Photo by @mikofilm

Competing for Digital Security Talent

Officers at CIA Labs can patent, license and profit from their work

It seems state intelligence just got more commercial, or at least more financially incentivised.

In a new article in MIT Technology Review written the 21st of September 2020 Patrick Howell O’Neill writes about changes in the CIA.

Government officers working on intelligence can therefore earn more money.

Private security has become perhaps too much of a worry, or competition for talent.

One example is Palantir preparing to go public.

Palantir was co-founded by Peter Thiel back in 2003. It helps detect patterns in large datasets.

The company has worked with CIA (an early investor through its venture arm In-Q-Tel).

However, three people – Alex Karp, Stephen Cohen and Peter Thiel – privately control one of the most advanced security operations on the planet.

When private companies surpass government, as seems to increasingly be the case, then what does CIA do?

The agency’s solution seems to be CIA Labs.

The new skunkworks will attempt to recruit and retain technical talent by offering incentives to those who work there.

“CIA officers will be able for the first time to publicly file patents on the intellectual property they work on — and collect a portion of the the profits.”

Dawn Meyerriecks, who heads the agency’s science and technology directorate, says the best-case scenario is that the agency’s research and development could end up paying for itself.

  • The agency already sponsors its own venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, which has backed companies including Keyhole, the core technology that now makes up Google Earth.
  • It also works with Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity to do basic and expensive research where the private sector and academia often don’t deliver the goods.

CIA Labs is looking at areas including:

  1. Artificial intelligence.
  2. Data analytics.
  3. Biotechnology.
  4. Advanced materials
  5. High-performance quantum computing.

One of the issues is that CIA gathers a lot of data, but finds it challenging to process this, processing a large amount of datas per second. They have a lot of low-power sensors, so edge computing is not unlikely.

On the one hand the agency has helped develop lithium-ion batteries on the other hand it has helped develop deadly drones now often used in American warfare and assassinations.

What will this new development lead to?

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 475. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau