Imagery Analysts

by rthieme on November 3, 1998

An article in this week’s Space News notes that “the coming surge in supply of commercially produced high-resolution satellite imagery threatens to siphon talent from U.S. and European defense departments.”

Once upon a time, those incredible close-ups belonged to intelligence agencies. Now, anyone can buy them. But the data doesn’t speak for itself. With 28 private-sector initiatives for selling satellite imagery, there aren’t enough well-trained imagery analysts out there.

An immense mass of data is filling our screens. The more data, the greater the number of concentric circles defining levels of abstraction. The interface is everything, and the interface – while assisted by pattern-matching computers – is defined by human need.

In society as a whole, too, we need people who can see meaningful patterns, select and connect the relevant dots, people who know how to build the Big Picture and bring it down to street-level needs.

It is said that George Bush, because he headed the CIA, understood the value of intelligence better than most presidents. He knew that gathering information was easy, but using information to understand a person’s motives or intentions was difficult. That required wisdom.

The Cincinnati Inquirer just paid Chiquita Brands International ten million dollars because a reporter hacked their voice mail system and used private messages to write a story. These days, anybody can be a spy.  Hacking the system is easy. Using the information to leverage one’s advantage without signaling the opponent that the information has been replicated is trickier.

It is said that Winston Churchill allowed the Germans to bomb Coventry rather than communicate that the Allies had cracked their code. Microsoft seems to have a sixth sense about a competitor’s next move. Marketers link and data-mine the pattern of our actions. Imagery analysts, all, in short, who understand that interlacing images constitute human identity in a digital world.

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