Nexus 7: America’s Orwellian Project in Afghanistan

Now that America will soon start its “withdrawal” of troops from Afghanistan, the brainiacs over at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, have developed Nexus 7, which, “aims to tap that data [“exabytes” collected by American troops during the war] 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.” Much of this data also comes from America’s amorphous and ever growing intelligence apparatus:

On the military’s classified network, however, Darpa technologists pitch Nexus 7 as far-reaching and revolutionary, culling “hundreds of existing data sources from multiple Agencies and Services” to produce “population-centric, cultural intelligence.”

They boast of Nexus 7’s ties to special operations and to America’s most secretive surveillance groups, and its sophisticated tools to “perform automated cross-correlation and analysis of massive, sparse datasets — recomputing stability indicators within minutes of new data updates.”

In practice, that means Nexus 7 culls the vast U.S. spy apparatus to figure out which communities in Afghanistan are falling apart and which are stabilizing; which are loyal to the government in Kabul and which are falling under the influence of the militants.

As if this does not sound frightening enough, tracking the movements and actions of an entire nation some 7,000 miles away, someone with intimate knowledge of the project ominously asked, “Let’s take that God’s-eye view…Instead of tracking a car, why not track all cars?” Such a mindset is a cause for great concern. Following the deadliest month for Afghan civilians in the history of the decade long war, has American imperialism become so cold and calculated that the Afghan people are not only shown a disregard for life, but their liberties as well? And if this project can be done halfway across the world, how much longer until Americans are mere cogs in a “population centric” model?

Just another sign of imperialistic indulgence, Nexus 7 does such things as gathering data on “exotic vegetables — those grown outside a particular district that have to be transported further at greater risk in order to be sold in that district — can be a useful telltale marker.” In the progressive spirit of new-American nation building and counterinsurgency tactics, “old-school metrics like body counts” were being focused on too much, said Major General Michael Flynn. A better indication of hatred for an occupying force, and therefore stability, than the price of exotic vegetables would be the number of innocent civilians killed. Amazingly, seeing one’s friends and family blown to unrecognizable bits is not conducive to stability. Yet such statements are not all that shocking coming from a man responsible for sending boatloads of innocent Afghans to Guantanamo Bay while maintaining that “we were sending the right folks” despite being proven otherwise.

The problem with Nexus 7, besides the premise of the decade long occupation itself, is that it is quantitative in nature. Then again, this problem seems to be permeating the social sciences everywhere: whether it be “forecasting” the American economy 10 years from now or predicting the Congressional breakdown in 25 years. People are not static: their thoughts and opinions, motivations and actions, desires and wants, are constantly changing. All it takes is one black swan to make a complete mockery of the modern day School of Quantification of the Cogs. Perhaps what is most frightening about all things quantitative is that the human element of just about everything disappears. It’s no longer about helping the devastated Afghan community, but about ensuring a quality cost-benefit analysis.

This is precisely why the Nexus 7 project is flawed at it’s core: if it can’t be neatly plotted on a graph, out the window it goes, no matter how valuable the information:

Step one was to dive into SIGACTS, the military database that contained accounts of nearly every firefight American troops fought. (The information later formed the bedrock of WikiLeaks’ “war logs.”)

Drizzled between the gun battles were occasional accounts of villages stabilized and town elders met. But, written as random notes, the accounts were hard to insert into a database. There was nothing consistent, nothing you could plot as a trend over time.

“These were intelligence reports, not measurable data,” the source says. “The population-centric information wasn’t to be found there.”

These “technogeeks” and the military-intelligence establishment’s disregard for the basic dignity of the Afghan population can effectively be summed up in a self-addressed question and answer,

Why bother holing Nexus 7 up at a stateside test bed, one person familiar with Nexus 7 asks, “when you can give it to a company in Afghanistan and get 1,000 times the number of observations? It’s not like these are weapons. If it doesn’t work, the worst that happens is it doesn’t work.”

How empowering it must be for the Afghan people to have the all encompassing “God’s eye-view” watch everything that they do, from vegetable prices to car routes to meetings with tribal elders. But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Data must be collected at any and all costs for a science fair winner on steroids that just happened to tickle DARPA’s fancy. Any dissent from the Afghan people will promptly be ignored, unless it is quantifiable, of course.

