There is a new program this season on CBS called Person of Interest. The show has its flaws, but the concept of the all-encompassing data mining behind it is not as far-fetched as one might think, Government Aims to Build a ‘Data Eye in the Sky’
More than 60 years ago, in his “Foundation” series, the science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov invented a new science — psychohistory — that combined mathematics and psychology to predict the future.
Now social scientists are trying to mine the vast resources of the Internet — Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones — to do the same thing.
The most optimistic researchers believe that these storehouses of “big data” will for the first time reveal sociological laws of human behavior — enabling them to predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability, just as physicists and chemists can predict natural phenomena.
“This is a significant step forward,” said Thomas Malone, the director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We have vastly more detailed and richer kinds of data available as well as predictive algorithms to use, and that makes possible a kind of prediction that would have never been possible before.”
The government is showing interest in the idea. This summer a little-known intelligence agency began seeking ideas from academic social scientists and corporations for ways to automatically scan the Internet in 21 Latin American countries for “big data,” according to a research proposal being circulated by the agency. The three-year experiment, to begin in April, is being financed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or Iarpa (pronounced eye-AR-puh), part of the office of the director of national intelligence.
Some data analysis along these lines is already being used. As the uprisings in Egypt started there were stories in the mainstream press about the failure of intelligence agencies to predict its occurrence – Pentagon’s Prediction Software Didn’t Spot Egypt Unrest. On the POI show only one man has access to this super data mining and it is used to help people. The software’s creator in fact makes the decision not to turn it over to the government for fear it might be abused.
Not that I do not sympathize with the OWS “99%” protesters, the problem with such protests are two-fold. They are easily subverted by the opposition ( and here – Journalists Funded By ‘Vulture Capitalist’ Paul Singer Campaign To Smear Wall Street Protests) the powers that be are called that because they do indeed have the advantage in wielding power – On Wall Street’s Private Police in NYPD Uniforms.
And it turns out that big financial service firms have also been buying protection via the NYPD. Literally.
Pam Martens in Counterpunch (hat tip reader 1sk) describes a program which allows private firms to pay the city to put a cop on the street to police for them. I am not making this up. Oh, and the white shirted cops that seem to be more aggressive in going after protestors (most notably, the one that infamously maced a group of women?) The assumption has been that they are supervisors. Martens suggests they are in the employ of businesses…
The history of organized labor and progressive change in America is also a history of law enforcement corruption and violence: 1) ” The Coal and Iron Police was a private police force in the United States established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly but employed and paid by the various coal companies.” 2) The Palmer Raids – historically justified because they actually did round-up a few violent anarchists and extreme leftists. Those were the minority in what became wholesale round-ups of citizens who simply became “undesirables”. 3) Colorado Labor Wars 1903-1904. Mine owners used political influence to get the National Guard to bust heads on their behalf. The owners also used paid head busters such as Pinkerton’s detectives and privately hired vigilantes.
Bootstraps – Fortyfive
Bootstraps at iTunes.
What’ll I Do – Lisa Hannigan