Friday, March 04, 2005

Moby Dick in 9-1/2 Seconds

Missed this yesterday, but the CIA is now using a California-based company to scan and diagram sentences from electronic documents, turning chatter into structured data for further analysis. But how will they code for "Uhh," "Hmm," and "Doh," if they show up?

Attensity, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and financed in part by In-Q-Tel, the C.I.A.'s investment arm, has developed a method to parse electronic documents almost instantly, and diagram all of the sentences inside. ("Moby-Dick," for instance, took all of nine and a half seconds.) By labeling subjects and verbs and other parts of speech, Attensity's software gives the documents a definable structure, a way to fit into a database. And that helps turn day-to-day chatter into information that is relevant and usable.

"They take the language that people use every day and compile it in a way that a machine can use," Mr. Patience said. "And that allows people to start using this tremendous amount of intelligence which has gone untapped."

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