Page 1 of 2

The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 2:15 pm
by crikkett

Apple of my eye? US fancies a huge metaphor repository
By Layer 8 on Mon, 05/23/11 - 12:27pm.

Researchers with the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity want to build a repository of metaphors. You read that right. Not just American/English metaphors mind you but those of Iranian Farsi, Mexican Spanish and Russian speakers.

Why metaphors? "Metaphors have been known since Aristotle as poetic or rhetorical devices that are unique, creative instances of language artistry (for example: The world is a stage; Time is money). Over the last 30 years, metaphors have been shown to be pervasive in everyday language and to reveal how people in a culture define and understand the world around them," IARPA says.

The group, which develops high-risk, reward research projects for the government says Metaphor Program:

> Shape how people think about complex topics and can influence beliefs;
> Reduce the complexity of meaning associated with a topic by capturing or expressing patterns;
> Show uncovered inferred meanings and worldviews of particular groups or individuals: Characterization of disparities in social issues and contrasting political goals; exposure of inclusion and exclusion of social and political groups and understanding of psychological problems and conflicts.

In the end the program should produce a methodology, tools and techniques together with a prototype system that will identify metaphors that provide insight into cultural beliefs. It should also help build structured framework that organizes the metaphors associated with the various dimensions of an analytic problem and build a metaphor repository where all metaphors and related information are captured for future reference and access, IARPA stated.

"For decision makers to be effective in a world of mass communication and global interaction, they must understand the shared concepts and worldviews of members of other cultures of interest. Recognizing cultural norms is a significant challenge, however, because they tend to be hidden. We tend to notice them only when they are in conflict with the norms of other cultures. Such differences may cause discomfort or frustration and may lead to flawed interpretations about the intent or motivation of others. The Metaphor Program will exploit the use of metaphors by different cultures to gain insight into their cultural norms," IARPA says.

The Metaphor Program is divided into two phases, totaling 60 months, and is intended to begin in November 2011.

Understanding language is a hot topic amongst the government research folks. Last year you may recall, the military's research folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said they wanted to know about how stories or narratives influence human behavior. To this end, DARPA hosted a workshop called "Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET): Analysis and Decomposition of Narratives in Security Contexts."

"Stories exert a powerful influence on human thoughts and behavior. They consolidate memory, shape emotions, cue heuristics and biases in judgment, influence in-group/out-group distinctions, and may affect the fundamental contents of personal identity. It comes as no surprise that these influences make stories highly relevant to vexing security challenges such as radicalization, violent social mobilization, insurgency and terrorism, and conflict prevention and resolution. Therefore, understanding the role stories play in a security context is a matter of great import and some urgency," DARPA stated.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

Layer 8 Extra

Program Description here (PDF)

(on edit:fixed link)

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 1:33 pm
by Wombaticus Rex

"Expectation calibration and expectation management is essential at home and internationally."

-- Harvard Professor and Barack Obama Foreign Policy Advisor Samantha Power, February 21, 2008

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 2:35 pm
by Nordic
Wow. Talk about Orwellian. :shock:

Thanks for posting this. Really fascinating in an ultimate evil sort of way.

"The Narrative" is hugely powerful. The Bush administration really understood this, and used it to greater affect than anyone I've ever seen. Of course politics would fail to be politics without it. "I met an elderly woman today. She told me how ____________________" is Speech Writing 101.

I found it interesting today to read in the thread about exhuming Allende's body that the "Narrative" then was that he committed suicide with a rifle given to him by Fidel Castro. Isn't that perfect? Heavy handed but perfect?

If they're going DARPA with this, it's significant. To me, it means their old bullshit ain't working as well as it used to.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 2:50 pm
by Wombaticus Rex
I think it's actually the opposite, Nordic: a recognition that they have achieved parity with the cultural conversation. They have built a sufficiently ferocious OODA cycle to graduate from responding to projecting. Now it's time to start the conversation about leading, and what kind of content (and copy!) they'll be using now that it's not just a theoretical, academic discussion.

I also quite hope I am wrong.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 3:00 pm
by Nordic
Yeah ...... For some reason there's always a core part of me that's an optimist. I guess without that I'd just walk into the sea ...

It seems the population is being split in two. With a very small minority figuring things out, and everybody else falling for the "narratives".

In my world, at least, there seems to be a growing number of people like us. It's a real divide, between people who have sorta figured things out and people who haven't. I have very close life-long friends who haven't, and it's kind of odd. Then sometimes I meet random people who have. Sometimes they're quite young, like early 20's.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 4:03 pm
by bardobailey
Hey, if somebody can combine the Metaphor Program with the sound/shape system referred to in the Rosslyn Chapel thread next door our gooses will be cooked!

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:41 am
by Wombaticus Rex
Source: ... gates.html

Vivisecting Verses - DARPA Investigates the Neurobiology of Narratives

By David Metcalfe

“If I were a betting man or woman, I would say that certain types of stories might be addictive and, neurobiologically speaking, not that different from taking a tiny hit of cocaine,”
- William Casebeer of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia

Despite the fact that it’s readily apparent Mr. Casebeer has never tried cocaine, DARPA’s current interest in narratives is an interesting development at an agency known for unique scientific inquiries. On April 25 and 26th DARPA held a conference called Narrative Networks (N2): The Neurobiology of Narratives. The purpose of this conference was to follow up a Feburary 26th event which sought to outline a quantitative methodology for measuring the effect of storytelling on human action.

