U.S. Military Uses "Reality Mining" Data System To Read Afghan Social Fabric

Afghan man

Photo: AP

A massive new data mining system called “Nexus 7” is being used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan to understand the subterranean fissures in Afghan society, and to look for signs of weakness or instability.The classified program ties together “everything from spy radars to fruit prices” in order to read the Afghan social situation and help the U.S. military plot strategy, according to Wired magazine.

Wired reports:

“During a decade of war, American forces have gathered exabytes of information on its enemies in Afghanistan. Nexus 7 aims to tap that data to find out more about the U.S.’ alleged friends: the people of Afghanistan, and how they interact with their government and with one another.”

Designed by the defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Nexus 7 specifically tries to measure whether certain communities are falling apart or stabilizing, and whether insurgent support is rising in a certain area or draining away.

The program is based on the idea that the military has focused for too long on archaic measurements like body counts, and should instead focus on “population-centric, cultural intelligence.”

One of the “godfathers” of the program, according to Wired, was the Australian General David Kilcullen, a former aid to General David Petraeus and a leading counterinsurgency theorist. He advocated looking at the price of goods in a public market, for instance, as evidence of the health of a community. He now runs a Washington-based consultant group that advises DARPA on its cultural intelligence project.

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