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DARPA Launches Memex For Better Information Search

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DARPA Launches Memex For Better Information Search

darpa memex project

On February 9th, DARPA announced the launch of a new project called Memex. What is Memex you ask?

Imagine, if you will, a computer program that could search through your entire book collection, all of the public databases throughout every government agency, all academic white papers published in PDF format across the net, and all other searchable information available on the Internet today.

In addition to searching for that information, imagine that the same program is able to correlate information from your book collection, with relevant information hidden away in the academic white papers and across the Internet – and then it presents that information to you in a nicely indexed, well formatted collection of information on the topic of your choice.

This, according to DARPA, is the future of search – and it hopes to achieve this vision through Memex, a project named after the theoretical device dreamed up by Vannevar Bush in his 1945 article titled “As We May Think” published in The Atlantic Monthly.

If successful, the lessons learned from the project could dramatically transform how computers, and the world, search for information.

The Memex Project

In “As We May Think”, Vannevar envisioned a computer that could “supplement” human memory by indexing, sorting and categorizing all information. Bush termed the correlation of information as “associative indexing” – a way to sift through massive volumes of information and automatically draw associations between information as a way to organize and index that data.

It’s an interesting project that seeks to transform today’s form of information search that is “one at a time” entry searching, to what DARPA calls the “next generation of search technologies” as a way to discover, organize and present results from information queries in a new way.

Much like the Internet itself, it may be that the cutting edge generation of search could come from military and government needs to better collect, analyze and distribute information to everyone who needs to know critical information analysis as quickly as possible.

darpa memex project

From Military Use to Mainstream

The initial and primary goal of Memex is a Defense Department driven initiative to battle human trafficking. The intent of the project is to draw from information gathered from forums, chats, hidden services and even job postings to gather signals from within the secret industry of human trafficking and slavery.

The end product will be an “index curated for the counter-trafficking domain”, but it will also provide what DARPA describes as a configurable interface that can be used for many other applications – potentially even mainstream search applications.

Chris White, the DARPA Program Manager explained the primary end result that the project team is hoping for.

“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. 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.”

Ultimately, the project will result in software that has the capability to sift through a tremendous amount of information and actually gain insights from the correlations and connections that it discovers between the many sources of data.

The one catch: The program isn’t actually under development yet. DARPA is calling out for proposals – with a Proposers’ Day scheduled for February 18th in Arlington, VA.

Whether these lofty goals of DARPA become a reality some day remains to be seen. However, if they do, the potential applications are nearly unlimited.

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

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Gabrielle is a journalist who finds strange stories the media misses, and enlightens readers about news they never knew existed.
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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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