Revolutionary Measures

Mining the future

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency of the...

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As someone with a history degree I’m a firm believer that the past gives us real clues as to how future events will pan out. Just take a look at the current war in Afghanistan and how learning from the failed Russian (and even Victorian British) invasions demonstrate what tactics are likely to work.

Essentially what it comes down to is access to as much data as possible, and being able to organise this into meaningful information, draw conclusions and act on them. And where’s the biggest source of open data in the world? The internet. So I wasn’t surprised to see a recent piece in Wired on a Swedish start-up called Recorded Future that mines the web for information in order to predict events.

Recorded Future works by collecting and analysing a combination of mainstream news, official announcements and social media in order to draw conclusions. It only analyses 25,000 sources via RSS feeds but Recorded Future’s key USP is a powerful algorithm that takes this unstructured data and analyses it, looking for patterns and relationships. Essentially it does what a skilled analyst would do, if they had access to a huge amount of data and processing power.

While a relatively young company, Recorded Future has powerful backing – the CIA’s investment arm In-Q-Tel (IQT) has put money in, and there’s a lot of interest from financial speculators and hedge funds, looking to predict future stock market moves.

And for me that’s the disappointing thing – while it is going where the money is, predicting the future should be about much more than spies and share prices. Imagine using the software to map potential humanitarian disasters before they happen so that action can be taken early. Or looking across disciplines to bring together disparate health information in order to predict treatments for common diseases. So while I wish Recorded Future, and competitors such as Wolfram Alpha, Quid and Blekko, well, it would be nice to see them used for the common good as well as making a quick buck.






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November 7, 2011 - Posted by | Marketing, Startup | , , , , , ,

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