US Intelligence Agencies Create Artificial Brain To Analyse Military Data


These first years of the 21st century have been signed by a booming technological development that has permeated every aspect of our lives. From smartphones to the Internet of Things (IoT), almost every device we consume today seems to be “intelligent”. However, US intelligence agencies have taken this concept to another level.

According to a very interesting article published by journalist Sarah Scoles on online news site The Verge, US National Reconnaissance Agency (NRO) Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Karen Furgerson, admitted that scientists have been working on a project called Sentient, which consists in a sort of artificial brain labelled as “an omnivorous analysis tool”, capable of “devouring data of all sorts, making sense of the past and present, anticipating the future, and pointing satellites toward what it determines will be the most interesting parts of that future”.

“The agency [NRO] has been developing this artificial brain for years, but details available to the public remain scarce” Ms Scoles wrote. “’It ingests high volumes of data and processes it. Sentient catalogs normal patterns, detects anomalies, and helps forecast and model adversaries’ potential courses of action”, said Ms Furgerson, quoted by Ms Scoles.

The article explains that, due to the big amounts of data that intelligence agencies receive on a daily basis, devices like Sentient help them “connect the dots”. “All the images from the NRO, the military, and commercial satellite firms, combined with other geospatial intelligence — anything that has a time tag and a location tag — create a vast amount of information that’s far more than a literal army of people could comb through”, Ms Scoles expressed. “To keep up with the fire hose of information, the NRO turns in part to AI”, she added.

However, this project has raised deep concerns on ethical issues like people’s privacy. “Do the algorithms actually work? In what ways are they biased? How many false positives do they generate?”, Ms Scoles wondered. “What biases might lurk inside Sentient? What has its training data looked like? Who’s validating its conclusions, and how?”, she continued. But Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists answers: “those are the questions you don’t want the sponsors or funders of Sentient to be asking and answering by themselves”.

Draw your own conclusions…

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