The Role of Mixed-Initiative Agent Interfaces in Intelligence Analysis: Extended Abstract

L. Karl Branting

The task of intelligence analysts is to derive information useful for law enforcement or security from diverse and hetero- geneous data sources. Two assumptions support the position that mixed-initiative agent interfaces are desirable for automated systems to assist analysts. The first is that intelligent systems are most beneficial when they help analysts to do their jobs better, rather than to replacing analysts or supplanting their expert judgment. The second idea is that the relationship between analysts and intelligent systems should be governed by the metaphor of a collaborator who works with the analyst, rather than of an idiot savant who slavishly carries out calculations without any idea of whether they make any sense given the analyst’s goals and the current problem-solving context. This distinction has been termed interface-as-agent as opposed to interface-as-tool (Chi98). Collaborative interfaces for analysis have sometimes been referred to as analyst’s assistants. The objective of this paper is to identify opportunities to apply mixed-initiative interface design techniques to improve intelligence analysis. The focus is not on technical solutions, but rather on potential applications in which successful mixed-initiative techniques might lead to significant bene its. This paper sets forth several important factors that contribute to the difficulty of intelligence analysis and proposes a range of automation options addressing these factors.


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