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Computer Software to Predict the Unpredictable

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the zombo-com dept.

Software 287

Amigan writes "Professor Jerzy Rozenblit at the University of Arizona was awarded $2.2Million to develop software to predict the unpredictable — specifically relating to volatile political and military situations." From the article: "The software will predict the actions of paramilitary groups, ethnic factions, terrorists and criminal groups, while aiding commanders in devising strategies for stabilizing areas before, during and after conflicts. It also will have many civilian applications in finance, law enforcement, epidemiology and the aftermath of natural disasters, such as hurricane Katrina."

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computer? (5, Funny)

onemorehour (162028) | about 7 years ago | (#21018073)

Sure, no problem. The software should work fine, as long as you find a computer powerful and irrational enough to run it [] .

Re:computer? (5, Funny)

schwaang (667808) | about 7 years ago | (#21018139)

I'm absolutely certain such systems would be greeted as liberators from the drudgery of all the planning we do now for these complicated military and political situations.

Re:computer? (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | about 7 years ago | (#21018181)

When I read stuff like this it always amazes me that people actually think such things can be predicted for any degree of usefulness. Pick up a book on chaos theory and complex systems and you will see that for large interconnected systems a small change in the starting conditions results in a completely different result. No computer could have predicted 9/11 and yet it has had a massive change in how the world works - same thing if some crazy tomorrow assassinates the president.

Even if we assume these random events not to occur you would need *all* the data to get a result approaching reality.

Re:computer? (5, Informative)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | about 7 years ago | (#21018747)

Of course, you would also read that not all systems are inherently chaotic. It is by no means obvious that human society is complex enough to be called unpredictable in principle. People who tout their own "free will" should think long and hard about that and realize that simply being able to imagine a multitude of choices does not mean that each is likely to occur. Remember that a human being living in society has more in common with an electron BOUND in a crystal than a free electron. The former has several constraints while the latter is in principle unpredictable.

Readers of Asimov will know the qualitative reasons for why such things as broad socio-economic-historical trends and the actions of large groups of people can in principle be made predictable. For a system to be chaotic, it must have a large PHASE SPACE of possibilities (physical size is not always important but it is significant). What matters is the degrees of freedom and how parts of the system are coupled to other parts. Do small perturbations in the system dissipate or do they spread? Modern society has evolved into a 2-phase system where it reacts to new perturbations by simply breaking them into two possibilities - this helps relieve tensions and most people get stuck in one of the two states. This has the rather fascinating effect of re-stabilizing the system despite the introduced disturbance.

So, as the above example leads us to suspect, modern human societies are just not as complex as our egos would lead us to believe. There is strong coupling between its parts and few people stay undecided about issues - they simply get stuck orbiting one of two strong attractors in the space of possibilities and this serves to relieve any stress. In such a system of course, revolutions (in the sense of widely held beliefs changing within the lifetime of a single individual) simply cannot happen. At the worst, there might be a slow decay and unraveling of the social fabric. Barely noticeable.

Equivalent arguments apply to the "free will" of individual human beings. Humans tend to congregate in packs - behaviorally, philosophically or otherwise. This strong tribal leaning that is presumably built into our genes ensures that most behavior patterns will be statistical in nature. Indeed, the actions of an individual can be simply predicted to a first approximation by merely qualitative means even in the absence of complete information by assuming rational behavior. A better approximation can be achieved by modeling the level of rationality of the individual and assigning probabilities based on that.

While human beings may not be predictable in a strictly deductive sense, most people are (for better or for worse) rather mundane in terms of how eccentric they can be (in a way that actually affects other parts of society). This can hardly be a bad thing as the timescale of societal change must be greater than the lifetime of an individual for a society to be called "stable". If it is MUCH greater, we would call that society degenerate or decayed.

Re:computer? (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | about 7 years ago | (#21018943)

No one could have predicted 9/11 or JFK's assassination. The actions of small groups of whack-jobs will always fly under the radar. Modern technology amplifies individual acts. 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, all serve as examples. There are not enough computing resources in the world, to track the potential actions of each nut. But, prediction becomes less intractable when you ask the right question. You can't just say, "Okay, here is the state of things now. What's going to happen tomorrow?" Rather, "What would happen tomorrow, if the US was struck by a massive, distributed, terrorist attack (like 9/11)?" The prediction moves away from the lone, unpredictable, nuts, to the actions of the masses and well known public figures(President etc.).

