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7 high-tech programs that want to pick your brain

From predicting the future to helping the FBI solve a murder mystery, your brain is wanted in these high-tech programs

By , Network World
July 18, 2011 06:10 AM ET

Network World - With increasing frequency it seems agencies of the government are looking to tap into the public consciousness to gather information on everything from how you surf the Web to how they can use information generated by you to predict the future. It's all a little creepy, really. Here we take a look at seven programs announced this year that in some cases really want to crawl into your brain to see what's happening in the world.

U.S. intelligence agency wants technology to predict the future from public events

Publicly available data that could be aggregated and used by intelligent systems to predict future events is out there, if you can harness the technology to utilize it. That's one of the driving ideas behind a program that the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) group will detail at a Proposer's Day conference in Washington, D.C., in August.

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The program, known as the Open Source Indicators (OSI), will aim to "develop methods for continuous, automated analysis of publicly available data in order to anticipate and/or detect societal disruptions, such as political crises, disease outbreaks, economic instability, resource shortages, and natural disasters," IARPA stated.

According to the agency: "Many significant societal events are preceded and/or followed by population-level changes in communication, consumption, and movement. Some of these changes may be indirectly observable from publicly available data, such as web search trends, blogs, microblogs, internet traffic, webcams, financial markets, and many others. Published research has found that many of these data sources are individually useful in the early detection of events such as disease outbreaks and macroeconomic trends. However, little research has examined the value of combinations of data from diverse sources."

NASA, DARPA looking for your input for futuristic space exploration dialogue

DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center are soliciting abstracts, papers, topics and members for discussion panels, to be part of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium to be held in Orlando, Fla., from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. "This won't just be another space technology conference -- we're hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we're thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight," said David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA in a statement. "This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming and innovation."

Apple of my eye? U.S. fancies a huge metaphor repository

Researchers with the IARPA want to build a repository of metaphors. You read that right. Not just American/English metaphors, mind you, but those of Iranian Farsi, Mexican Spanish and Russian speakers. Why metaphors? "Metaphors have been known since Aristotle as poetic or rhetorical devices that are unique, creative instances of language artistry (for example: The world is a stage; Time is money). Over the last 30 years, metaphors have been shown to be pervasive in everyday language and to reveal how people in a culture define and understand the world around them," IARPA said.

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