We owe much of the early development of the internet to DARPA, along with remote viewing, remote controlled moths, invisibility cloaks and other wonders of the contemporary age. Now they’ve got their sites set on stories, and we can be assured that, in the near future, there will be some fatly funded scientific justification for what we already know. I mean, come on, Modern Mythology and Weaponized just published The Immanence of Myth exploring this very topic, and I assure you there’s more in there than a tiny hit to get you inspired.

And that’s the unfortunate thing about these scientific inquiries, they’re always years (usually centuries) behind the times. I seem to recall an author who spent his entire career developing this theory, and effectively influencing television, film and music with his ideas. Who was that? Something about word viruses? Oh, yes, William S. Burroughs. Who in turn got much of his inspiration from other thinkers like Brion Gysin, Alfred Korzybski, and really beyond all this name dropping, what true poet or writer doesn’t understand the fact that their writing takes on an effective reality?

The Medieval Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno wrote a treatise, called De vinculis in genere (Of Bonds In General), which has been used at the London School of Economics. It may be written in latin, but it details these exact theories and, if our scientists today were properly literate, everything there is perfectly quantitative. They don’t even have to be bilingual. Cambridge offers a perfectly viable translation that I’m sure would be easily accessible via any local library.

In fact Bruno’s theories are merely the quantification of the European bardic arts, Grecian theatre, and Egyptian ritual, which were themselves already quantified, encultured forms of earlier story telling techniques. And that’s just within the Western tradition.

So what’s new here? What secrets of the narrative art will be unveiled in this quantitative analysis?

Nothing much, other than what was once an art-form will suffer yet another reduction into a somewhat less effective means for moving markets, and manipulating populations. And that, in the end, is really the goal. For all the money they spent on remote viewing tests, Russel Targ, one of the lead scientists during the SRI tests, admits that it's fairly easy to do, and that the most telling instruction manual they still have on the subject is a centuries old yogic training manual from India.

I ran across information on this symposium from a link posted by Joseph Matheny (who has himself already proven the ability of storytelling to motivate action) to a brief piece on Dollars and Dragons. The piece contains links leading on to other posts, one on Verilliance, a blog about “Better Marketing Through Science,” and one from a professor of Narrative Philosophy who has been studying this phenomenon for 30 years.

While Casebeer states the purpose of the project is to develop an understanding of how narratives effect the development of terrorism and violent behavior, with the attendant goal of creating “counter-narrative strategies.” If his understanding of a little nip of yao is any sign of his social savvy, it’s obvious that there are others with less noble goals who will gladly leap on these developments and ride them for all they're worth.

Rest assured, however, these quantified tales will stink from being stripped of their true marrow. What a hustler is able to do every day on the streets to grab a few bucks for a beer, or a hit of heroin, and what poets and prostyletizers have been banking on for millennium, it’s doubtful DARPA will be able to add anything new with an MRI or EKG strapped to the head of some already desensitized citizen, or college kid looking for a couple of extra dollars to pay rent.

What we need today is the actual passion of the storyteller, which is the direct encounter with the mystery of storytelling that will be missing from any state funded exploration of narrative theory. I was surprised to read the positive reaction of the narrative philosopher to these DARPA inquiries, and the use of neurobiology, to explore this realm.

DARPA is late to the game already, with marketing firms and corporations having spent millions on testing the neurobiological importance of just about everything we encounter during the day. The inherent ethical violations in this would seem to me to spark the heart of anyone who’d read more than a smattering of philosophy, and I’d hope in 30 years the engagement was somewhat deeper than a facile overview.

This kind of naiveté is what has provided the gate for so many horrible violations in the past, and continues to be a pressing issue. The narrative philosopher comments in her post, “for someone like me who has researched and written about Narrative Philosophy (philosophy involving the phenomenon of storytelling) for close to 30 years, with special emphasis on Narrative Ethics, it is particularly gratifying to watch the latest developments in neuroscientific research concerning the human urge to tell stories.” Really? That’s incredibly silly of you.

But that’s just it. There’s no room for reality in the mediated realm of inquiry formed by government and universities. It really is up to us, as individuals, to tackle these issues within our own lives. Seeing something like this come up is merely a call to action to apply what we already know. You can wait for the official response, read The Immanence of Myth, or get out on your own and explore these ideas within the rich history that’s already afforded to them.

Whatever you do, know that there are powerful influences out there (with a lot of money behind them) that are looking into how and why you appreciate a simple story.

It's so rare to read sane, grounded analysis of topics like this....thank fuck.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:41 am
by Wombaticus Rex
When I present progressives with my whole rap about social engineering and language control, the response skews in two directions:

1) This is horrible and we can't fight it because we're committed to playing fair (adorable yo!)

2) We need to be doing this, too, ASAP.


As it turns out, George Lakoff was ahead of that curve:

Founded by the prominent cognitive linguist George Lakoff, the Rockridge Institute sought to examine the way that frames—the mental structures that influence our thinking, often unconsciously—determine our opinions and values. Based on extensive research in human cognition, the Rockridge Institute argued that the way an issue is framed—the language used to describe it and the metaphors used to understand it—influences our political views as much, or more, than the particulars of a given policy.

Accordingly, the Rockridge Institute attempted to monitor the manipulative use of framing, particularly by right wing organizations and politicians, and to promote frames that encourage progressive thinking. A much discussed example of framing is the Bush administration's use of the phrase War on Terror to describe its policies following the September 11th attacks. The use of the "war" metaphor, the Rockridge Institute and others contended, had a tremendous effect on U.S. policy and public debate. They further contended it has allowed the president to assume war powers, makes opposition to the "war" seem unpatriotic, and was used to justify the invasion of Iraq, although cooperation between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein had not occurred.[7] If the U.S. response to September 11 had been framed as a criminal proceeding, the Rockridge Institute and others argued, such extraordinary measures would never have garnered sufficient political support.