I'm not saying the predictions would be good or even possible. But, the potential is there for a system that can analyze more data than a thousand RAND Corporations, and perhaps come up with better solutions.

But what I'm really worried about is the government spending so much time staring at their computer screens, waiting for the next prediction, that they miss the real action going on right now.

Can it predict the weather six months out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018397)

I'd like to know when I should take my Spring vacation to the beach.

Re:Can it predict the weather six months out? (5, Funny)

onemorehour (162028) | about 7 years ago | (#21018453)

Can it predict the weather six months out?

Of course it can--did you even read the link?

It will just take about six months to calculate the result.

Fix weather prediction first (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#21018475)

I'll remain a skeptic until I see reliable weather prediction at least.

Koolaid anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018955)

well it's good to see that someone is drinking their koolaid

Jason []

Well... (5, Funny)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | about 7 years ago | (#21018081)

Didn't see that one coming.

Re:Well... (1)

bencass (1030748) | about 7 years ago | (#21018107)

They just need to hire a few psychohistorians to program it.

Re:Well... (1)

JohnVanVliet (945577) | about 7 years ago | (#21019033)

as i was reading i was thinking how nice it would be if the psychohistorians from the Foundation trilogy + 3 prequels were here

Re:Well... (1)

vertinox (846076) | about 7 years ago | (#21018143)

Didn't see that one coming.

I'm sure the computer did.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018173)

> > Didn't see that one coming.
>I'm sure the computer did.

The Computer sees everything. Trust the Computer! The Computer is your friend!

Re:Well... (1)

thewils (463314) | about 7 years ago | (#21018167)

I don't blame you. If it is unpredictable then by definition it can't be predicted, the best you could manage would be an educated guess. I guess they can really only predict the stuff that's just mindbogglingly difficult to predict.

If it really can predict the unpredictable, let's see it try to predict which atom in a radioactive element is going to decay next. Then I'd be impressed.

"No One Could Have Forseen!!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018621)

Wow, something like this could have really helped out the Bush administration... seeing as how none of them were able to (supposedly) forsee anything which happened for the past six years.

It's kind of amazing how much money they made off their failures, isn't it?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018653)

I almost choked on a cookie! >:(

bullshit flag (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018097)

Go ahead and predict the weather for a week. I will be impressed.

Predict it for 2 weeks, I will blow you.

You cannot predict something with so many variables that you don't understand. You certainly cannot do it regarding how people will react.

Sunny and mild (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018193)

Okay, sunny and mild. Now you hold up your end of the deal.

What?! You said nothing about accuracy...

Re:Sunny and mild (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018309)

You win. You get a free blow.

Come on over and collect.

Perhaps you can predict where I am now (with accuracy)

Re:bullshit flag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018275)


Re:bullshit flag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018537)

I can predict the weather 2 weeks out. The temperature will be between -150 and +200 degrees fahrenheit. There will be between 0 and 20 feet of percipitation. Your place or mine?

Your response is sooooo... (1)

WallaceAndGromit (910755) | about 7 years ago | (#21018571)


Re:bullshit flag (1)

localman (111171) | about 7 years ago | (#21018651)

I once heard that if you predict the weather tomorrow will be the same as today, you'll be right more often than most meteorologists.

So lets start now on my free blowjob. How many chances do I get? ;)

Re:bullshit flag (5, Insightful)

zeromorph (1009305) | about 7 years ago | (#21018739)

bullshit flag

I second that.

The whole article is totally bizarre and buzzword populated begging for attention. Not only will it predict the actions of nearly every bunch of lunatics it will also "display data in graphical, 3-D and other forms that can be quickly grasped".

Please! We have a highly complex situation, with a lot of different agents and a long genesis, and literally millions of different contextual factors influencing the situation and they take all this munch and crunch it a little with fancy buzzword concepts and put it in a pie chart?

This is an insultingly brazen self-adulation.

