Friday, October 01, 2010

U.S. Spies Want Algorithms to Spot Hot Trends

Katie Drummond writes on Danger Room:

The U.S. intelligence community wants a sharp competitive edge on the world’s best and brightest ideas. In an effort to find the next big thing before it happens, they’re looking to do away with fallible human trendspotters, and enlist an algorithmic system to “scan the horizon” and tap into the first signs of burgeoning memes in science and technology.

IARPA, the intel world’s far-out research arm, is already wary of trusting big calls and predictions to flesh-and-blood experts alone. Earlier this year, the agency solicited proposals for a system that would evaluate and rank the value of expert opinion based on niche, learning style, prior performance and “other attributes predictive of accuracy.”

This time around, IARPA’s looking for a system that wouldn’t just rate experts, but would take over many of their responsibilities entirely. The agency’s Foresight and Understanding from Scientific Exposition (or FUSE) wants researchers to create “a reliable, evidence-based capability that…reduce[s] the labor involved to identify specific technical areas for in-depth review.”

As IARPA’s solicitation notes, trying to identify the hottest trends before they heat up is time-consuming, time sensitive and susceptible to human bias. Not to mention that most experts are confined to certain geographic regions, cultures, languages and technical niches. But with globalization churning out innovations worldwide, IARPA wants a system that can operate in several languages and account for cultural differences.

More here.


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