Washington, May 29 (Reuters): The Pentagon is shopping for ways to capture everything a person sees, says and hears as part of a project it says is meant to help create smarter robots.
The projected system called Lifelog would suck in all of a subject’s experience — from phone numbers dialled and e-mails viewed to every breath taken, step made and place gone. The idea is to index the material, and make patterns easily retrievable in an effort to make machines think more like people, learning from experience.
The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon's cradle for revolutionary technologies, is sponsoring a competition to bring out proposals for setting up such a system.
The resulting knowhow could give US war fighters more effective computers capable of building on a user’s past and interpreting his or her commands, said Jan Walker, a DARPA spokeswoman.
She said the new project had nothing to do with DARPA’s Terrorism Awareness Information programme, a research initiative into creating a giant surveillance system aimed at thwarting terrorism which has been criticised by civil rights groups.
Perhaps eager to avoid any comparisons with George Orwell's all-seeing “Big Brother” in the classic novel 1984, DARPA said respondents must address “human subject approval, data privacy and security, copyright and legal considerations that would affect the LifeLog development process.”
Steven Aftergood, who tracks government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said he was not prepared to reject the LifeLog initiative or call it illegitimate.
”But, you know, it's one more program that demands vigilant oversight,” he said in a telephone interview.“The more personal experience that can be captured by digital means, the more vulnerable that experience is to unwanted surveillance.”