While the software ultimately could save millions of lives,...

Ok, I changed my mind I'm gonna die laughing.

Re:bullshit flag (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 7 years ago | (#21018743)

Yes you can.
The weather and radioactive decay are random events.
an individual is difficult to predict; large groups, however, are rather predictable.
The whole issue with using humans to predict political situations is that humans are biased.
The computer is not. Even with common polls showing the election one way ENIAC predicted the presidential election correctly for the expected loser.

Re:bullshit flag (1)

UnanimousCoward (9841) | about 7 years ago | (#21018777)

What do you look like? On second thought, who cares?

You don't get it (3, Insightful)

passthecrackpipe (598773) | about 7 years ago | (#21019021)

It isn't about actually being able to predict anything useful. Think of it like this. As a "World Leader" [sic], how much would you spend on the Ultimate Cop-Out(tm)? yeah a few million is a *bargain* for what this thing can do. None of the people involved in this project are actually interested in the predictions. What they are interested in is that the *next* time they have a royal screw up, they can say: "well, its unfortunate this happened, but you see, we have really smart supercomputer. It has 3-D and stuff. And it tells us what is most likely to happen. This wasn't on the list. We only have limited resources, and this is the best way to focus those resources where they are most likely to be doing us good".

Its the ultimate repudiation. As far as I can predict, they will spend lots and lots more money on this, get some buddies in on the gravy train somewhere to boot, and they still got themselves a bargain.

Re:bullshit flag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21019035)

Go ahead and predict the weather for a week. I will be impressed.

Predict it for 2 weeks, I will blow you.

Here we go: the weather, for the next two weeks, will be very sunny at 100 degrees. Blowjob please. Wait, on second thoughts, I'll donate my winnings to charity. Give it to a hobo [] instead.

You cannot predict something with so many variables that you don't understand.

Of course you can. I just did. Whether that prediction matches reality is another thing entirely. James Randi you are not.

You don't need software for that (1)

fedxone-v86 (1080801) | about 7 years ago | (#21018117)

Just flip a coin and / or ask the stars.

Re:You don't need software for that (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 7 years ago | (#21018413)

Speaking as someone who worked his way through college reading Taort cards in local coffeehouses (I am not kidding, I really did).... I don't believe a word of it..

Re:You don't need software for that (2, Interesting)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 7 years ago | (#21018611)

Or ask people that aren't certified behaviorists or criminal profilers. Ask the kids who were picked on in school, whose embarassment and anger could only be contained behind a pleasant facade. Here's a case from my view.

In 1993, terrorists tried to destroy the World Trade Center by exploding a large truck-bomb in the basement parking garage. It did a lot of damage, but nothing severe. The government reacted by not allowing trucks in the parking garage anymore. To assure this, several large cement pylons and other traffic barriers were placed out front, and only cars and light trucks/SUVs were allowed through. Seemed like a good plan. Sorta.

My first thought after reading about these cement barriers was how could you drive trucks through these barriers to bomb the buildings again. You can't, they are too thick and reinforced. You have to go _over_ the barriers somehow. Can you drive the truck over the barrier? Not very likely. So how would you get the truck over the barrier and into the building? Put two wings on the damn thing and fly it in. In other words, rent a cargo plane, fill it full of explosives, and fly it into the buildings. In reality, the bastards were even more twisted than I would have been.

So now, would the computer be able to predict that outcome? Or could that predictions only come from a twisted brain that spent several years wanting to kill many people? Because that is exactly what we are facing. Unpredictable scenarios are only for people with no _personal issues_.

It's A TRAP! (5, Funny)

lennier (44736) | about 7 years ago | (#21018119)

The Asymmetric Threat Response and Analysis Project, known as ATRAP, is a massively complex set of computer algorithms (mathematical procedures) that sift through millions of pieces of data.

They come right out and say it...

Ridiculous (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 7 years ago | (#21018129)

Apparently there are those that have forgotten the old computer law of "Garbage In, Garbage Out". Even if we had a perfect model to predict these sort of things, we don't have any way of supplying the required data to model the prediction. What's the computer going to do, go undercover in secret groups? Read the web sites? Listen to radio chatter and analyze their conversations?

