Could The U.S. Military’s New Search Engine Replace Google?
DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is the cutting-edge Pentagon research organization whose ancestor ARPA helped develop the Internet back in 1969. Now, DARPA has launched a new project, called Memex, to create a better way of searching the Web.
DARPA says the problem with current Web search techniques is that searches must be manually entered one at a time, search sessions aren’t saved, search results are not organized, and the Deep Web – the part not covered by commercial search engines like Google – is not mined.
DARPA wants to create a better way. “We’re envisioning a new paradigm for search that would tailor indexed content, search results and interface tools to individual users and specific subject areas, and not the other way around,” said Memex program manager Chris White in a DARPA news release. “By inventing better methods for interacting with and sharing information, we want to improve search for everybody and individualize access to information. Ease of use for non-programmers is essential.”
Memex will use open-source architecture to focus on three areas: domain-specific indexing, domain-specific search, and various applications for the Department of Defense. And in a nod to public fears about government spying, DARPA makes clear that it is not interested in proposals for “attributing anonymous services, deanonymizing or attributing identity to servers or IP addresses, or accessing information not intended to be publicly available.”
More details can be found here. But what’s particularly interesting is that DARPA wants a search engine that can be used by commercial as well as government users. In other words, something that you and I can use.
Not that DARPA is doing this to help people find hotter porn or cuter cat videos. The U.S. military and intelligence agencies are overloaded with vast amounts of information gathered by everything from NSA eavesdropping, to video imagery from surveillance drones, to monitoring Chinese and Iranian Web sites. Huge quantities of information, obtained at great expense and sometimes questionable legality, are in digital limbo because there are not enough human analysts to sift through it all. Software that can sift through mounds of data to answer a search engine query is at the top of the government’s to-do list.
Memex, by the way, get its name from a device called Memex (short for “memory index” or “memory extender”), a proto-Internet proposed in 1945 by Vannevar Bush, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II.
Will the modern Memex produce a new Google? It’s hard to predict. DARPA is the kind of blue-sky research organization whose ideas sometimes work or sometimes don’t. But it’s possible that one day, instead of “googling”, we’ll be “memexing”.
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