Overmind hires Rutgers to build PreCog Institute

The so-called Homeland Security Agency is looking to use supercomputers & datamining to find latent terrorism in “open-source web logs” and other nasty & threatening instances of that pernicious “free speech” thing:

Leading the Rutgers effort is the university’s Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). It will include partner researchers from AT&T Laboratories, Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Texas Southern University. This group will develop computing technologies that find patterns and relationships in data, such as news stories, open-source web logs, and other accessible information, to quickly identify emerging indicators of possible terrorist activity, and rate the consistency and reliability of the sources. Such information could give officials more lead time to investigate and potentially thwart terrorist plans.

“The challenge involved in this endeavor is not only the massive amount of information out there, but also how quickly it flows and how fast the sources of information change,” said Fred Roberts, director of DIMACS. “We will develop real-time streaming algorithms to find patterns and relationships in communications, such as among writers who may be hiding their identities, and to rate information sources for their reliability and trustworthiness.”

The Rutgers center will undertake nine research projects in its first year and will also create educational programs around the technology it develops, such as courses and certificate programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The center will also establish outreach efforts for high school students and community groups.

I do appreciate that Stasi throwback to “outreach efforts for efforts for high school students and community groups.” So very retro!

Heckova job, Rutgers! Heckova job!


  1. Cool.

    Well, as long as they cite my paper (well, the one on which I am an author), anyway. 🙂

    You have no idea what I went through to keep that work out of the moral tar pit. This project is worth watching closely and skeptically, but it’s not necessarily evil. The scientists may be doing far more to protect speech than this little blurb suggest.

  2. eann,

    If you would like a guest spot to tell us more, please ping me.

  3. Not universally, of course, but for the most part, academic researchers are not great fans of the current administration. Nor really any–governments are for funding, not for serving. Remember, it’s a group of people to whom tenure (i.e., exemption from thoughtcrime) is all-important.

    I may take some time and develop this into a little essay, colored by my own history with related work. The sky isn’t falling until it’s been empirically observed to be falling, but it’s not a bad idea to carry an umbrella.

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