The Rockridge Institute sought to raise consciousness about manipulative framing and to propose progressive frames on a wide range of issues, including the economy, immigration, religion, and the environment.

Of course, this gets presented as a "Liberal Conspiracy" -- which is loaded language but certainly not far off. This is, after all, a War of the Magicians with no good guys in sight, despite Lakoff's noble intentions. Lakoff is a Professor of Linguistics @ UCAL Berkeley and I like the cat -- he was clearly way ahead of the IARPA curve and clearly not interested in lining up for their pork. The wiki indicates a horizon way beyond the subject of this thread but still extremely interesting for Us Weirdos:

Source: ... koff.shtml

Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics

By Bonnie Azab Powell, NewsCenter | 27 October 2003

BERKELEY – With Republicans controlling the Senate, the House, and the White House and enjoying a large margin of victory for California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's clear that the Democratic Party is in crisis. George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley professor of linguistics and cognitive science, thinks he knows why. Conservatives have spent decades defining their ideas, carefully choosing the language with which to present them, and building an infrastructure to communicate them, says Lakoff.

The work has paid off: by dictating the terms of national debate, conservatives have put progressives firmly on the defensive.


Why was the Rockridge Institute created, and how do you define its purpose?

I got tired of cursing the newspaper every morning. I got tired of seeing what was going wrong and not being able to do anything about it.

The background for Rockridge is that conservatives, especially conservative think tanks, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there. Progressives have done virtually nothing. Even the new Center for American Progress, the think tank that John Podesta [former chief of staff for the Clinton administration] is setting up, is not dedicated to this at all. I asked Podesta who was going to do the Center's framing. He got a blank look, thought for a second and then said, "You!" Which meant they haven't thought about it at all. And that's the problem. Liberals don't get it. They don't understand what it is they have to be doing.

Rockridge's job is to reframe public debate, to create balance from a progressive perspective. It's one thing to analyze language and thought, it's another thing to create it. That's what we're about. It's a matter of asking 'What are the central ideas of progressive thought from a moral perspective?'

How does language influence the terms of political debate?

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.
If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" - something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.

Here's another example of how powerful framing is. In Arnold Schwarzenegger's acceptance speech, he said, "When the people win, politics as usual loses." What's that about? Well, he knows that he's going to face a Democratic legislature, so what he has done is frame himself and also Republican politicians as the people, while framing Democratic politicians as politics as usual - in advance. The Democratic legislators won't know what hit them. They're automatically framed as enemies of the people.

Why do conservatives appear to be so much better at framing?

Because they've put billions of dollars into it. Over the last 30 years their think tanks have made a heavy investment in ideas and in language. In 1970, [Supreme Court Justice] Lewis Powell wrote a fateful memo to the National Chamber of Commerce saying that all of our best students are becoming anti-business because of the Vietnam War, and that we needed to do something about it. Powell's agenda included getting wealthy conservatives to set up professorships, setting up institutes on and off campus where intellectuals would write books from a conservative business perspective, and setting up think tanks. He outlined the whole thing in 1970. They set up the Heritage Foundation in 1973, and the Manhattan Institute after that. [There are many others, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute at Stanford, which date from the 1940s.]

And now, as the New York Times Magazine quoted Paul Weyrich, who started the Heritage Foundation, they have 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. They have a huge, very good operation, and they understand their own moral system. They understand what unites conservatives, and they understand how to talk about it, and they are constantly updating their research on how best to express their ideas.

Why haven't progressives done the same thing?

There's a systematic reason for that. You can see it in the way that conservative foundations and progressive foundations work. Conservative foundations give large block grants year after year to their think tanks. They say, 'Here's several million dollars, do what you need to do.' And basically, they build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV. They do all of that. Why? Because the conservative moral system, which I analyzed in "Moral Politics," has as its highest value preserving and defending the "strict father" system itself. And that means building infrastructure. As businessmen, they know how to do this very well.

Meanwhile, liberals' conceptual system of the "nurturant parent" has as its highest value helping individuals who need help. The progressive foundations and donors give their money to a variety of grassroots organizations. They say, 'We're giving you $25,000, but don't waste a penny of it. Make sure it all goes to the cause, don't use it for administration, communication, infrastructure, or career development.' So there's actually a structural reason built into the worldviews that explains why conservatives have done better.

Back up for a second and explain what you mean by the strict father and nurturant parent frameworks.

Well, the progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that. Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values, which are traditional progressive values in American politics.

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline - physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

So, project this onto the nation and you see that to the right wing, the good citizens are the disciplined ones - those who have already become wealthy or at least self-reliant - and those who are on the way. Social programs, meanwhile, "spoil" people by giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. The government is there only to protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (punishment), and to provide for the promotion and orderly conduct of business. In this way, disciplined people become self-reliant. Wealth is a measure of discipline. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for such government take away from the good, disciplined people rewards that they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it.


What are some other examples of issues that progressives should try to reframe?

There are too many examples, that's the problem. The so-called energy crisis in California should have been called Grand Theft. It was theft, it was the result of deregulation by Pete Wilson, and Davis should have said so from the beginning.

Or take gay marriage, which the right has made a rallying topic. Surveys have been done that say Americans are overwhelmingly against gay marriage. Well, the same surveys show that they also overwhelmingly object to discrimination against gays. These seem to be opposite facts, but they're not. "Marriage" is about sex. When you say "gay marriage," it becomes about gay sex, and approving of gay marriage becomes implicitly about approving of gay sex. And while a lot of Americans don't approve of gay sex, that doesn't mean they want to discriminate against gay people. Perfectly rational position. Framed in that way, the issue of gay marriage will get a lot of negative reaction. But what if you make the issue "freedom to marry," or even better, "the right to marry"? That's a whole different story. Very few people would say they did not support the right to marry who you choose. But the polls don't ask that question, because the right wing has framed that issue.

