been seen in public before, in job ads and resumés posted online.” Daniel Soar sorts through the possibilities in the London Review of Books, 24 Oct 2013. (See also William Arkin's blog on codenames) [more inside]
posted by zbsachs on Nov 4, 2013 - 33 comments

The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think

Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, thinks we've lost sight of what artificial intelligence really means. His stubborn quest to replicate the human mind.
posted by cthuljew on Oct 27, 2013 - 134 comments

We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria.

The Spies Inside Damascus: The Mossad's secret war on the Syrian WMD machine.
On Aug. 20, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began shifting around or using his chemical weapons, Obama would consider that "a red line." The implication was that such a move would lead to American intervention in Syria. Some officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry believed that Obama drew the line because he believed it would never be crossed. If that was his assumption, he made it based, in part, on assessments received from the Israeli intelligence services, which have waged a multidecade clandestine campaign to strip Assad of his deadliest weapons -- and which also have emerged as the United States' primary partners in collecting information on Middle Eastern regimes.
posted by andoatnp on Sep 21, 2013 - 22 comments

USG Black Budget Revealed.

Using documents obtained from whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Washington Post reports on the United States' $52.6 billion "black budget" for 2013.
posted by anemone of the state on Aug 29, 2013 - 77 comments


In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 19, 2013 - 33 comments

"MI5 trained a specially bred group of gerbils to detect spies"

It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.
Bugger: Maybe the Real State Secret Is that Spies Aren't Very Good at Their Jobs and Don't Know Very Much About the World by Adam Curtis. It's about the checkered history of the MI5.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 9, 2013 - 63 comments

Domestic spying now (secretly) used by law enforcement

The NSA is handing the Justice Department information, derived from its secret electronic eavesdropping programs, about suspected criminal activity unrelated to terrorism; meanwhile the DEA is using information from NSA programs to launch criminal investigations, and then 'recreating' the trail of investigation in order to hide where the information originated.
posted by anemone of the state on Aug 5, 2013 - 168 comments

Codename: DROPMIRE

According to The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the NSA has bugged EU government offices in Washington and New York, installed spyware on EU embassy communications equipment, and used the NATO headquarters in Brussels as a base to infiltrate the phone and computer networks of the EU's Justus Lipsius building. In addition, the NSA is targeting German civilian communications, monitoring ca. 500 million phone calls, emails and text messages per day.
European leaders are not amused- these revelations could endanger a trade pact worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
posted by anemone of the state on Jun 30, 2013 - 363 comments

"A culture of dissent must be nurtured and protected if it is to thrive"

The United States' National Security organization has many parts, from the famous (NSA, CIA) to the mundane (OCI, NGA) to the more esoteric (NRO, CSS). But even the most dedicated Washington insider may not have heard of INR. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 26, 2013 - 21 comments

"There was little we didn't know about Nazi Germany"

In a new book, a historian reveals that during WWII, the British kept three groups of Nazi prisoners captive under condititons that an outraged Churchill demanded be stopped. [more inside]
posted by never used baby shoes on May 23, 2013 - 31 comments

"Bin Laden cowered & hid. Mughniyeh spent his life giving us the finger"

It's been five years since the death of Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. No one ever claimed responsibility for killing him. Hezbollah publicly blames Israel's Mossad, a charge they unsurprisingly deny. So, who killed The Driver? [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 30, 2013 - 18 comments

Intelligence Tests

Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 11, 2013 - 113 comments

Not-so dumb animals

Frans de Waal argues that animals are smarter than we might think. "Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species." [more inside]
posted by Athanassiel on Mar 24, 2013 - 67 comments

China is engineering genius babies

I just attended a debate in New York a few weeks ago about whether or not we should outlaw genetic engineering in babies and the audience was pretty split. In China, 95 percent of an audience would say, “Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier, happier, and brighter!
posted by Tom-B on Mar 18, 2013 - 147 comments

Where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don't see any flying cars!

Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 11, 2012 - 21 comments

SPAUN of the living

The simulated brain - "First computer model to produce complex behaviour performs almost as well as humans at simple number tasks." [1,2,3,4,5,etc.]
posted by kliuless on Dec 8, 2012 - 22 comments

What's gonna happen outside the window next?

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong
posted by cthuljew on Nov 18, 2012 - 55 comments


When I came to the US, I heard about Mensa — the high IQ society. My IQ had never been tested, so I was curious. I was told that there was a special IQ test for non-English speakers and that my fresh immigrant status and lack of English knowledge was not a problem. I signed up.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Nov 4, 2012 - 164 comments

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