Lifelog is a proposed tool to capture the sum total, over time, of “one person’s experience in and interactions with the world.” It is one of many projects brought to us by the prolific and not very charming mating of your tax dollar with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Note to concerned citizens and other reactionaries: Lifelog is NOT part of the Poindexter’s Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) family, not yet anyway.
A small number of astute individuals have noticed that the "D" in DARPA is thought to stand for the word "Defense." Amazing but true! Some of these observers have asked, mainly each other in small groups while looking over their shoulder, "I wonder how this kind of data gathering is useful to the Defense Department?"
Wonder no more! By collecting and processing the sum total of a consenting adult’s actions and experiences Lifelog will "create breakthrough software that helps analyze behavior, habits and routines… [and] enhance the memory of military commanders ….by chronicling how users learn and then tailoring training accordingly…"
I can see wonderful applications for this capability, and I’m sure you can, too! Lifelog is about understanding and improving the way important Americans, like our military and civilian defense leadership, think and process information!
Let’s consider a few examples.
When I was in the Pentagon, I knew a two-star general whose young executive officer kept a large pastel colored ladies comb on top of his computer monitor. In the age of don’t ask, don’t tell, I naturally mercilessly teased the young exec about his prominent and unmilitary-looking comb. What did it mean? What hidden secrets were symbolized? Salacious abuse aside, the comb had a unique and critical function. After visitors to the general’s office had departed, and after the cleaning folks were finished, the executive officer was required to comb through the fringe on the ends of the general’s Persian carpet. All fibers were to be in perfect order, or else the proverbial well-known fan-hitting compound would hit the fan.
This kind of mission critical requirement at the highest levels would not have surprised Joseph Heller’s Captain Yossarian. And with Lifelog, it would not surprise the rest of us, either. We could now be a part of it, we could truly understand why this particular action was mission critical, and embrace it!
Think what Lifelog could do for this general — he could keep track of all the things that were done and not done, and react accordingly. No more returning to the office four times to be sure the fringe was straight, no more repetitive phone calls to ask the same question over and over. Lifelog could be a real time saver!
Consider two of our past Secretaries of Defense. Les Aspin visited Aviano Air Base in 1993 when I was stationed there. He got into some trouble because he and his lady friend were staying in an extremely pricey Venetian hotel, and I recall there were some missed meetings and gossip. It turned into an embarrassing incident all around. Lifelog would have been simply invaluable in this case! More information about what one is doing and how long it is taking, and what it costs, is always helpful, and could have prevented this situation entirely!
In the case of another Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen, Lifelog would have really come in handy — Bill not only exhibited some nervous habits and unusual personal behaviors, he was burdened with concern that he might not be respected or taken seriously by some of the military brass. A New England Republican working for the Democrats, that old chestnut. Again, Lifelog could have positively harnessed those behaviors, habits and routines while ensuring the best decision-making possible. Cohen would have been on top of his game!
Monitoring what our senior military people and their appointed advisors think and how they learn will be a goldmine for productivity! Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Bill Luti of the Office of Special Plans, all the members of the Defense Policy Board from Perle to Schlesinger to Gingrich to Woolsey could all use Lifelog — and why stop there? Lifelog can make learning and decision-making effective and efficient for the Bill Kristols and Krauthammers and Safires, the Cheneys and even George Bush himself!
We collectively wonder what they were thinking, as they trolled for publicly acceptable rationales for billions of tax dollars to be spent on black-gold plated occupations of foreign countries and cheap coffins for our young men and women. If we had Lifelog, we could "see what they see." How did Dubya, Dick, Rummy and Wolfie and the whole Defense Policy Board and their media mouthpieces come to know about all those WMDs in Iraq? How did they learn about Saddam’s link to terrorism? We must know how they processed the information, especially today, as we deal with a global collapse of U.S. credibility, in this time of dangerous and evil doubt expressed by even diehard supporters of the administration, in this national crisis of faith in Washington’s wisdom and honesty! I mean — for gosh sake — Scott Ritter is getting interviews again! This cannot stand!
Lifelog could help! Most likely, Rummy’s past experience in wooing Saddam and helping arrange shipments of WMD to him would be a big factor. Routine and frequent closed-door meetings with large groups of Israeli military officers in Mr. Feith’s office on the E-Ring would come into play. The real role of big corporate donors and companies whose board members also serve on the Defense Policy Board could be clarified! Lifelog, by tracking all of the inputs into a decision-maker’s world, would help us understand and more fully appreciate what this administration has wrought.
We wonder why our foreign, as well as domestic, policy is not constitutionally bounded. We wonder who is getting what from whom, and we want to follow the money. We wonder how and why the Pentagon staged the Jessica Lynch rescue. Lifelog can be a key tool in this quest for knowledge!
Break, break,… incoming call…. "Yes? OK, I understand… It isn’t? Really? ….Oh, so that’s what American exceptionalism means! What? No, no, sorry, I meant that in a nice way…OK, bye."
I have just been informed that Lifelog is NOT intended for use on government decision-makers and un-elected Washington cabals. It is designed solely for soldiers and consumers and people OUTSIDE of the halls of power… I must have misunderstood. And, I forgot to mention — private research into commercial aspects of this technology is well underway — predictably, the central planners are a day late and a tax-dollar short.
All is not lost. Lifelog, in helping the Defense Department and others better understand how the rest of us learn and perceive, will come in handy for our evangelizing government as it sells the average American on new violations of the Bill of Rights and the next big regime change in another country far, far away.
Unfortunately — most American seem to be buying those products just fine without Lifelog. Maybe we should just apply DARPA’s version of the 24/7 electronic diary to the libertarians in the crowd, you know, those who really need it. Now there’s an idea….
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.