Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> life log
Andrew Jones on Tue, 20 May 2003 19:34:55 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> life log

anyone else see this?


A Spy Machine of Darpa's Dreams
By Noah Shachtman | Also by this reporter Page 1 of 2 next =

02:00 AM May. 20, 2003 PT

It's a memory aid! A robotic assistant! An epidemic detector! An
all-seeing, ultra-intrusive spying program!

The Pentagon is about to embark on a stunningly ambitious research
project designed to gather every conceivable bit of information about a
person's life, index it and make it searchable.

What national security experts and civil libertarians want to know is,
why would the Defense Department want to do such a thing?

The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does
into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture
taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show
watched, every magazine read.

All of this -- and more -- would combine with information gleaned from
a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that
person went; audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or
says; and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual's health.

This gigantic amalgamation of personal information could then be used
to "trace the 'threads' of an individual's life," to see exactly how a
relationship or events developed, according to a briefing from the
Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, LifeLog's sponsor.

Someone with access to the database could "retrieve a specific thread
of past transactions, or recall an experience from a few seconds ago or
from many years earlier =85 by using a search-engine interface."

On the surface, the project seems like the latest in a long line of
Darpa's "blue sky" research efforts, most of which never make it out of
the lab. But Steven Aftergood, a defense analyst with the Federation of
American Scientists , says he is worried.

With its controversial Total Information Awareness database project,
Darpa already is planning on tracking all of an individual's
"transactional data" -- like what we buy and who gets our e-mail.

Aftergood said he believes LifeLog could go far beyond that, adding
physical information (like how we feel) and media data (like what we
read) to this transactional data.

"LifeLog has the potential to become something like 'TIA cubed,'" he

In the private sector, a number of LifeLog-like efforts already are
underway to digitally archive one's life -- to create a "surrogate
memory," as minicomputer pioneer Gordon Bell calls it.

Bell, now with Microsoft, scans all his letters and memos, records his
conversations, saves all the Web pages he's visited and e-mails he's
received and puts them into an electronic storehouse dubbed MyLifeBits .

Darpa's LifeLog would take this concept several steps further by
tracking where people go and what they see.

That makes the project similar to the work of University of Toronto
professor Steve Mann . Since his teen years in the 1970s, Mann, a
self-styled "cyborg," has worn a camera and an array of sensors to
record his existence. He claims he's convinced 20 to 30 of his current
and former students to do the same. It's all part of an experiment into
"existential technology" and "the metaphysics of free will."

Story continued on Page 2 

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net