Can supercomputers predict wars, revolutions and even armed robberies? They’re getting there, reports Theresa Breuer.
Kalev Leetaru doesn’t know where the next revolution will start. But he really wants to. So the scientist is feeding his super-computer, Nautilus, at the University of Illinois, with news articles. So far, Nautilus has been fed a hundred million articles from worldwide media outlets, collected over the course of thirty years.
Leetaru encodes the news according to geography and tonality, or sentiment, and has thus created a network of around a hundred trillion semantic connections.
In Egypt’s case, for example, Leetaru had Nautilus evaluate 52,438 reports – with surprising results. The data showed that in January 2011, just before the revolution, the mood in Egypt worsened significantly. Only in 1991, just before the Gulf War, was it similarly poor. Leetaru’s conclusion? The Arab Spring could have been foreseen.