Maybe someday when we have a real science of A.I. something like this might be possible, but all it shows is that this university professor will happily take government money for delivering absolutely nothing.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

paulthomas (685756) | about 7 years ago | (#21018207)

Moreover, wouldn't the existence of such a prescient system influence outcomes?

Read "Minority Report" By P.K. Dick. (4, Informative)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#21018615)

The short story, not the movie. They're completely different. It covers exactly this situation.

Precog #1 sees the future.

Precog #2 sees the future that happens when you know what Precog #1 saw.

Precog #3 sees the future that happens when you know what Precog #2 saw which was the future that Precog #1 saw.

Re:Read "Minority Report" By P.K. Dick. (1)

paulthomas (685756) | about 7 years ago | (#21018885)

Thanks, I'll pick it up. I've seen the movie, and I've heard really good things about Philip K Dick around these parts.

Re:Ridiculous (3, Insightful)

ChrisMounce (1096567) | about 7 years ago | (#21018655)

Maybe someday when we have a real science of A.I. something like this might be possible, but all it shows is that this university professor will happily take government money for delivering absolutely nothing.
He has already perfected the software and is using it to game the grant system.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about 7 years ago | (#21018827)

Apparently there are those that have forgotten the old computer law of "Garbage In, Garbage Out" [...] all it shows is that this university professor will happily take government money for delivering absolutely nothing.

Unless, of course, garbage is what they are after. Last time it was "Curveball" that gave them the necessary disinformation to justify a war; next time they won't even need to bother with informants, they'll just look to their computer program to tell them an invasion is necessary. Accuracy would only get in the way of the political goals anyway.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

56 (527333) | about 7 years ago | (#21018883)

Even if this were to work (which is by no means a given), people will begin to take its predictions into account in order to do the unexpected. Truly a preposterous endeavor.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

syrinje (781614) | about 7 years ago | (#21018913)

While a bad use of tax-payer money, delivering nothing is the benign outcome of this whole fiasco - if they did deliver a half-assed electronic magic 8-ball of sorts. That would be a Really Bad Thing (TM). I shudder to think of the consequences of a government making choices on use of peoples lives and deployment of deadly force based on this.

OF course, no doubt, by some weird law of self-fulfilling prophecies - it will predict the end of the world and it shall be so!

It will always answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018155)

"Insufficient data for a meaningful answer."

come on now (1)

flynt (248848) | about 7 years ago | (#21018183)

'Predict' has a specific meaning in statistics and machine learning. It definitely does *not* mean accurately predicting outcomes in every situation. Not to belittle this group's work, because it is no doubt important and complicated, but it is not going to magically 'predict the unpredictable'.

Reason (5, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#21018187)

From "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency," by Douglas Adams,
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

"Well," he said, "it's to do with the project which first made the software incarnation of the company profitable. It was called Reason, and in its own way it was sensational."

"What was it?"

"Well, it was a kind of back-to-front program. It's funny how many of the best ideas are just an old idea back-to-front. You see, there have already been several programs written that help you make decisions by properly ordering and analysing all the relevant facts.... The drawback with these is that the decision which all the properly ordered and analyzed facts point to is not necessarily the one you want.

"... Gordon's great insight was to design a program which allowed you to specify in advance what decision you wished it to reach, and only then to give it all the facts. The program's task, ... was simply to construct a plausible series of logical-sounding steps to connect the premises with the conclusion." ....

"Heavens. And did the program sell very well?"

"No, we never sold a single copy.... The entire project was bought up, lock, stock, and barrel, by the Pentagon. The deal put WayForward on a very sound financial foundation. Its moral foundation, on the other hand, is not something I would want to trust my weight to. I've recently been analyzing a lot of the arguments put forward in favor of the Star Wars project, and if you know what you're looking for, the pattern of the algorithms is very clear.

"So much so, in fact, that looking at Pentagon policies over the last couple of years I think I can be fairly sure that the US Navy is using version 2.00 of the program, while the Air Force for some reason only has the beta-test version of 1.5. Odd, that."

Prescient (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 7 years ago | (#21018709)

Apparently, such a program is still in use.

