July 13, 2002
3:52 PM   Subscribe

DARPA: still inventing the future (stand up straight with that exo-skeleton, son). April 2002 list of public projects from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose charter (let us not forget) is "to prevent technological surprise from harming U.S. national security by sponsoring revolutionary and innovative high-payoff research." Wonder which one of these beauties will have their payoff in civilian life, a la Arpanet?
And a small niggly point: should this stuff even be made public?
posted by theplayethic (8 comments total)
Excellent choice of material- thanks!

My non-expert opinion: DARPA's general research direction needs to be made public, as it has implications for policymakers and for open academic work. The need-to-know, non-public aspect of DARPA research is operationally-related information and trade secrets.

A sticky question: how do you provide fiscal oversight for contracting and procurement under these conditions?

DARPA's "automated data expunging agents to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and those who have nothing to do with foreign terrorists" make the "ONE WORLD - ONE DATABASE" concept a bit more palatable, but given the reality of six degrees of separation, is there any human alive who would actually fall into this "innocent bystander" category?

DARPA certainly works on interesting, and potentially very useful stuff. It's a good thing Congress is still willing to spend tax dollars on technologies with the potential to save our patooties when things go wrong.
posted by sheauga at 4:58 PM on July 13, 2002

i don't like this. note the tiny barrier labeled "privacy and security" that separates transactional data [financial, medical, housing, communication] and it's disparate databases from the "automated virtual data repositories". and what is "corporate memory"? hmmm. orwell-speak for the data they've collected on the customers? totalitarian paranoia aside, it reminded of something i've been meaning to post that fits neatly with 'total information awareness': check out siebel homeland security software. and don't miss this .pdf brochure which explains in detail informed by hindsight how the 9/11 hijackings and the anthrax letter attacks would have been thwarted by the government if only they had been armed with this software which did not at the time exist!
posted by quonsar at 4:58 PM on July 13, 2002

Great start, quonsar. Tell us more about the implications ...

*the wonderful humor here much appreciated! posting the inside scoop on BIG-BROTHER-ON-THE-MARCH on saturday night under the moniker "theplayethic" is exactly the kind of human and humane approach which will help us all work through what's coming our way. ongoing absurdity and wierdness is inevitable before we'll finally break through to a new paradigm for freedom, privacy, and civilized, non-harassing behavior by government and individuals*
posted by sheauga at 5:17 PM on July 13, 2002

well, it looks more evil the longer i stare at it, sheauga! the little broken chain between transactional data and authentication biometric data must mean a link is to be forged [cough] between the two. in other words, your video rental history, menstrual cycle if applicable, and the date of fluffy's last worming will be associated with your face, fingerprints, gait, and retinal scan. [cue stirring patriotic music] in this manner, even our freewaycam operators can experience the benefits of total information awareness as they pursue their duty to eliminate the scourge of criminal speeding from our great land. terrorists may hijack our planes, yes. but they WILL drive safely to the airport, dammit.
posted by quonsar at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2002

Not to worry, quonsar. The "Information Exploitation Office"

"will provide additional focus to agency efforts addressing the systemic challenges associated with performing surface target interdiction in environments that require very high combat identification confidence and an associated low likelihood for inadvertent collateral damage."

Oops, look at this. "developing and demonstrating enhancements to human cognitive ability in diverse and stressful operational environments. Specifically, this program will develop the technologies needed to measure and track a subject’s cognitive state in real-time ... In FY 2003, AugCog will develop and test integrated multi-sensor interface technologies that will permit human state manipulation."

As someone who forages in supermarkets for food, I like the sound of "information technologies to enhance the survivability of large-scale, distributed, agent-based logistics systems operating under very chaotic wartime conditions." The bio aspects in this plan sound good too.

*Post categories: George Orwell, paranoid schizophrenic
Threat level: insignificant
Poster status: State manipulation beta tester*
posted by sheauga at 6:37 PM on July 13, 2002

"Beta tester for state manipulation"? Only to prod people in the direction of a Linuxian republic of love, passion and open end-to-end networks, sheagua. AugCog sounds like yet another attempt at techno-telepathy... Ahh now I see it... So is telepathy the killer civilian app that Darpa 21C will bequeath to the world? [again, presuming its other bristling technologies of war doesn't help us to turn the world's surface into a sheet of glass first]?
posted by theplayethic at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2002

i found the graphic on this page to be so useless, so stunningly conveyant of nothing, so, so, so DILBERT, that i just couldn't leave it alone.
posted by quonsar at 8:40 PM on July 13, 2002

Um. I can violate that dotted-red barrier very easily with just a poorly-chosen SQL query on most of my clients' databases. One doesn't really need DARPA to devise strategies for doing that -- the challenge is to devise proper authentication and logging techniques that will allow only authorized personnel to do the violatin' under controlled conditions. It's just the nature of data storage that its default state is more or less "there for the taking"; security is ALWAYS an add-on, and as prone to technical or procedural bugs or social engineering as any other technology.

DARPA being semi-public is also more or less natural. Since DARPA is generally experimental technologies its work ranged from completely unclassified to very classified. Almost by definition, what is listed in this document is unclassified -- or classified only at a technical level. Frankly, this reads like an index of the last five years of "Popular Mechanics" or similar magazines. Anyone with good technical knowledge or access to a university library could catch up with most of the technologies on this list; most of them would require considerable investment to even begin to duplicate.

I did like quonsar's parody.
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on July 13, 2002

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