Perhaps desperate for some accomplishment, the military-intelligence establishment is making a last ditch effort at turning around the war in Afghanistan. Rather than acknowledging the difficulty, if not impossibility, of turning a country stuck light years in the past into a thriving Western democracy hostile to al-Qaeda, the blame has been laid on human intelligence. And while the intelligence community’s performance in Afghanistan has been lackluster, a computerized model will not do much better. Like all hubristic empires on their way out, hope still remains:

“If you get transparency [Nexus 7], you don’t need boots on the ground.”

But you will need some drones in the sky.


17 thoughts on “Nexus 7: America’s Orwellian Project in Afghanistan”

  1. The military budget is untouchable. (Well,… it has been for the last 65 years, but that will change soon.) So if you want a big juicy contract, if you want to live high up on the nostalgic hilltop of American exceptionalism, then submit a proposal peppered with opaque (and meaningless) techno-bull. Get that proposal in now while the money lasts, which may not be much longer. And make sure to hit all those crucial hot-button bullet points, lest other proposals win out in the battle of hyperbolic snake oil salesmanship. So offer up God-like see-all, know-all, control-all omnipotence, all made possible by pricey (can't be any good if it doesn't cost at least a hundred million) nano techno cybernetic gizmo-tronic surging kenetic super-secret classified victory-guaranteed vaporware.

    But act now, this is a limited-time offer. If you wait too long you just might hear those fateful words once endured only by the dirt people: Game Over, get a job.

  2. "So offer up God-like see-all, know-all, control-all omnipotence, all made possible by pricey (can't be any good if it doesn't cost at least a hundred million) nano techno cybernetic gizmo-tronic surging kenetic super-secret classified victory-guaranteed vaporware. "

    This is awesome. Reminds me of Carlin's skit on humanism.

  3. Hm, let's think about this- why not test this system in a peaceful area FIRST and prove the concept and technology BEFORE throwing it to the wolves halfway around the world? Surely the American would welcome the chance to be beta testers for a system that is sure to be promoted by the spin doctors as vital to US national security…. wouldn't they? Who wouldn't jump at the chance to be in on the ground floor of testing something of this nature- and testing it right here in the US where there's no fog of war, no irrational behavior from enemy fighters, no hatred from the indigenous population.

    What it all boils down to are two things: a) somebody (or group of somebodies) connected in government is going to be getting very wealthy from the sale of this system and its components, and b) this is just another method of controlling a population, be it foreign or- more likely- domestic.

  4. Jeff Davis is spot on. This is nothing but a money grab. They can’t even protect the Afghan government!!!!!! The place is a third world hell hole!!!!! It is meaningless. I hope it comes to America. Our masters are swimming in so much data already just give them more. Safety in numbers. Lol

  5. Nexus 7, eh?

    Well, it's just a warm up for what those evil b@st@rds are going to give us here. We will all be Afghans if these POSs have their way.

    I hope the sons (and daughters) of b..ches choke on all their data.

  6. It looks as though the conditioner's brain must be conditioned first, before he can do "worthwhile" information anaylsis.
    As Einstein said "He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice."
    We are creating monsters and giving them deadly weapons.

  7. A person who committed something wrong will obviously not want to face justice, and he will say that he was only following orders, even though this is a lie.

    NATO has every reason to have the leaders found guilty, even if they are innocent, because otherwise NATO cannot keep up their murdering and thieving ways.
    Anglo-America always knew that the Non-Serbs of the former Yugoslavia will be ready Sugar Daddy of Anglo-America, and because someone has to be seen to be guilty of the recent Balkan wars, then it could not be allowed to be the Non-Serbs, even though the Non-Serbs are far more Guilty, than what anyone could falsely accuse the Innocent Serbian People. Austin Locksmith

  8. I hope things "calm down" with the " HOLY SEASON " starting.

    MAY GOD BLESS our guys overseas//the leadership in WASH DC//& "GOD BLESS" THE USA!!!

    I hope everyone has a wonderful HOLIDAYS

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