I'll buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018189)

Software to counteract Murphy's Law. What could go wrong?

Re:I'll buy it (1)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | about 7 years ago | (#21018847)


That could threaten the very existence of the universe. Nobody messes with Murphy's Law. It's the left hand of the Al-mighty. Would you want Kim Jong Il's toy to not fail when it is on its way to its target (i.e. you home town)?


Failure isn't always bad and success isn't always good.

How about predicting the predictable first... (1)

mikeasu (1025283) | about 7 years ago | (#21018205)

Hopefully, it'll bring their football predictions more in line with an ASU fan living in Tucson, I had to put up with months of "It isn't a matter of IF we go to a bowl game this year, but WHICH bowl game we'll go to!" I've been laughing all season, as bad as the wildcats are doing and how well ASU is doing... DISCLAIMER...I realize ASU has the roug part of their schedule ahead...

Re:How about predicting the predictable first... (1)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#21018669)

just wait till basketball season you can't spell Arizona State without N.I.T. :D

If it is unpredictable... (4, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 7 years ago | (#21018209)

...the program will still fail to predict it. By definition.

The article (as would be unsurprising even from the professional press, and is less surprising from what seems to be a school newspaper of the school employing the professor getting the grant) seems to be a very uncritical regurgitation of an extraordinarily puffed-up press release that seems to suggest that the professor has gotten a grant to develop something that already exist and presently has the capacities sought by the grant. Sometimes. Maybe. Really, the shifting use of verb tenses gave me a kind of mental whiplash trying to read it.

Also, I think that while this may be useful, the danger of overreliance on a system where quite literally no one using it understands how factors are really being used to generate outcome predictions are immense; if you get something that works well predictively at all, it will likely be prone to fail wildly if any of the many factors it is adapted to based on the historical data used to train it shift. Unfortunately, it is quite likely that the particular sensitivities will be opaque, and thus no one is likely to know when it is likely to fail. This is rather distinct from conventional analysis which, even though it may fail in many circumstances, where it is rigorous analysis and not just guesswork to start with, its assumptions are transparent and its weaknesses and vulnerabilities in application to particular situations can also be evaluated.

Re:If it is unpredictable... (2, Insightful)

orkysoft (93727) | about 7 years ago | (#21018431)

...the program will still fail to predict it. By definition.

But it's magic! It's a computer program, which is magic to most people.

We will finally know... (5, Funny)

Sunshinerat (1114191) | about 7 years ago | (#21018229)

..when Duke Nukem Forever will be released.

And to be honest, this alone is worth the expense.

Re:We will finally know... (1)

El_Oscuro (1022477) | about 7 years ago | (#21018937)

But will it run on Linux?

If the prediction is wrong, whose fault is it? (2, Funny)

z-j-y (1056250) | about 7 years ago | (#21018231)


My prediction: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018247)

Shit happens.

linear limitations... (1)

DawnArdent (852523) | about 7 years ago | (#21018269)

I'd rather invest in training mentats.

already done (1)

phrostie (121428) | about 7 years ago | (#21018299)

someone predicted this, i'm sure of it

Trantor (2, Insightful)

danilo.moret (997554) | about 7 years ago | (#21018301)

You just need to find one single planetary system complex enough, some basic axioms, a lot of spare mathematicians and Hari Seldon to come up with a solution for predicting the unpredictable, as long as the unpredictable isn't the Mule.

Re:Trantor (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 7 years ago | (#21018749)

No, you just need a colony of mind control capable citizens hidden from the rest of society (not hard when they have mind control) to ensure things always go the way you want.

Re:Trantor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018787)

This deserves an infinite score.

P.S. Did you know that Psychohistory is a real discipline? It didn't even borrow its name from Asimov.

P.P.S I'm actually taking a break from re-reading Prelude to Foundation to reply to this.

I wrote a program to predict lottery results (1)

netsavior (627338) | about 7 years ago | (#21018305)

It was accurate an astonishing 1 in every 165 million times. I used a brute force decryption strategy.

ATRAP? (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | about 7 years ago | (#21018347)

Hmmm, And "SKYNET" became self-aware when?

pork barrel money pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018367)

This really sounds like a huge pork barrel money pit. I bet you could dump a billion dollars into this project and not get any usable results.