Do any of the Democratic Presidential candidates grasp the importance of framing?

None. They don't get it at all. But they're in a funny position. The framing changes that have to be made are long-term changes. The conservatives understood this in 1973. By 1980 they had a candidate, Ronald Reagan, who could take all this stuff and run with it. The progressives don't have a candidate now who understands these things and can talk about them. And in order for a candidate to be able to talk about them, the ideas have to be out there. You have to be able to reference them in a sound bite. Other people have to put these ideas into the public domain, not politicians. The question is, How do you get these ideas out there? There are all kinds of ways, and one of the things the Rockridge Institute is looking at is talking to advocacy groups, which could do this very well. They have more of a budget, they're spread all over the place, and they have access to the media.

Right now the Democratic Party is into marketing. They pick a number of issues like prescription drugs and Social Security and ask which ones sell best across the spectrum, and they run on those issues. They have no moral perspective, no general values, no identity. People vote their identity, they don't just vote on the issues, and Democrats don't understand that. Look at Schwarzenegger, who says nothing about the issues. The Democrats ask, How could anyone vote for this guy? They did because he put forth an identity. Voters knew who he is.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:11 am
by Wombaticus Rex
Background on IARPA: ... isa-porter


As the new director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, Lisa Porter is the United States' answer to James Bond's Agent Q, but she's not crazy about the label. Porter is not the kind of person who likes being reduced to an easy metaphor, nor does she want her agency's intelligence work reduced to easy metaphors. That makes her the perfect head of the new agency, which has been tasked with developing technologies so far out that not even the Defense Department would fund them. ”We're not interested in the near-term, the low-hanging fruit,” she says. Porter wants the tough problems, a characteristic that's reflected in her eyebrow-raising résumé: She received her Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University and then spent some time as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Advanced Technology Office. She left DARPA to manage aeronautics research at NASA. In January of this year, intelligence director Mike McConnell plucked her from her NASA post to lead the new intelligence agency.

IARPA (pronounced EYE-arpa) was created after the September 11 attacks as part of a larger effort to get the far-flung elements of the U.S. intelligence community to talk to each other. The new agency will be a high-risk research crucible for the country's 16 intelligence agencies, and not just the big ones that everyone knows about (CIA, NSA): many parts of the federal government, including the Department of the Treasury, have their own specific intelligence offices (for tracking money and counterfeiting, for example).

Later this week, IARPA will announce its split into three program offices, which Porter says span the scope of the intelligence problem: Smart Collection, Incisive Analysis, and Safe and Secure Operations. Porter would not get specific about the projects IARPA will work on because most of those projects will be classified. The agency's offices are in a fenced and guarded National Security Agency compound at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. By next year, however, the agency plans to make its home in a much more accessible part of town, in part to collaborate more with the academics among which it is nestled. IARPA has a lot of pretty big spots to fill: Porter needs directors and program managers for the three new offices.

IEEE Spectrum's Sally Adee talked to Porter about the future of IARPA, the details of the new programs, and what exactly the difference is between intelligence and defense.

IEEE Spectrum: IARPA is tasked with high-risk, high-payoff advanced intelligence research. But doesn't DARPA already cover this? Is IARPA's mission redundant with any of DARPA's programs (like the former Information Exploitation Office?

Lisa Porter: No. It's important that the intelligence community has a place to focus on its own kind of high-risk, high-payoff research. When we talk about high-risk, high-payoff research, we're not talking about low-hanging fruit. This is about the really hard problems--we have good ideas, we may not succeed, and that's completely acceptable. That's the same realm DARPA operates in, but not specifically for intelligence.

Sometimes DARPA creates dual-use technologies that have a defense purpose and an intelligence purpose, but in that case the intelligence purpose is often incidental. It's where there is crossover between the defense mission and the intelligence mission. In that case they'd partner with intel agencies--but they are focused on the DOD mission and not the intelligence mission.

Spectrum: Can you explain that? People tend to conflate intelligence and defense. They seem to both be about defending the country.

LP: They're conflated because they're partners and they often work together. Sometimes--many times--they work together, but the intelligence community provides strategic information so that decision makers can do what they need to do. There are times when they work together to accomplish something and also to invest in dual-use technologies. But there are differences in the two missions. For example, intelligence gathering has different timescales. Think about the 16 intelligence agencies: you have the CIA's mission, the NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], the NRO [National Reconnaissance Office], the NSA, and they are all collecting, assessing, and analyzing intelligence information, and they're not necessarily focused on a near-term tactical tempo or defense tempo, or even defense applications.

Spectrum: So how does IARPA work? What problems are you looking at?

LP: We've divided the agency into three offices, and those really explain how we parse the problems intelligence research is focused on: Smart Collection, Incisive Analysis, and Safe and Secure Operations. Those three thrust areas span the space of the intelligence problem.
The first, Smart Collection: we want to dramatically improve the value of our collected data. It's not enough to collect data. You want to do it smart, because you're often limited in the amount that you can collect. It's the classic problem of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost--not because that's where he dropped them but because that's where the light is. You fall into that trap a lot. You look where you know how to get, not necessarily where you need to be. So we're trying to use modeling and analysis to help us look elsewhere than where the light is.

