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21 January 2008

Warning impact

It is fair to say that Google has had a tremendous impact in any technology area that it seeks to invest its time and resources. Even when those investments have failed to materialize viable commercialized outcomes, the underlying advances in theory – and the less heralded aspects of hands-on operational experiences – have no doubt been of immense import in many sectors which simply had never before seen attention of that kind or scale.

We thus note with great interest the Google.org charity wing’s decision to explore new early warning solutions. The initial applications for this warning capability are envisioned to be in the area of emerging infectious disease – making the search engine perhaps the largest player in the medical intelligence field outside of the US government itself.

The implications are potentially stunning – not the least among them a possibility for the evolution of an entirely distinct indications and warning doctrine from a major external source, one that is natively rooted in new technologies and the lessons of distributed, knowledge work era communication and collaboration structures. Re-inventing I&W for non-state and transnational issues – especially the abhuman factors of biological threats – promises to be the most significant contribution to the warning field since Cynthia Grabo’s foundational work.

We further note that this is the kind of leading edge outcomes that In-Q-Tel should be exploring, perhaps through a public-private sector partnership model.

Let us hope the project will bring to results the kind of potential we can now glimpse. Given the foundation’s focus on metrics of success – in a manner for more rigorous than any government program is ever held to account for – we have reason to be optimistic. Whether such results can translate effectively into the realm of intelligence is another matter – and one that future intelligence scholars will no doubt be positioned to explore.

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