Usually the Pentagon expends time and technological effort to protect information. But now the far-out researchers at Darpa are looking for a few good futurists to help the Obama administration declassify reams of national security documents.
In a new challenge for programmers and the corporations that employ them, Darpa asks interested parties to provide "new technology or innovative existing technology" to help determine what secret documents the government can responsibly declassify. "Striking the critical balance between openness and secrecy is difficult but a necessary part of our democratic form of government," reads a pre-bidding solicitation the defense geeks issued last week. "Striking this balance becomes more difficult as the volume and complexity of the information increases."
I’ll be honest: I’m not exactly sure what kind of technological solution you can build to facilitate declassification. From the way the challenge is structured, it sounds like a semantic-search problem: plug in keywords that help you comb through deserts of stored information in the bowels of the Pentagon and the intelligence community, and figure out whether the results of the fishing expedition can be tossed out from the depths onto dry land in accordance with declassification policies. But that’s a matter of building an algorithm, something that might be too, well, quotidian for Darpa.
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