In Future, Data May Help Predict Even Wars

Amazon predicts what you want to buy, political pundits predict who you’ll vote for, search engines predict what you’re looking for. And now researchers and social scientists are looking to similar techniques to predict mass violence and atrocities like war, civil unrest, and genocide. The “GDELT” Project (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone), created at Georgetown University, is updated every morning and catalogs more than a quarter billion event records from across the globe since 1979. The hope is that by mapping and tracking human societal-scale behaviors and beliefs we can learn from the past and better forecast the future.

iStock_000022554532SmallAmazon predicts what you want to buy, political pundits predict who you’ll vote for, search engines predict what you’re looking for. And now researchers and social scientists are looking to similar techniques to predict mass violence and atrocities like war, civil unrest, and genocide. The “GDELT” Project (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone), created at Georgetown University, is updated every morning and catalogs more than a quarter billion event records from across the globe since 1979. The hope is that by mapping and tracking human societal-scale behaviors and beliefs we can learn from the past and better forecast the future. How accurately and how soon will we be able to predict coming episodes of mass violence? Probably not for a while, but thank goodness there are people trying.

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