Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Red Team Scenario 1 : Creutzfeldt-Jakob Scare

One mad-cow disease ridden beast has turned up in northern Alberta. As a result, beef exports from Canada have been banned from most countries. Needless to say, this has strained Canada's trade relations with a number of other countries and host cost the economy. Despite this trauma, no deaths have been reported.

What would happen if a number of beasts across North American and Europe came down with a BSE variant? What would the cost be? Could terrorists pull this off?


Based on some information at the FDA, here's how they could do it:

  1. Get some cattle
  2. Get some BSE contaminated... from a research lab
  3. Infect cattle
  4. Slaughter
  5. Feed to other cattle

Indexing Implications

Based on this pretty vague and basic exercise, TIA needs to extract a variety of information: purchases of or changes of ownership in cattle, thefts from or access to BSE material, a working ranch to house and infect cattle possibly without noticeable product sales, means of transporting infected cattle to other animals either overtly or secretly.

Monday, July 21, 2003

More thoughts on TIA...

After spending some time thinking about the TIA's classification problems (see below), I decided to take a look at some DARPA documents to determine exactly what this project is supposed to entail. After doing some reading, I was blown away. A report presented to Congress made for some of the most entertaining reading I've had all year. I don't think there was a single paragraph that I didn't take exception to. The whole document read like a discursive case study built specifically for a Library and Information Science curriculum: the Foucauldian Panopticon-- it's in there; limitations to practical information retrieval-- you got it; indexing and classification impossibilities-- yup; complete ignorance of socially constructed truths-- of course; difficulties in tacit knowledge exchange-- certainly; and faith in Information Visualization to overcome cognitive overload-- absolutely.

For your reading pleasure, here's the report: Report to Congress regarding the Terrorism Information Awareness Program (May 20, 2003)

Luckily, the ACM provides a link to a foil for DARPA's tragic hero: Total Information Awareness Programs : Funding, Composition, and Oversight Issues

Personally, I think that I'll be spending a lot more time looking at this issue. First I'll have to sort out the acronyms: NGFR, ARM, TIDES, EARS, GALE, EELD, BioALIRT, MInDet, SSNA, WAE, RAW... oh my!

Of Dragons and Classifications

Whoa... here's an interesting article by Lily Diaz-Kommonen. Just a sample of the mysteries within:

"Ontology has been described as the science of being; a “theory regarding the entities, especially the abstract entities to be admitted into a language of description.” Ontology can also be defined as a way of characterizing the world and its entities through language. As a tool for description, ontology can be used in defining parameters, as well as the artifacts and ecology that populate a given domain of knowledge. Formal classification systems are definitions of shared ontologies for particular knowledge domains. Against this background, the material culture resulting from syncretism presents an immense challenge to traditional ontological approaches. On the one hand, there is the immense variety and complexity of knowledge sources and traditions crystallized in the syncretic representation. On the other, there is the problematic of fuzzy boundaries characteristic of syncretism. When dealing with a syncretic artifact, there may be no way to empirically ascertain a common ancestor, a source of origin. Ultimately there may not be such as thing as a pure ideal type against which others can be measured. This essay examines some of the issues and problems involved in the classification of syncretic artifacts. It advocates the need for development of alternative approaches and proposes an initial thrust of development through the use of Prototype Theory. Such efforts can be instrumental in the design of new forms of interpretation and knowledge production."

And she justifies it all while describing the curious inclusion of a Japanese Samurai statue in the Latin American section of the Helinä Rautavaara collection. Interesting stuff!