Writing about the cosmology of the Trobriand islanders, anthropologist Susan Montague tells us that the Trobriand universe is a vast disembodied space filled with both minds and energy. Cosmic minds are all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful, able to manipulate the energy of the universe toward whatever end they desire. But in spite of, or rather because of, these remarkable endowments, cosmic minds have a problem: cosmic boredom. They have the power to do anything they wish, but because they have no needs, that power has no purpose. They may be all-knowing, but to be all-knowing means there’s nothing to think about. So they sit around bored to death or, rather, bored to life, because as it happens, they have invented a way to relieve cosmic boredom: it is to play the amusing game of life. To play, you must be born into a human body, and to be born as such, you must forget the fullness of what you knew and work only with what can be known through the body. A human being is someone who has abandoned the boring surfeit of knowledge so as to come alive.

— Lewis Hyde, A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past


Soon after TIA was initiated, a similar DARPA program was taking shape under the direction of a close friend of Poindexter’s, DARPA program manager Douglas Gage. Gage’s project, LifeLog, sought to “build a database tracking a person’s entire existence” that included an individual’s relationships and communications (phone calls, mail, etc.), their media-consumption habits, their purchases, and much more in order to build a digital record of “everything an individual says, sees, or does.” LifeLog would then take this unstructured data and organize it into “discreet episodes” or snapshots while also “mapping out relationships, memories, events and experiences.”

LifeLog, per Gage and supporters of the program, would create a permanent and searchable electronic diary of a person’s entire life, which DARPA argued could be used to create next-generation “digital assistants” and offer users a “near-perfect digital memory.”

…Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, notably warned in 2019 that Facebook is just as untrustworthy as US intelligence, stating that “Facebook’s internal purpose, whether they state it publicly or not, is to compile perfect records of private lives to the maximum extent of their capability, and then exploit that for their own corporate enrichment. And damn the consequences.”

Snowden also stated in the same interview that “the more Google knows about you, the more Facebook knows about you, the more they are able . . . to create permanent records of private lives, the more influence and power they have over us.” This underscores how both Facebook and intelligence-linked Google have accomplished much of what LifeLog had aimed to do, but on a much larger scale than what DARPA had originally envisioned.

— Whitney Webb, “The Military Origins of Facebook


Social scientists dream of situations immune to interference by unpredictable human factors. But it turns out that in human affairs no situation is manproof. However high the degree of automation and however overpowering the nonhuman factors, the human elements of enterprise, courage, pride, faith, malice, stupidity, sloth, and the capacity for mischief remain decisive.

— Eric Hoffer, Before The Sabbath