Worth the Weight

In the midst of a long New York Times article about the serial theft of offensive cyberweapons from the National Security Agency, there’s a brief but interesting image. “Much of [a core N.S.A. group’s] work is labeled E.C.I., for ‘exceptionally controlled information,’ material so sensitive it was initially stored only in safes,” the article explains. “When the cumulative weight of the safes threatened the integrity of N.S.A.’s engineering building a few years ago, one agency veteran said, the rules were changed to allow locked file cabinets.”

It’s like some undiscovered Italo Calvino short story: an agency physically deformed by the gravitational implications of its secrets, its buildings now bulbous and misshapen as the literal weight of its mission continues to grow.

3 thoughts on “Worth the Weight”

  1. Well, here I am, after a long search for a reasonable contact point.
    You wrote a piece about ‘retro-futuristic’ buildings in Los Angeles, some of which was picked up by Atlas Obscura:
    But … where is the Blue Whale? Years ago, when West Hollywood was still part of Los Angeles, I came around a corner and was overwhelmed by the sight of it. Many of my friends snickered at my admiration of it. I don’t have those friends any more.
    The new red and green structures are interesting enough, but not astonishing like the first.
    Can’t it be included in a future list, or are you bound by political borders?

  2. Hey, Doug—thanks for the comment. I’ve been to many a meeting in the Pacific Design Center, but it just didn’t make the short list. Hope you liked some of the other picks, though, including those by myself and those by Atlas Obscura!

  3. Machines recognizing nature, yes, but also machine naturalists. Distributed sensor inputs piped back to centralized servers at scale/in real time with ML classifying new species, faunal behaviors, landcover/flora, &c., all georeferenced and timestamped. The autonomous vehicle industry as a massively distributed camera trap. Every autopiloted Tesla a Darwin. The shoulders of every highway a new Galapagos. Baidu, Google, SoftBank and others who have been investing broadly in the development of these vehicles exposing Biogeography APIs to their datasets.

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