1573: Cyberintelligence

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We had gathered that raw information, but had yet to put it all together.
Title text: We had gathered that raw information, but had yet to put it all together.


Ponytail presents a FY2015 (Fiscal Year for 2015) budget for cyberintelligence, but is then interrupted with a snide remark about the prefix cyber. Although it is not specified what organization the budget is for, the size of the budget ($8.1 Billion) is large enough to suggest that it must be a large government organization such as the United States Department of Defense.

This comic illustrates that some organization spends obscene amounts of money on their "cyberintelligence" budget, yet all that spending appears not to have informed them that the prefix "cyber-" fell out of fashion years ago. That the prefix could annoy experts were already used in the title text of 1084: Server Problem.

The prefix "cyber" is derived from "Cybernetic," which comes from the Greek word κυβερνητικός, meaning skilled in steering or governing. Cyberintelligence could also be called cyber spying i.e. spying in the digital world, one of many "new" words with the cyber- prefix. Many were invented in the 1980s and 1990s, following the example of "cyberspace", popularized by William Gibson in 1982.

If cyberintelligence departments were given names today, they might be called Internet Intelligence, Virtual Intelligence, Data Intelligence or Online Intelligence departments.

This may be due to the fact that government organizations are typically named by middle-aged or senior officials who are generally less likely to be familiar with the current trends in technology language. They are more likely to stick to the words that were used when they first learned about the technology. Such organizations, being bureaucracies, are also unlikely to change their name.

The title text continues the joke by implying the organization learned about the demise of "cyber-" yet failed to process or analyze that data. It is a common problem among intelligence organizations to gather "raw information" (such as photos, or reports from spies) but be unable to make use of it because there wasn't time to process the information into intelligence by determining what it means. This is particularly true for intelligence gathered by or relating to computers, as they can generate data far faster than people can review it. It may also be a reference to the previous comic, which was a link to a survey for xkcd readers.

"Cyberspace" and "cybernetics", illustrated here, are two of the most common words with that prefix (Cyberspace 6 times as prevalent as cybernetics at their peaks). "Cyberintelligence" is shown here. Cyberspace was used 4000 times more often, although the more common spelling splitting it in two words "Cyber intelligence" was 1.35 times more used than in one word. But even combining these two versions cyberspace is still used more than 1700 times as often.


[Ponytail, pointing at a chart to her left, with text and two curves on a graph, is talking to someone off-screen to the right.]
Ponytail: Our overall FY2015 cyberintelligence budget was $8.1 billion-
Off-screen voice: -Yet it wasn't enough to pick up on the fact that no one else has used the prefix "cyber-" for like a decade?
Ponytail: Shut up.

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No one has used the prefix "cyber-" in over a decade? I guess the Cybermen are pretty disappointed to hear that. 06:22, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

You could argue it's a "historical" term. It's have been almost 50 years since the term was formed. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:08, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
And, at least in Germany, broadcasting of CSI Cyber starts these days. -- 07:45, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

See also https://freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/whats-cyber-cyber-security/ [Comet] 21:41, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

CSI Cyber -- is an other example of a government organization named by senior exec who probably are old men Spongebog (talk) 13:35, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
The Dr Who Cybermen originated in the 1960s. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Cybermen have evolved beyond the need for most crude human emotions, such as disappointment. The only emotion we have left is the one you unmodified humans express by saying "excellent" while rubbing your hands together, although we of course express it by saying "excellent" while rubbing our silvery gloves together. 11:42, 29 September 2015 (UTC)

Control Data Corporation produced the "Cyber" line of mainframes in the 70's and 80's. [Comet] 21:36, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

I think "cyber intelligence" is referring to computer spying and security, not artificial intelligence. As in "our cyber intelligence operatives have located the suspect." If you google "cyber intelligence," the results are definitely more geared towards security than AI. 07:42, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

I see and agree. I (as a German) always tend to forget that "intelligence" can be used as a term for other things, esp. espionage stuff (or "gaining information" or similar). The German word "Intelligenz" is only related cognitive abilities, as in AI, IQ etc... Or - rarely - as a synonym for Intelligentsia or intellectuals Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 12:17, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
As a computer security researcher, I agree with this idea. The term "cybersecurity" is commonly used to refer to computer security even today. On the other hand, in many other subfields of computer science, the "cyber-" prefix has fallen into disuse. 16:44, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Ironically, in Greece, the Cybercrime unit has never used the Greek word "Cyber" in its local name - possibly because it would be misunderstood to mean "Government Crime" Sysin (talk) 19:37, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

Munroe himself uses the prefix "cyber" in the title text to xkcd 1084. 23:00, 4 September 2015 (UTC)

Yes, but even there he uses it ironically, in an attempt to annoy others.

I changed "coined by Gibson" to "popularized by Gibson" because Google finds sporadic use going back to 1969, then a huge jump starting in the early 1980's. Matchups (talk) 12:03, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

Is it possible that the title text is referencing the Cosmic AC from Isaac Asimov's The Last Question? Porso9 (talk) 14:01, 7 September 2015 (UTC)Porso9

I don't know if this belongs in the explanation, but the title text pretty clearly is a paraphrase of, if not a quote from, the 9/11 report findings. Miamiclay (talk) 05:59, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

4 years after this comic, Tesla anounces their Cybertruck. --Lupo (talk) 12:00, 22 November 2019 (UTC)

And as of January 2022, it still isn't in production, and Tesla recently removed all projected dates when it will actually be available from their web site. Nitpicking (talk) 13:16, 11 January 2022 (UTC)