They did this in wargames and I hope that this is. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#21018401)

They did this in war games and I hope that this is not hooked up to any missile launch systems and they better also have tic tack toe on there as well with a mode where the system can play it self.

The only winning move is not to play how about a good game of chess?

But... (1)

ePlus (1041568) | about 7 years ago | (#21018415)

Doesn't real-time software already do this?

What happened...? (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#21018425)

To that magical software that was supposed to guess if a movie will be a box-office homerun or not. It was supposed to turn the industry around and make poorly performing movies part of the past.

Well, so much for this one as well.

Re:What happened...? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21018551)

To that magical software that was supposed to guess if a movie will be a box-office homerun or not. It was supposed to turn the industry around and make poorly performing movies part of the past.

      Seems to me like they are using it. The software keeps predicting more income by making sequels than original movies...

Re:What happened...? (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | about 7 years ago | (#21018633)

There have been attempts to do that in multiple fields, including Marketing "Science". However, if you're going to bet on a system that can predict box office sales, I'd put my money on a computer science approach. Here's an interesting paper from 2006: Predicting movie sales from blogger sentiment. []

Asimov anyone? (1)

Ristol (745640) | about 7 years ago | (#21018429)

Should we clook forward to a Rozenblit plan sometime in the future?

GL style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018441)

Predict the unpredictable
Compute the uncomputable
Row, row, fight the powar!

Meh... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 7 years ago | (#21018461)

Let's see them predict the outcome of a series of discrete random events with a statistically significant greater success rate than the mathematical probabilities of the events would suggest.

I can save them a bunch of money... (1)

msauve (701917) | about 7 years ago | (#21018503)

I'll sell them a dartboard for only $1 million!

Isaac Asimov already thought of this (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 7 years ago | (#21018531)

And he called it "psycho history." The way he describes it, it almost sounds plausible as long as you have trillions of people, and they don't know what your predictions are.

Re:Isaac Asimov already thought of this (1)

Ristol (745640) | about 7 years ago | (#21018721)

I always thought that was funny. If his prediction models were so good couldn't he just factor in the fact that people were aware of the results?

Re:Isaac Asimov already thought of this (2, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about 7 years ago | (#21019003)

I always thought that was funny. If his prediction models were so good couldn't he just factor in the fact that people were aware of the results?

That would give you an infinite recursion, no?

i.e. then you'd have to factor in the fact that people were aware that you had factored in the results, and then factor in the fact that they were aware you had factored in the fact that people were aware you had factored in the results.... and so on until your head explodes.

Can it predict governmental trends? (0, Offtopic)

SystemFault (876435) | about 7 years ago | (#21018547)

Can the system predict governmental trends? I'm thinking of something like when a somewhat peaceful, balanced budget democratic republic passes some multidimensional cusp and becomes enamored of gross deficit spending, preemptive military strikes, illegal detainment, torture, and fascism in general? It sure would be nice to see this coming a few years in advance.

Re:Can it predict governmental trends? (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | about 7 years ago | (#21018661)

Can the system predict governmental trends? I'm thinking of something like when a somewhat peaceful, balanced budget democratic republic passes some multidimensional cusp and becomes enamored of gross deficit spending, preemptive military strikes, illegal detainment, torture, and fascism in general? It sure would be nice to see this coming a few years in advance.
Why, 1945 is long gone (Korean war in 1950)and we've (USA) only had about 5 or 6 years of surplus since then - and the surplus only occured because both parties of congress were controlled by one party and the presidency by the other - cancelling out each other's overspending ways.

Re:Can it predict governmental trends? (1)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#21019001)

Can the system predict governmental trends? I'm thinking of something like when a somewhat peaceful, balanced budget democratic republic passes some multidimensional cusp and becomes enamored of gross deficit spending, preemptive military strikes, illegal detainment, torture, and fascism in general? It sure would be nice to see this coming a few years in advance
Given the first state never existed it isn't really a meaningful thing to predict.