The second office is called Incisive Analysis, where we look at maximizing the insight we get from collections in a timely fashion. Analysts are drowning in reams and reams of data. It's called the tsunami effect--the overwhelming amount of data and information that they have to analyze. How can they go through it all fast enough to provide decision makers with analysis in time? There's so much information out there--I mean, just go look at YouTube. Think about the information in your life--all the e-mails that you don't have time to read. In this office, we're hoping to get smarter about data analysis, maybe by using virtual worlds. How do we leverage some of the creative ideas that might be out there to help our analysts get their arms around all this data? And there's another, multidisciplinary aspect of this problem: ideally, you want to understand not just what's being said but the cultural implications as well.

The third office is called Safe and Secure Operations. Here we want to counter the capabilities of our adversaries that could threaten our ability to operate effectively in the networked world. That includes the challenge of cybersecurity. When you talk about security, you're talking about confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the system. This office will also work research into quantum information theory. That's a very high-risk area.

Spectrum: DARPA programs are often transitioned out to civilian use: the Internet, GPS, advanced prosthetics. Are you looking at transition partners for civilian applications?

LP: Sometimes. When you come up with a new idea and you do the prototype, sometimes your transition partner is a commercial partner. A new software capability, for example, can sometimes go right to a commercial vendor. There are also examples where the commercial sector could also be the beneficiary. DARPA has often advanced technology in a way that naturally benefits the private sector: the Internet is your classic example of that.
I anticipate that since the problems we'll be addressing are very hard, we'll be advancing technology capabilities, and that will spill over into commercial or private-sector applications. That happens a lot with cutting-edge research. You do often see applications that you didn't even anticipate.

Spectrum: Are there intelligence applications that do not overlap with defense purposes?

LP: Yes, there are.

Spectrum: Can you give me an example?

LP: I'm sorry, the first examples that come to my mind are classified.

Spectrum: Can you think of any analogues in the nonclassified realm?

LP: There are things the intelligence community has to do that Defense can't justify spending its money on. You know, there are different pots of money, and the Defense Department has to make sure that what it spends money on applies to a defense mission....Some things cannot be justified being related to a defense application; it's really something the intelligence people have to take on.

Spectrum: Why is IARPA at the University of Maryland, College Park?

LP: That decision was made before I came on board, so I might not be the best person to answer why we're here. It makes a lot of sense in terms of proximity to a university, proximity to the D.C. area. It's easy for us to get anywhere we need to get; we can get to our various intel agencies. We want to look across the agencies and across the community; we don't want it to look like we're only here as one specific agency. It's nice not to be sitting right next to one particular agency. It's also nice to be near a university because we're sending a message that we want to bring in nontraditional partners: academia, industry. It sends a nice message that we're embracing the broad community to help us solve these challenging problems.

Spectrum: So they'll be able to get past the black gate?

LP: Exactly. We want to send that message: we really want to be outward looking and engaged in the community. We're here for everyone, looking across agencies' problems, and we're academic friendly, though obviously still friendly to people who are used to working with us. We're open to people who may have thought there was a barrier to the intelligence community in the past.

Spectrum: Is there anything from DARPA that you are bringing with you to IARPA?

LP: Yes. A lot: the way DARPA approaches, and is really true to, the high-risk, high-payoff thing, for example. It's really important not just to say, ”I want to solve this hard problem.” You have to have an idea to solve it, and you have to have a good program manager to lead it. [DARPA director] Tony Tether has said many times: DARPA will not start a program without a good idea and a good program manager to lead it into reality. It's not enough to have a good idea. It's very hard to be a program manager.

And the flexibility. I was in the Advanced Technology Office, an office that no longer exists. That's a hallmark of DARPA, and it testifies to the flexibility and fluidity of ARPAs.

Spectrum: Will any DARPA projects be transitioned into IARPA?

LP: Not right now. I'd say there are areas where we'll work together. I see opportunities for IARPA and DARPA to work together, but frankly I'm still pulling things together, and identifying people I may want to bring in.

Spectrum: Are you working with In-Q-Tel?*

LP: I've met with them. They're working on high-risk but near-term stuff. They're very impressive. We want to make sure they're aware of what we're doing. I think we can complement each other.

Spectrum: You're looking at getting program managers. But even DARPA has trouble finding those. What's your strategy?

LP: Well, part of it is to talk to people like you to help get the word out. We're looking for very smart people who understand what it takes not just to technically comprehend a problem but how to bring an idea to reality programmatically. It's not easy.

What we offer is, okay, so you have this great idea. If you can convince me, we'll give you the opportunity to make that idea a reality. You can take a risk--and failure is okay. This is a great place for people with a great idea. It's really risky, the potential payoff is huge, and failure is okay--that kind of environment is pretty hard to find.

The Web site will be up by the end of the month, and we'll have information on how to apply. It requires good tech expertise, programmatic knowledge and expertise, and a willingness to put all of your passion into it.

Spectrum: Kind of like a Make-a-Wish foundation for geeks.

LP: Yes, it is. And I need three good leaders for the program offices.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:00 am
by Wombaticus Rex
how did I miss this wrinkle? IARPA is asking for submissions for solutions in four languages:

"Farsi, Mexican Spanish, Russian and English"

That's quite an admission of where current priorities are at, eh?

Anyways. Some Atlantic coverage that unravels additional details...

Source: ... am/239402/

A small research arm of the U.S. government's intelligence establishment wants to understand how speakers of Farsi, Russian, English, and Spanish see the world by building software that automatically evaluates their use of metaphors.

That's right, metaphors, like Shakespeare's famous line, "All the world's a stage," or more subtly, "The darkness pressed in on all sides." Every speaker in every language in the world uses them effortlessly, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity wants know how what we say reflects our worldviews. They call it The Metaphor Program, and it is a unique effort within the government to probe how a people's language reveals their mindset.

