Admiral Jacoby, in his former intelligence job and in his current role at a defense contractor, has been a proponent of technologies that generate knowledge usable by analysts in the fight against terrorists. Terrorist networks are exploiting modern communications technologies. The admiral believes that the traditional "paradigm," filtering masses of information for presentation to analysts, should be turned on its head. "You don't try to decide on the front-end what's important. You try to put the information into a format where analysts" can work with "the full volume and variety of inputs of information, which has only been magnified in recent years."
Fair enough, but not enough. We can try to use data mining to forestall terrorist attacks. We can also use it for precision marketing, to predict and reduce customer churn, to forecast product sales. Could our government not do a bit of data mining to understand why someone becomes a terrorist and then do some scenario analysis to see if we can constructively create conditions that will address root causes?
I know that military and intelligence leaders "get it." The Washington Post cites Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, White House nominee as Iraq War coordinator, as having "told senators at a confirmation hearing that Iraqi factions 'have show so far very little progress' toward the reconciliation necessary to stop the bloodshed. If that does not change, he said, 'we're not likely to see much difference in the security situation' a year from now." ("Nominee to Coordinate War Offers Grim Forecast on Iraq," June 8, 2007.)
Admiral Jacoby, in his tech-conference keynote, said that "we need to harness the best capabilities and imagination that's available... in government, military, and civil service... plus industry, plus academia, plus think tanks here and abroad... to create an orchestrated [analytical] environment that allows us to deal with difficult threats... in the decades to come."
Contrast with a statement of architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's: "At the height of the cold war, architect-engineers like Buckminster Fuller envisioned marshaling the immense resources of the American military-industrial complex to create a more ecologically balanced world." ("Why are They Greener Than We Are," New York Times Magazine, May 20, 2007.)
These two visions each call for the application of similar knowledge resources at similar scales in the face of similarly perceived threats. One vision is all reactive containment, all expansive single-mindedness. The other is confident that technology can craft a better world despite hugely difficult conditions. I recognize the necessity of the one vision but dearly wish that our politically fixated government, and its thought leaders as exemplified by Admiral Jacoby, would at least consider the second.
>> Digg >> SlashdotWe can try to use data mining to forestall terrorist attacks. We can also use it for precision marketing, to predict and reduce customer churn, to forecast product sales. Could our government not do a bit of data mining to understand why someone becomes a terrorist and then do some scenario analysis to see if we can constructively create conditions that will address root causes?