You know Amazon. It’s that enormous online Walmart-style store where you can buy anything from furniture to food and have it delivered to your door.
In a joint project, a Central Intelligence Agency-linked firm has joined forces with Amazon in a bid to use “computer vision” to spy on the Earth with unprecedented clarity.
That CIA-linked company is CosmiQ Works, which is a division of the CIA’s venture arm In-Q-Tel, a space project dedicated to all things outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Now CosmiQ Works has joined forces with the massive online retailer and the cartography firm DigitalGlobe to create algorithms to map out the Earth with the chip-making company Nvidia.
You may be thinking that we already have similar technology with GPS and Google maps, but it is not even close in similar detail to the technology these companies are collaborating on.
These companies are taking it one step further and experimenting with artificial intelligence to analyze mapped photos.
The partners hope to collect 60 million satellite images and store them in a database called SpaceNet — which is eerily similar to Skynet, the name of the company responsible for artificial intelligence that leads to the destruction of the world in the Terminator series.
In full “transparency,” these photos will be open and accessible by members of the public.
DigitalGlobe explained that SpaceNet data will eventually include high-resolution images of half a million square miles of Earth. NASA’s images only have a resolution of about 10 meters.
Programmers will then design algorithms, which can work out what’s happening in the images or highlight the buildings, objects and natural features in the photos.
Tony Frazier, a Senior Vice President at DigitalGlobe, commented on this by saying it’s,
“fuelled by the massive amount of information about our changing planet that DigitalGlobe collects every day”.
But isn’t this news disconcerting? The idea of this project is like it is being taken directly from a George Orwell novel. It is just another way for the government to keep a steady, watchful all-knowing eye on all of us.
Tony Frazier reinforced this conspiracy theory when he said:
“Each minute something is happening in the world.
While commercial constellations are poised to collect imagery at a global scale, we must advance our ability to analyze data to realize its full potential.
SpaceNet is key to unlocking a huge explosion of new AI-driven applications that ultimately will help us better respond to natural disasters, counter global security threats, improve population health outcomes, and much more.
The industry is coming together to power smarter algorithms so we can see and learn things from imagery about our planet that we simply cannot know today through manual techniques.”
Nvidia is assisting with the artificial intelligence tool to work out what’s happening in images collected during the project.
Dr. Jon Barker, a solutions architect at Nvidia, said:
“Innovation of AI algorithms is fuelled by large, high-quality, labeled datasets like SpaceNet and flexible, open-source machine learning tools.
Researchers will be able to create high-impact geospatial applications by applying our DIGITS deep learning tool to the SpaceNet data corpus.”
This is just another abuse of power and spying that invades privacy laws — but what do they care? What are your thoughts on this new project? Tell us below.