"The Metaphor Program will exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture," declared an open solicitation for researchers released last week. A spokesperson for IARPA declined to comment at the time.

IARPA wants some computer scientists with experience in processing language in big chunks to come up with methods of pulling out a culture's relationship with particular concepts."They really are trying to get at what people think using how they talk," Benjamin Bergen, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, told me. Bergen is one of a dozen or so lead researchers who are expected to vie for a research grant that could be worth tens of millions of dollars over five years, if the team scan show progress towards automatically tagging and processing metaphors across languages.

"IARPA grants are big," said Jennifer Carter of Applied Research Associates, a 1,600-strong research company that may throw its hat in the Metaphor ring after winning a lead research spot in a separate IARPA solicitation. While no one knows the precise value of the rewards of the IARPA grants and the contracts are believed to vary widely, they tend to support several large teams of multidisciplinary researchers, Carter said. The awards, which would initially go to several teams, could range into the five digits annually. "Generally what happens... there will be a 'downselect' each year, so maybe only one team will get money for the whole program," she said.*

All this to say: The Metaphor Program may represent a nine-figure investment by the government in understanding how people use language. But that's because metaphor studies aren't light or frilly and IARPA isn't afraid of taking on unusual sounding projects if they think they might help intelligence analysts sort through and decode the tremendous amounts of data pouring into their minds.

In a presentation to prospective research "performers," as they're known, The Metaphor Program's manager, Heather McCallum-Bayliss gave the following example of the power of metaphors in political discussions. Her slide reads:

Metaphors shape how people think about complex topics and can influence beliefs. A study presented participants with a report on crime in a city; they were asked how crime should be addressed in the city. The report contained statistics, including crime and murder rates, as well as one of two metaphors, CRIME AS A WILD BEAST or CRIME AS A VIRUS. The participants were influenced by the embedded metaphor...

McCallum-Bayliss appears to be referring to a 2011 paper published in the PLoS ONE, "Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning," lead authored by Stanford's Paul Thibodeau. In that case, if people were given the crime-as-a-virus framing, they were more likely to suggest social reform and less likely to suggest more law enforcement or harsher punishments for criminals. The differences generated by the metaphor alternatives were "were larger than those that exist between Democrats and Republicans, or between men and women," the study authors noted.

Every writer (and reader) knows that there are clues to how people think and ways to influence each other through our use of words. Metaphor researchers, of whom there are a surprising number and variety, have formalized many of these intuitions into whole branches of cognitive linguistics using studies like the one outlined above (more on that later). But what IARPA's project calls for is the deployment of spy resources against an entire language. Where you or I might parse a sentence, this project wants to parse, say, all the pages in Farsi on the Internet looking for hidden levers into the consciousness of a people.

"The study of language offers a strategic opportunity for improved counterterrorist intelligence, in that it enables the possibility of understanding of the Other's perceptions and motivations, be he friend or foe," the two authors of Computational Methods for Counterterrorism wrote. "As we have seen, linguistic expressions have levels of meaning beyond the literal, which it is critical to address. This is true especially when dealing with texts from a high-context traditionalist culture such as those of Islamic terrorists and insurgents."

In the first phase of the IARPA program, the researchers would simply try to map from the metaphors a language used to the general affect associated with a concept like "journey" or "struggle." These metaphors would then be stored in the metaphor repository. In a later stage, the Metaphor Program scientists will be expected to help answer questions like, "What are the perspectives of Pakistan and India with respect to Kashmir?" by using their metaphorical probes into the cultures. Perhaps, a slide from IARPA suggests, metaphors can tell us something about the way Indians and Pakistanis view the role of Britain or the concept of the "nation" or "government."

The assumption is that common turns of phrase, dissected and reassembled through cognitive linguistics, could say something about the views of those citizens that they might not be able to say themselves. The language of a culture as reflected in a bunch of text on the Internet might hide secrets about the way people think that are so valuable that spies are willing to pay for them.

IARPA is modeled on the famed DARPA -- progenitors of the Internet among other wonders -- and tasked with doing high-risk, high-reward research for the many agencies, the NSA and CIA among them, that make up the American intelligence-gathering force. IARPA is, as you might expect, a low-profile organization. Little information is available from the organization aside from a couple of interviews that its administrator, Lisa Porter, a former NASA official, gave back in 2008 to Wired and IEEE Spectrum. Neither publication can avoid joking that the agency is like James Bond's famous research crew, but it turns out that the place is more likely to use "cloak-and-dagger" in a sentence than in actual combat with supervillainy.

A major component of the agency's work is data mining and analysis. IARPA is split into three program offices with distinct goals: Smart Collection "to dramatically improve the value of collected data from all sources"; Incisive Analysis "to maximize insight from the information we collect, in a timely fashion"; and Safe & Secure Operations "to counter new capabilities implemented by our adversaries that would threaten our ability to operate freely and effectively in a networked world." The Metaphor Program falls under the office of Incisive Analysis and is headed by the aforementioned McCallum-Bayliss, a former technologist at Lockheed Martin and IBM, who co-filed several patents relating to the processing of names in databases.

Incisive Analysis has put out several calls for other projects. They range widely in scope and domain. The Babel Program seeks to "demonstrate the ability to generate a speech transcription system for any new language within one week to support keyword search performance for effective triage of massive amounts of speech recorded in challenging real-world situations." ALADDIN aims to create software to automatically monitor massive amounts of video. The FUSE Program is trying to "develop automated methods that aid in the systematic, continuous, and comprehensive assessment of technical emergence" using the scientific and patent literature.

