This article considers how cultural understanding is being brought into the work of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), through an analysis of its Metaphor program. It examines the type of social science underwriting this program, unpacks implications of the agency’s conception of metaphor for understanding so-called cultures of interest, and compares IARPA’s to competing accounts of how metaphor works to create cultural meaning. The article highlights some risks posed by key deficits in the Intelligence Community's (IC) approach to culture, which relies on the cognitive linguistic theories of George Lakoff and colleagues. It also explores the problem of the opacity of these risks for analysts, even as such predictive cultural analytics are becoming a part of intelligence forecasting. This article examines the problem of information secrecy in two ways, by unpacking the opacity of “black box,” algorithm-based social science of culture for end users with little appreciation of their potential biases, and by evaluating the IC's nontransparent approach to foreign cultures, as it underwrites national security assessments.


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