Intell agency's software would predict world events

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is seeking technology that can help intelligence analysts predict global events such as mass migrations, disease outbreaks, economic instability and natural disasters.

“The [Open Source Indicators Program’s] methods, if proven successful, could provide early warnings of emerging events around the world,” said Jason Matheny, OSI program manager at IARPA, in a press release. IARPA is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Other unusual events IARPA would like the technology to anticipate include political upheavals, humanitarian crises, mass violence and resource shortages.

Currently, there are few methods for fusing and analyzing publicly available data, such as Web search queries, blogs, Internet traffic, financial market activity, traffic webcams and Wikipedia edits, according to IARPA’s solicitation.

The OSI program aims to use new statistical methods that continuously and automatically analyze public data to alert analysts to potential global upheavals. The technology must extract, process and correlate data to reveal patterns preceding unforeseen events and generate warnings.

IARPA wants “data extraction techniques that focus on volume, rather than depth, by identifying shallow features of data that correlate with events,” the solicitation states. In addition to helping identify patterns that precede events, officials want the system to develop probabilities of specific events happening.

The technology dovetails with a similar project that uses crowdsourcing technology to predict potential future events and their probability of occurring. On July 15, IARPA launched a beta version of the Aggregative Contingent Estimation system (ACES) website, called Forecasting ACE, which aggregates respondents’ answers to an online survey, GCN reported.

IARPA stressed that the program will not include information that identifies, geolocates or tracks individuals.

The idea of using public data as a predictor has been catching on with the rise of social media and other crowdsourcing efforts. Monitoring social media and search trends has proved to be effective in predicting the stock market, the box office performance of movies and even the spread of the flu, GCN reported in October 2010.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Sep 26, 2011 pweil

What will be the impact, if we can predict when our life will end.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011 Ivan Delbyck

A neural network with distributed fuzzy logic capability totally integrated with extremely sophisticated data mining and data visualization tools, along with the accompanying innovative and newly designed algorithms, are needed for a prediction based system to make any valid conclusions or calculations while examining voluminous amounts of ostensibly non-correlated or non-derivative events. I think that this would also require a quantum-like computing appliance to support the unattended prediction of terrorist actions. A unified architecture and computing platform would be essential for the multitude of intelligence agencies and sources to cross communicate and share data with any valid forecasting based project.

Sun, Sep 4, 2011

I took the pre-questionnaire yesterday. The questions/mini tests were all mathematical problems which is my worst strength, yet I have predicted and have foreseen many crises, uprisings, and allies turning into probable non-allies. One of my tested strengths is the ability to detect patterns, and I am highly intuitive. If they are going to use mathematical statistics as the main form of prediction or forecasting, I can tell them now, they are overlooking other talents and means of forecasting and are already headed for a high rate Iof non success. That is my first forecast. :-)

Tue, Aug 30, 2011

Has anyone watched the movie "Paycheck" latley? It does a good job of portraying how presumed knowledge of the future can shape that future.

Tue, Aug 30, 2011 earth

ROTFL Then what? It is one thing to be able to predict a revolution. It is quite another to understand why you got into that condition in the first place.

Running around in little circles screaming “The sky is falling, The Sky is falling” doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in one’s leadership. Take the US congress for instance. 18% confidence and dropping. Why? Well that takes a more in depth analysis than skimming lots of data.

Still knowing when the sky is about to fall lets the insiders leave the area. One wonders whether the US Congress hasn’t been setting itself up to emigrate to Israel. Loyalty oaths to a foreign country, wars to protect a foreign country to the detriment of their own, junkets to Israel after congressional sessions. Will this software predict something like that?

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