All three projects are technologically exciting, but none of those projects has the poetic ring nor the smell of humanity of The Metaphor Program. The Metaphor Program wants to understand what human beings mean through the unvoiced emotional inflection of our words. That's normally the work of an examined life, not a piece of spy software.

There is some precedent for the work. It comes from two directions: cognitive linguistics and natural language processing. On the cognitive linguistic side, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson of the University of California, Berkeley did the foundational work, notably in their 1980 book, Metaphors We Live By. As summarized recently by Zoltán Kövecses in his book, Metaphor: A Practical Introduction, Lakoff and Johnson showed that metaphors weren't just the devices of writers but rather "a valuable cognitive tool without which neither poets nor you and I as ordinary people could live."

In this school of cognitive linguistics, we need to use more embodied, concrete domains in order to describe more abstract ones. Researchers assembled the linguistic expressions we use like "That class gave me food for thought" and "His idea was half-baked" into a construct called a "conceptual category." These come in the form of awesomely simple sentences like "Ideas Are Food." And there are whole great lists of them. (My favorites: Darkness Is a Solid; Time Is Something Moving Toward You; Happiness Is Fluid In a Container; Control Is Up.) The conceptual categories show that humans use one domain ("the source") to describe another ("the target").

The main point here is that metaphors, in this sense, aren't soft or literary in any narrow sense. Rather, they are a deep and fundamental way that humans make sense of the world. And unfortunately for spies who want to filter the Internet to look for dangerous people, computers can't make much sense out of sentences like, "We can make beautiful music together," which Google translates as something about actually playing music when, of course, it really means, "We can be good together." (Or as the conceptual category would phrase it: "Interpersonal Harmony Is Musical Harmony.")

While some of the underlying structures of the metaphors -- the conceptual categories -- are near universal (e.g. Happy Is Up), there are many variations in their range, elaboration, and emphasis. And, of course, not every category is universal. For example, Kövecses points to a special conceptual category in Japanese centered around the hara, or belly, "Anger Is (In The) Hara." In Zulu, one finds an important category, "Anger Is (Understood As Being) In the Heart," which would be rare in English. Alternatively, while many cultures conceive of anger as a hot fluid in a container, it's in English that we "blow off steam," a turn of phrase that wouldn't make sense in Zulu.

These relationships have been painstakingly mapped by human analysts over the last 30 years and they represent a deep culturolinguistic knowledge base. For the cognitive linguistic school, all of these uses of language reveal something about the way the people of a culture understand each other and the world. And that's really the target of the metaphor program, and what makes it unprecedented. They're after a deeper understanding of the way people use words because the deep patterns encoded in language may help intelligence analysts understand the people, not just the texts.

For Lakoff, it's about time that the government started taking metaphor seriously. "There have been 30 years of neglect of current linguistics in all government-sponsored research," he told me. "And finally there is somebody in the government who has managed to do something after many years of trying."

UC San Diego's Bergen agreed. "It's a totally unique project," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."

But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy to create a system that can automatically deduce what Americans' biases about education from a statement like "The teacher spoon-fed the students."

Lakoff contends that it will take a long, sustained effort by IARPA (or anyone else) to complete the task. "The quick-and-dirty way" won't work, he said. "Are they going to do a serious scientific account?"

The metaphor problem is particularly difficult because we don't even know what the right answers to our queries are, Bergen said.

"If you think about other sorts of automation of language processing, there are right answers," he said. "In speech recognition, you know what the word should be. So you can do statistical learning. You use humans, tag up a corpus and then run some machine learning algorithms on that. Unfortunately, here, we don't know what the right answers are."

For one, we don't really have a stable way of telling what is and what is not metaphorical language. And metaphorical language is changing all the time. Parsing text for metaphors is tough work for humans and we're made for it. The kind of intensive linguistic analysis that's made Lakoff and his students (of whom Bergen was one) famous can take a human two hours for every 500 words on the page.

But it's that very difficulty that makes people want to deploy computing resources instead of human beings. And they do have some directions that they could take. James Martin of the University of Colorado played a key role in the late 1980s and early 1990s in defining the problem and suggesting a solution. Martin contended "the interpretation of novel metaphors can be accomplished through the systematic extension, elaboration, and combination of knowledge about already well-understood metaphors," in a 1988 paper.

What that means is that within a given domain -- say, "the family" in Arabic -- you can start to process text around that. First you'll have humans go in and tag up the data, finding the metaphors. Then, you'd use what they learned about the target domain "family" to look for metaphorical words that are often associated with it. Then, you run permutations on those words from the source domain to find other metaphors you might not have before. Eventually you build up a repository of metaphors in Arabic around the domain of family.

Of course, that's not exactly what IARPA's looking for, but it's where the research teams will be starting. To get better results, they will have to start to learn a lot more about the relationships between the words in the metaphors. For Lakoff, that means understanding the frames and logics that inform metaphors and structure our thinking as we use them. For Bergen, it means refining the rules by which software can process language. There are three levels of analysis that would then be combined. First, you could know something about the metaphorical bias of an individual word. Crossroads, for example, is generally used in metaphorical terms. Second, words in close proximity might generate a bias, too. "Knockout in the same clause as 'she' has a much higher probability of being metaphorical if it's in close proximity to 'he,'" Bergen offered as an example. Third, for certain topics, certain words become more active for metaphorical usage. The economy's movement, for example, probably maps to a source domain of motion through space. So, accelerate to describe something about the economy is probably metaphorical. Create a statistical model to combine the outputs of those three processes and you've got a brute-force method for identifying metaphors in a text.

