The eerily accurate predictions CIA made on Technology, back in 1962


Last week, CIA declassified for the first time an internal memo titled ““Some Far-Out Thoughts on Computers” written and distributed back in 1962 by an analyst named Orrin Clotworthy. Reading it one can see the definite interest the Agency had at that time to understand the importance of big data to achieve it’s goals during the cold war. Apart from the purposes though, the predictions made by Clotworthy back in 1962, are terrifyingly accurate in fields of technology we use today, such as big data and social networks. Let’s give it a glimpse

Predicting mass human behavior “with confidence”

Where we lag is not in [computer] processing technology, but in the behavioral science ‘laboratories,’ where only the faintest of beginnings have been made in the application of physical science techniques to the study of societies. We are doubtless years away from the knowledge of causes and effects that will permit us to predict mass human behavior with real confidence. Yet there is rising optimism among scholars that we will some day be able to foretell the behavior of large groups of people with reasonable limits, given accurate and timely measures of certain telltale factors.

On monitoring the sale of plum brandy to predict regime change in the Balkans

Let’s imagine, for example, that we discover an extremely high correlation between Tito’s popularity among the Yugoslavs and the consumption of slivovitz in that country: when the per capita absorption goes up, his stock goes down. As long as we are aware of this and he is not, we will find it profitable to collect precise data on boozing among the Yugoslavs. To keep our interest undetected, we resort to clandestine collection techniques, because once he learns of it and knows the reason why, he can adopt countermeasures, for instance doctored consumption figures. The variations in this game are endless.

Call of Duty—Gaming the enemy

The Air Force has been experimenting for years with a mock-up of the strategic air battle, using a computer to simulate the clash between a surprise intercontinental air and space assault force and the defensive and counter-strike resources of this country. … While these games are great value as instructional aids, they are far more than that. With the computer alternate strategies are subjected to realistic tests, and aerospace doctrine emerges. And the time is not too remote when fresh intelligence on a potential enemy’s capabilities and order of battle, fed into a computer as it is received, will turn out constantly changing designs for an optimum counter-strategy.

Social connections to serve intelligence

Or take the matter of acquaintances. It is our suspicion that in many cases where someone in an intelligence organization has an interest in someone outside of it, American of foregh, there may well be sitting down the hall and two floors up from him someone who know the object of his interst personally. If he doesn’t know him directly, he know someone who is directly acquainted with him. Let’s just consider American citizens. Suppose that each employee of an organization knows 1000 Americans outside of the organization. Then for every 1000 employees there are 1 million Americans who are known directly. Allowing for a 50% duplication rate, there remain 500.000 Americans who are known to at least one employee of the organization. These half million in turn know 1000 each, or a total of 500 million people. Cutting again for duplications we are left with 250 million people.

Some interesting conlcusions could be drawn from a similar approach to the question of what foregh citizens have ties of acquaintance, direct or indirect, to the staff of an intelligence organization. Would it be worth the expense to collect such information and keep it current? That is not for use to decide, but we can say that without the vast and infallible memory of a computer, such an undertaking would be unthinkable. (They obviously did. Have a glimpse at facebook).

Want more? You can read the full report here. It is immensely interesting and proves that the future is not that “unknown” to some people or organizations.

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