I’ve written previously about how social business can help to predict the future. The premise of that rests on the famous William Gibson that the future already exists, it’s just unequally distributed. The theory is that utilising social channels will allow you to discover what is happening a wider array of fields, and of course tap into a more dispersed knowledge base when attempting to solve problems.
What if social media could predict the future on an individual level though? That was the hypothesis of Song Chaoming, a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He wanted to test whether he could use mathematical models to predict your future location, based on nothing more than your mobile phone records and online activity.
The startling result is that he could, with an accuracy of 93% on average. This is no flash in the pan. The researchers tested this against over 50,000 people, and not once did their predicting ability drop below 80%. Now either people are incredibly predictable or this is quite something.
How can this be used?
One potential use is in disease management. An offshoot of the research has seen a program created called GLEAM (Global Epidemic and Mobility Model). This maps travel patterns using equations based on a variety of data, which in turn is used to determine the spread of disease. GLEAM has already mimicked what happened during the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009 with great accuracy. It could predict within a week when outbreaks would peak in a region.
Another project is looking to actually map society. It’s called FuturICT, and its aim is to create a computer model representing society. It will use data such as that gathered by Dr Song to help produce a pretty detailed and accurate picture of how society is, and indeed will be.
Of course this is a significant undertaking to say the least, but the implications were it to be realised are enormous. Interesting times indeed.