My ole pal Luke ("my mate Luke from Thanks For All The AIDS, in fact) took this near the old PlayLouder offices between Bethnal Green and Shoreditch this morning.
"Proper end-of-days sinister radio-controlled flying bug," he wrote on his Facebook, "potential surveillance / New World Order, are the paranoid mentalists right? device hovering over Bethnal Green this morning."
He then Tweeted me the beautiful image you see above, adding, "perhaps you've been right all along."
I referred him to a blog I wrote wrote in 2008 about DARPA's "cyborg moths and beetles" program. Forsooth:
For the past 50 years, work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit — has led to some of the most lethal weaponry in the U.S. arsenal: from Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drones and stealth fighters and bombers to Tomahawk cruise missiles and Javelin portable “fire and forget” guided missiles. For the last several years, DARPA has funneled significant sums of money into a very different kind of guided missile project, its Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS) program. This project is, according to DARPA, “aimed at developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis.” Put simply, the creation of cyborg insects: part bug, part bot.
Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They’re creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.
OK. So. Imagine if, say Iran were developing fuckin’ cyborg fuckin’ wasps. The uproar! Fucking I’d say that was reason enough to nuke them! Jesus! And here’s Uncle Sam playing Dr Frankenstein with buggiewugs, and no one seems even mildly perturbed. Well I am seriously perturbed! Real wasps are bad enough, let alone remote controlled evil US Army Wasps with their stingers dipped in AIDS and mounted with fuckin’ cameras. Christ On A Stick! There isn’t even any kind of pretend medical advantage in this research! It is purely for the purpose of MURKING and SNEAKING and MORE MURKING!
It is worth bearing in mind Google's recent patenting of background noise, and their hiring of the former head of DARPA, Regina Dugan, who "oversaw the development of some of the US military’s most marvelous high tech accomplishments."
One assumes the CIA et all's version of Streetview is a bit niftier than our own by this point.
We should also remember the recent announcement of SRI International's Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes, a five year project founded by DARPA to create artificial intelligence that will be fed masses of human data from which it will learn to be like us... but "better." In their words, "cognitive software systems, that is, systems that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience, and respond robustly to surprise."
This project is being helped, it appears by Apple, and their new Siri software. As Venture Beat wrote last month:
Conspiracy theorists will love this one: A computerized assistant that can help you manage your day to day life, built atop an artificial intelligence platform developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the United States’ internal military research group. Siri, the startup building the assistant, is today announcing $8.5 million in venture funding.
As befits its spookish origins, Siri isn’t saying a great deal yet about what it will do. Co-founder Dag Kittlaus, who licensed technology from DARPA’s CALO (Cognitive Agent that Learns and Organizes) project, calls it “a smarter, more personal interaction paradigm for the Internet.” Unfortunately, that’s about as specific as calling Google “a thing that finds stuff.” Those who want a sneak peek at Siri will instead have to look to CALO.
So here’s what we know about CALO: It’s a concerted effort to take the first real step toward artificial intelligence, with five years of work and $200 million in funding to date. Rather than being immediately useful, it learns about the user over time, much like a real personal assistant would. As it learns, it becomes capable of making logical associations and initiating its own actions.
Ho ho ho. "Conspiracy theorists". "Paranoid mentalists." Slander always thrown at those who dare to zoom out on the Google Street View of everything and attempt to see the whole map. I was mocked in 2005 when I rapped, "the mortgage based securities bubble's about the blow/ it's not a fairytale or speculation, this is what we know." Back in 2000 there was a story about Sony recalling video cameras that could film through people's clothes. Oh, the laughter, Now they're in airports all over the world. Yesterday's Paranoid Mentalism is today's Yeah Whatever.
Today, I asked Luke: is it being a paranoid mentalist to pay attention to what the military are up to and to understand the implications in the context of their historical track record?
No matter. We will all be paranoid mentalists soon enough.