Chaos Theory (1)

orkysoft (93727) | about 7 years ago | (#21018569)

What it could do is run a simulation of the world in faster than real time, and use the result as a prediction. But then you get into chaos theory territory. The real world is very complex, and (currently at least) impossible to simulate precisely. Chaos theory says that small inaccuracies will totally screw up the simulation in the long run. Just look at long-term weather forecasts. This project seems to be nothing but a long-term weather forecast for geopolitics. I remember a similar project being underway, but can't remember a name or site. I will remain skeptical about this.

How hard could it be... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 7 years ago | (#21018587)

You create a really nice UI for a magic '8' Ball simulator... and call it a day before the brewskies warm up!

Didn't People Learn Anything from The Matrix? (3, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 7 years ago | (#21018591)

"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say your civilization because as soon as we started thinking for you it really became our civilization which is of course what this is all about..."

-- Agent Smith

Usefulness? (1)

martin_henry (1032656) | about 7 years ago | (#21018607)

Let's see it predict spammers' & trolls' posts...

The Chinese plan... (4, Funny)

meburke (736645) | about 7 years ago | (#21018631)

Chinese researchers today announced $10.2 million (USD) funding for a system to predict the outcomes of unpredictable outcomes predicted and influenced by US ATRAP computing, with the goal of further influencing the the outcomes to produce a balance-of-trade advantage for China and producing a complete domination of Taiwan...

Wrong title: Will fleece the gullible (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 7 years ago | (#21018735)

That would be a better title for the article.

In a perfect world, one could get enough data points to do such a thing.

We don't live in that world.

Infiite Improbability... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 7 years ago | (#21018769)

It's based on the "Infinite Improbability Engine (tm)", a device no galactic hitchhiker should be without...

You simply analyze the current level of improbability, determine outcomes of like chance, and match significant variables.

It also makes a great "What if analyzer". At 15 to 234682894645 Hillary Clinton becomes the next Pope, at 73 to 23456516025806291678675351675702386 Pigs do fly, at 8 to 65416944165465205141982578424752139841454586232211 Hell freezes completely over, and at 11 to 2154563256986558789995211230320012564546006567896233541056489521889662112200 George W. Bush makes perfect sense.

Happy computing!

Re:Infiite Improbability... (1)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | about 7 years ago | (#21018907)

5 divides both 15 and 234682894645, you should have wrote "3 to 46936578929 Hillary..."

One step closer? (1)

Tribbin (565963) | about 7 years ago | (#21018811)

One step closer to understanding women?

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018841)

a computer we can put in charge of Gundam!

Rozenblit's work on coevolution/genetic algorithms (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 7 years ago | (#21018843)

For anybody who wants a little more info than is present in the popular-press summary, here's a couple of conference papers from Rozenblit's group on using coevolution and genetic algorithms to analyze/visualize military scenarios. I think they might require institutional subscriptions to see the full PDF, but I've pasted the abstracts below.

A coevolutionary approach to course of action generation and visualization in multi-sided conflicts []

The current state of military operations includes many stability and support (SASO), multi-sided conflicts. The research presented in this paper attempts to address this complex environment by creating a SASO simulation, coevolutionary generation of courses-of-actions (COAs) for each side, and visualization tools for analysis of the resulting COAs. The SASO simulation is significantly different from previous systems because it incorporates non-conventional warfare units such as terrorists and media. The coevolution algorithm is different because it allows all sides of the conflict to evolve their COAs. The visualization tools are important because SASO doctrine is not as well developed as conventional warfare doctrine. Therefore, visual analysis and understanding of a system that is not well defined provides insight for future modeling and verification.

Modeling and simulation of stability and support operations (SASO) []

Stability and support operations (SASO) are becoming increasingly important in modern military operations. Conflicts are no longer comprised solely of two opposing sides engaged in combat on an open battlefield. Instead, they are more likely to involve groups sharing various alliances and relationships each pursuing a range of different goals. The Sheherazade SASO wargaming engine presented here: a) incorporates subjective criteria for scoring course of action (COA) success such as the animosity between factions and attitudes of locales, b) uses nontraditional units such as refugees, media and information operators, and c) employs a coevolutionary genetic algorithm in modeling the dynamics of the complex multisided simulation for generating COAs. This paper outlines our approach towards the development of a wargaming model that handles the more complex and computationally demanding arena of SASO.

