Psychohistory in the real world

Tom James @ 28-07-2009

crowdResearchers at Indiana University believe that it may be possible to create a real-life version of Isaac Asimov’s concept of psychohistory:

Much as meteorologists predict the path and intensity of hurricanes, Indiana University’s Alessandro Vespignani believes we will one day predict with unprecedented foresight, specificity and scale such things as the economic and social effects of billions of new Internet users in China and India, or the exact location and number of airline flights to cancel around the world in order to halt the spread of a pandemic.

Psychohistory as described by Isaac Asimov holds that “while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events.”

This certainly seems similar to the ideas of reality mining discussed here:

Vespignani writes that advances in complex networks theory and modeling, along with access to new data, will enable humans to achieve true predictive power in areas never before imagined. This capability will be realized as the one wild card in the mix — the social behavior of large aggregates of humans — becomes more definable through progress in data gathering, new informatics tools and increases in computational power.

It is an exciting direction, and offers the possibility of a black-swan style technological breakthrough. With improved data, through things like spimes and ubiquitous computing, combined with improved data processing techniques and communications there exists the possibility for a new and powerful way of studying, monitoring, and even controlling social and technological developments with precision.

[via Next Big Future][image from woodleywonderworks on flickr]


Ray Gun Crowd Control

Arun Jiwa @ 07-07-2008

It doesn’t get more SFnal than this:

The Sierra Nevada Corporation claimed this week that it is ready to begin production on the MEDUSA, a damned scary ray gun that uses the “microwave audio effect” to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people’s heads.

I wasn’t really scared about the gun, until I thought about what was written next:

The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that’s detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you’re going balls-to-the-wall batshit insane.

Thankfully, civilians probably wont have to worry about the gun, it’ll mainly be used to track down bad guys by the military.  But what other uses can this device be put to? Will it just be another tool for the miltary, or will we find other commercial uses?  In recent memory, that description really reminds me of the device used in Iron Man by Obadiah Stane, but the MEDUSA can’t be blocked out by headphones.

[Story from New Scientist, via Slashdot], [image by Nic Name]