In this particular competition, there will be more nuanced approaches based on parsing the more general relationships between words in text: sorting out which are nouns and how they connect to verbs, etc. "If you have that information, then you can find parts of sentences that don't look like they should be there," Bergen explained. A classic kind of identifier would be a type mismatch. "If I am the verb 'smile,' I like to have a subject that has a face," he said. If something without a face is smiling, it might be an indication that some kind of figurative language is being employed.

From these constituent parts -- and whatever other wild stuff people cook up -- the teams will try to build a metaphor machine that can convert a language into underlying truths about a culture. Feed text in one end and wait on the other end of the Rube Goldberg software for a series of beliefs about family or America or power.

We might never be able to build such a thing. Indeed, I get the feeling that we can't, at least not yet. But what if we can?

"Are they going to use it wisely?" Lakoff posed. "Because using it to detect terrorists is not a bad idea, but then the question is: Are they going to use it to spy on us?"

I don't know, but I know that as an American I think through these metaphors: Problem Is a Target; Society Is a Body; Control Is Up.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:09 am
by Wombaticus Rex
Here's the paper cited in the previous article...

Source: ... ne.0016782

The way we talk about complex and abstract ideas is suffused with metaphor. In five experiments, we explore how these metaphors influence the way that we reason about complex issues and forage for further information about them. We find that even the subtlest instantiation of a metaphor (via a single word) can have a powerful influence over how people attempt to solve social problems like crime and how they gather information to make “well-informed” decisions. Interestingly, we find that the influence of the metaphorical framing effect is covert: people do not recognize metaphors as influential in their decisions; instead they point to more “substantive” (often numerical) information as the motivation for their problem-solving decision. Metaphors in language appear to instantiate frame-consistent knowledge structures and invite structurally consistent inferences. Far from being mere rhetorical flourishes, metaphors have profound influences on how we conceptualize and act with respect to important societal issues. We find that exposure to even a single metaphor can induce substantial differences in opinion about how to solve social problems: differences that are larger, for example, than pre-existing differences in opinion between Democrats and Republicans.


Also, this turned up and it's so far over my 5 am head I can't even begin to begin:

For IARPA, the key would appear to be the dynamic patterning of the metaphors -- possibly configured spherically -- rather than their interpretation in isolation in "laundry lists". It is from the ability to shift coherntly between them, to "play" them as with the notes on a musical instrument, that more integrative coherence can emerge

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:37 am
by DrVolin
That's a cusp catastrophe graph from chaos theory. That should get you started :)

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:01 am
by Wombaticus Rex
Thom is familiar to me, that's actually where my journey into Weird began: math class. However, the polyglot fashion it's being used baffled the fucking shit outta me. Read the article, you'll see what I mean. I half question if the whole presentation was an obscure academic joke, but his preoccupation with spectrum and geometry vs. taxonomy makes me thing he's really onto something.

I'm also confused because I am constantly coming across the Laetus material in such diverse search contexts. It's a monumental undertaking.

Anyways, if you "get it," daug, just tell me. Assume I know the background info and spit me out a summary.

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:05 am
by Joe Hillshoist
Wombaticus Rex wrote:

This is an awesome thread. I mustn't have been online in may. Thanks for starting it crickett, and for reviving it wombat.

re That last link

Thats a catastrophe theory graph isn't it? The last chapter of Psychonaut talks about it a bit.

That graph is sposed to be a representation of sudden discontinuous changes in a system.

Just read the paper/link (wtf???) I'm struggling with it.

- diversion - The I ching is a form of mathematics. Like our decimal system, cept its not used to measure magnitude, its used to measure direction. You could probably do maths like you learn in school with it if you could figure out a 3 dimensional representation of the hexagram, out of yin and yang lines, but it'd be as unwieldy as the maths they use to describe string theory. Don't ask me how tho. I wouldn' have a clue. It just makes sense to me "in theory".

Its a hard concept to get your head around - doing maths based on directon without magnitude. Kind of almost oxymoronic - how can you do maths without measuring something with it? (Direction does measure tho, it measures whether the movement is toward or away from you, or some relativistic point.) - diversion over -

I'm starting to get it now, and as I finished the page I had this weird flash of a kind of UN/international theater where disputes were settled by Rap Battles. And I'm also getting the impression some people are taking that saying "make love not war" way to seriously. :D

Thanks JB thats an awesome read, one of the best things as far as thought provoking that I have seen in years.

Have you read Derrida? I think the whole thing is framed in terms of his concepts.

So what this seems to be saying is that they are looking for a way to use language on other people to flip the point of othering.

All humans are humans, physically there really are no differences, even in skin colour. Everyone has the same colour skin - human skin colour - its just that skin comes a huge variety of different shades and textures that makes it seem so different. So most of the differences between us are internal ... mentally internal. They exist in our metaphors and thats about it. So it seems this is an attempt to map the point where metaphors meet and diverge in order to end perceived differences between people.

If you map the point where identification as self or other happens, and then use metapohors that are just on the "self" side of that divide then it may be possible to change an enemy to a friend by talking to them and using analogies and metaphors. IT may even be possible to tweak this process to shape the flow of metaphors to support a certain idea.

The metaphors along the A - C axis of the graph flip, so that at a point along the B-C (diagonal axis) there are 2 or 3 different spots on the A - C axis. I guess it might be theoretically possible to map metaphors along each access, from different competing cultures, and so if those points on the A - C axis could be used as meeting or tipping points between cultures, possibly twig a flow of metaphor -

I've just reread that paragraph and kind of confused myself.

Ok I need to think about this more. Cos I've got to this point and am thinking that graph is wrong - don't the kama sutra axis and the topology axis need to swap to enable an easier way to link between the metaphors.

Maybe I smoked too much....

Re: The Metaphor Program

PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:47 am
by DrVolin
I'll give it a read.