Reducing Information Pollution
BY THE FIRST half of 2004, the National Security Agency was drowning in information. It had amassed 85 billion phone and online call records and cut the ribbon on a new hacking center in Hawaii — but it was woefully short on linguists who could make sense of captured communications and lacked enough network analysts to effectively monitor all the systems it had hacked.
The Marine Corps will field an update to a key command and control program that will provide more crucial situational awareness information to more units, enhancing commanders’ ability to make operational decisions while simplifying the user experience. The software update to the Joint Tactical Common Operational Picture Workstation (JTCW) combines seven applications into one user interface to create “a single digital display of relevant operational information” shared by commanders who are connected on a global combat operations network, the Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) said in a release.
Humans have feared the rise of machines since the 19th century, when textile workers known as the Luddites smashed the mechanical looms they thought would replace them.
Yes, machines have been replacing human workers for a very long time. Until recently it was manual laborers who had to worry about losing their jobs at factory or farm due to technological progress: robots can do many things humans can’t, more efficiently – and without complaint.
When military investigators looked into an attack by American helicopters last February that left 23 Afghan civilians dead, they found that the operator of a Predator drone had failed to pass along crucial information about the makeup of a gathering crowd of villagers.
Throughout the Defense Department and the federal government, the inefficient and undisciplined use of technology by the very people technology was supposed to benefit is degrading the quality of decision-making and hobbling the cognitive dimension of the information environment.
As the military rushes to place more spy drones over Afghanistan, the remote-controlled planes are producing so much video intelligence that analysts are finding it more and more difficult to keep up.
Air Force drones collected nearly three times as much video over Afghanistan and Iraq last year as in 2007–about 24 years’ worth if watched continuously. That volume is expected to multiply in the coming years as drones are added to the fleet and as some start using multiple cameras to shoot in many directions.
A group of young analysts already watches every second of the footage live as it is streamed to Langley Air Force Base here and to other intelligence centers, and they quickly pass warnings about insurgents and roadside bombs to troops in the field.