Don't we already have a Basic Law covering this ? (1)

Eth1csGrad1ent (1175557) | about 7 years ago | (#21018875)

You don't need a top end computer, or fancy algorithms... all you need to do is follow this [] basic principle. Might even have helped in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, had we followed it...

I think GW needs this.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21018877)

Military predictions? -- Cewl.

Will it predict that if you invade a foreign country with no post invasion support plan that your administration will look like a bunch of idiots?

Absolute Idiocy (1)

alexborges (313924) | about 7 years ago | (#21018929)

I know im preaching to the converted. But doesnt this seem to you, as it does to me, like a blatant and outright liar is somwhere in the deal?

Even entretaining the idea of the existance of a software capable of this, it would sure cost a bit more than 2 million bucks to run the damned thing, let alone develop it.

Been there, done that? (1)

yams69 (986130) | about 7 years ago | (#21018945)

From [] :

"Events, Patterns, and Analysis: Forecasting International Conflict in the Twenty-First Century
Project Goals:

We believe that the proliferation of news in electronic form as well as a series of advances in information extraction, data mining, statistical machine learning and stochastic modeling have made it possible to predict the outbreak of a serious international conflict by analyzing event data extracted from a multitude of sources over an extended period of time. The goal of our project is to develop techniques to construct extensive event data sets and models necessary to make such predictions. We hope to be able to predict the onset of serious international conflicts four to eight weeks in advance. Specifically, the goals of our research are:

* To design information extraction techniques and build events data sets for use by the entire scientific community.
* To use these events data and develop the algorithmic base for making predictions about the onset of serious conflict.
* To construct explanatory models in the form of dynamic Bayesian networks, building on the existing findings from the scientific study of international relations.

Timely warning of the outbreak of serious conflict can be a key element in conflict resolution. Early warning can provide the time for state and non-state actors to intervene and prevent the outbreak. Thus, we feel our work can be of potential value to the conflict resolution process, even though the focus of our research is predicting the outbreak and evolution of conflict."

This project was funded 2003-2006 by the NSF.

Cease and Desist Order (3, Funny)

MrCopilot (871878) | about 7 years ago | (#21018949)

Professor Jerzy Rozenblit,

Be advised the Foundation has Patents covering the areas of study and interest.

H. Seldon

When something's unique enough... (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#21018969)

...using a computer model is like driving by looking out the rear view mirror. I bet after the first major miss, they'll claim to have added that to the model. Then the next big thing will add five new factors and make three others irrelevant. Computers can't predict what they don't know what means. I'd much rather take a well reasoned human analysis over that unique situation than trying to find patterns that are spurious at best and plain out wrong at worst.

I for one... (4, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#21018985)

Welcome the flim flam predicting the unpredictable coding in a bunch of random number generating overlords.

What a waste of 2 million bucks.

We need real leaders, not computers (4, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | about 7 years ago | (#21019027)

"...and the aftermath of natural disasters, such as Katrina."

Dealing with the aftermath of Katrina wasn't a matter of applying rocket science. It was simply a matter of simple logistics and a government that gives a shit about people. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has shown time and again under this administration that it could care less for the lives of its citizens, let alone the citizens of other countries. These problems can't be fixed by software. They can only be fixed by real leadership, something the people of the U.S. haven't shown much interest in electing...

It doesn't take software to predict that going into Iraq was a huge mistake. Just ask Chaney circa 1994 [] . He knew it would be a major mistake, and he wasn't the only one. A lot of us were yelling and screaming to stop it before it started...

Software can't predict the future nor can they predict what stupid leaders will do. On Sept 10th, could anyone (or more importantly, any software) predict what things would be like in this country today? Even remotely? The war in Iraq, a country completely disconnected from 9/11. Guantanamo, spying on our citizens and other erosions of liberty... I doubt it. A single event and the responses by inept leadership led to a variety of disasters that nothing and nobody could have predicted.

This has already been done (1)

mcsqueak (1043736) | about 7 years ago | (#21019029)


The unpredicable is predictable... (1)

Zeekamotay (115667) | about 7 years ago | (#21019043)

... at
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