Where this all is leading

I.B.M.’s Watson, the supercomputing technology that defeated human Jeopardy! champions in 2011, is a prime example of the power of data-intensive artificial intelligence.

Watson-style computing, analysts said, is precisely the technology that would make the ambitious data-collection program of the N.S.A. seem practical. Computers could instantly sift through the mass of Internet communications data, see patterns of suspicious online behavior and thus narrow the hunt for terrorists.

Both the N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency have been testing Watson in the last two years, said a consultant who has advised the government and asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak.

There is more here, pointer is from Claudia Sahm.


Stop it. Just stop it. They are only going to use Watson to ensure 50.0000000000000001% probability of foreignness.

James Hansen can tweak the algorithm to guarantee 50.0000000000000001% a lot cheaper.

Actually, he's cost billions. Nevermind.

Conventional notions of privacy map very poorly onto algorithm-driven sifting of data. Even if you're not the center of attention, you still need to be there as a data-point for statistical patterns to be drawn.

My own prediction is this: it'll noisily and bitterly climb to a SCOTUS challenge, one way or another, either about private or public data-mining, and then SCOTUS will rule via compelling interest that modern algorithmic practicality trumps old interpretations of the Fourth (for the state) and reasonable-expectation (for the corporation).

The sizes of the raw data sets are so large, that any analysis would probably have to discard 95+% of the data on a first pass before trying to find any patterns.

Presumably there's some Watson-like technology behind the so-called "disposition matrix" that was revealed last year.

IBM selling its most advanced technology to a government interested in collating data to pursue specific policy goals to improve government achieving its social goals?

What, are we living in the 30s? Or does seriously anyone think IBM has never done anything else throughout the entire age of calculating machinery?

Though let us keep in mind that IBM is only in it for the profit. What the data is used for is not for them to judge, as long as the payment is correctly handled.


NB: IBM's first customer was Goldman Sachs.

Correction: Citigroup. Same-same.

Anything that negatively affects the price of IBM stock is a threat to national security.

Watson was beta tested against multiple human Jeopardy champions and lost badly (including against me). When it went on the show, its sensors were auto-timed to the buzzer in a more effective (i.e., cheating) way than it had been previously and all of a sudden it beat Jennings and Rutter.

Coincidence? or maybe IBM paid Sony for the privilege of the massive amount of free publicity it is receiving now.

"Computers could instantly sift through the mass of Internet communications data, see patterns of suspicious online behavior and thus narrow the hunt for terrorists."

Tyler, any idea what the Hayek of LLL would say to this? Is this okay or is this not okay?

It seems fairly general. They're only looking at patterns associated with criminal/terrorist behavior. If your pattern does not fit, you would not even be looked at. The analogy is of the police walking down the street and noticing something suspicious (e.g. shouts for help inside a house, a drugs smell etc.). That usually is enough for further investigation.

"They’re only looking at patterns associated with criminal/terrorist behavior."

Yes - but, that there was a group in England that looked at the problem and one of the indicators of terrorist activity was that the person did not have life insurance.


If life insurance is the norm in a society, then not having life insurance is suspicious yes. This is why terrorists try to blend in as much as possible. Same as the case with other criminals: they'll try to avoid anything that could label them to be a suspect under the law.

If we focused on promoting the humanities instead of STEM degrees the NSA would have no one to hire.

Here is a very entertaining overview of how all this metadata harvesting works:


"Using metadata to find Paul Revere"

Eventually, they will decide Watson to be reliable enough to entrust with the red button. And then, it will become self-aware...

So will patterns found in otherwise innocuous data soon be considered probable cause for searches and arrests?

The more I hear about this, the more I think the show Person of Interest isn't that much of a fantasy.

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