Quote:More than 60 years ago, in his â€œFoundationâ€ series, the science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov invented a new science â€” psychohistory â€” that combined mathematics and psychology to predict the future.
Now social scientists are trying to mine the vast resources of the Internet â€” Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones â€” to do the same thing.
The most optimistic researchers believe that these storehouses of â€œbig dataâ€ will for the first time reveal sociological laws of human behavior â€” enabling them to predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability, just as physicists and chemists can predict natural phenomena.
â€œThis is a significant step forward,â€ said Thomas Malone, the director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. â€œWe have vastly more detailed and richer kinds of data available as well as predictive algorithms to use, and that makes possible a kind of prediction that would have never been possible before.â€
The government is showing interest in the idea. This summer a little-known intelligence agency began seeking ideas from academic social scientists and corporations for ways to automatically scan the Internet in 21 Latin American countries for â€œbig data,â€ according to a research proposal being circulated by the agency. The three-year experiment, to begin in April, is being financed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or Iarpa (pronounced eye-AR-puh), part of the office of the director of national intelligence... [url]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/scienc...wanted=all[/url]
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