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The software collects information from news article archives and other data sources to predict the future

Using old news articles and a form of Wikipedia, new software is capable of predicting the future's events.

The software, which was developed by both Microsoft and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, takes a look at archives from The New York Times and studies related data on the Internet in order to form predictions about what will happen next in certain parts of the world -- such as disease, violence and a large number of deaths.

The system's sources include The New York Times' archives from 1986-2007, DBpedia (the information in Wikipedia constructed using crowdsourcing), WordNet (helps software understand what words mean) and OpenCyc (provides a database of common knowledge).

What the system does is study news reports, then uses outside data for context. For example, the system saw reports of droughts in Angola in 2006. From studying data on the Web, the system knew that droughts can lead to cholera outbreaks in the country. The system further researches the country's location, population density, GDP, whether there was a drought the year before, proportion of land covered by water, etc.

After collecting said information, and studying yet another report from NYT saying that there were large storms in Angola in early 2007, the system predicted the cholera outbreak. Less than one week later, reports of cholera had appeared.

“I truly view this as a foreshadowing of what’s to come,” said Eric Horvitz, codirector at Microsoft Research who led the study with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Kira Radinsky. “Eventually this kind of work will start to have an influence on how things go for people.”

When testing the software, Horvitz and Radinsky found that it was correct between 70 and 90 percent of the time. The team said the software could use some extra work in terms of greater accuracy, but once that is complete, it hopes the system can be used to help organizations tackle world problems.

While some predictive tools are already in use, this particular software uses 90 data sources total, making it a more "general purpose" tool.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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I'm a PC
By joeRocket on 2/4/2013 12:07:50 PM , Rating: 5
Justin: Hi, I'm a Mac.
John: I'm a PC, and I can predict the future.
Justin: What do you mean?
John: I knew you were going to say that. Microsoft developers have programmed me with advanced algorithms to search historic events to predict the future.
Justin: That's not predicting the future. That's just mining news articles to find patterns with statistical significance and reporting your findings.
John: I also knew you were going to say that. See? I can predict the future.
Justin: Oh yeah? Tell me what I'm going to do next.
John: You will utter a sigh of resignation.
Justin: <sigh>
John: See?

RE: I'm a PC
By retrospooty on 2/4/2013 12:08:04 PM , Rating: 2
LOL... Awesome. A 6 if ever there was one.

RE: I'm a PC
By Tony Swash on 2/4/13, Rating: -1
RE: I'm a PC
By retrospooty on 2/4/2013 1:56:23 PM , Rating: 4
Regardless of the job he has done, or what enyone in particular might think about the job he has done or even anything he has said... MS really needs to think again about having this man appear in public.

I mean seriously, its just embarrassing.

RE: I'm a PC
By augiem on 2/4/2013 3:04:07 PM , Rating: 2
Glandular discrimination? How do you know the air conditioner was on at that convention?

RE: I'm a PC
By retrospooty on 2/4/2013 3:15:59 PM , Rating: 3
LOL. I dont, but its not just the sweat, he's always doing something ........ Gross.

Exhibit B.

RE: I'm a PC
By Mitch101 on 2/4/2013 4:42:47 PM , Rating: 3
So Alive and full of energy.

RE: I'm a PC
By cyberguyz on 2/5/2013 8:21:54 AM , Rating: 2
Exhibit C:

This man should not be allowed out in public without his (zoo) keeper.

RE: I'm a PC
By retrospooty on 2/5/2013 12:01:11 PM , Rating: 2
Forget that, your link needs to be A, mine being B and C...

OMG, what is wrong with this guy. LOL

RE: I'm a PC
By Reclaimer77 on 2/4/2013 3:44:41 PM , Rating: 4
He's done a terrible job to be honest. As soon as Gates left and Steve took over, Microsoft's growth has flat-lined. He's done a good job of sitting in the captains chair, but when it comes to actually steering the ship? Well you've seen Titanic, right?

Maybe with this software Microsoft can "predict" why Windows 8 sucks for the desktop, why the average person has no idea what "RT" means or what it's for, and why the Surface mutant tablet isn't a good value proposition.

RE: I'm a PC
By retrospooty on 2/4/2013 4:19:18 PM , Rating: 1
totally agreed. MS's folleys in the mobile space are another good example. They have had a mobile phone OS years before google and Apple. Even when comparing to the onld Palm OS, it was crap. They just never could "get it". Now they do have a decent OS, but jsut cant "get it" with regards to getting it out there... But I was just referring to teh public face of hte company. Having this guy on stage ranting and raving, sweating and making odd faces just doesnt seem like a good idea. I look at those pics, or just watch him in a presentation and I dont think "CEO of the worlds largest and most important tech company"... I think "Creepy old man down the street that leers at the children"

RE: I'm a PC
By Shadowmaster625 on 2/5/2013 1:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
John: I predict I will perform an illegal operation and be shut down.

By kattanna on 2/4/2013 12:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
Less than one week later, reports of cholera had appeared.

thats a simple chain of cause and effect

whats being described here is the same as if I made a "prediction" that my thumb would hurt after hitting it with a hammer.

or.. I "predict" that after the next school shooting there will be another cry for gun control, since it always happens in that manner, cause..and effect.

By daboom06 on 2/4/2013 12:39:00 PM , Rating: 2
they're building a bridge over some complexity. fortune telling is only mystical because the string of cause and effect on the way to a distant event is extremely complicated. they'll might find online that cholera mutates and becomes super dangerous once every 30 years so when there's a flood coinciding with mutated cholera, the movement of people will be slowed by some amount and civil unrest is likely. all they're doing is extending normal cause and effect a little into the gray area (which is only called gray because not all the causes are known, so to speak).

learn more about which causes matter and what their effects are, and then start charging a dollar for palm readings.

By augiem on 2/4/2013 2:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, but over time as they gain more data to work with, systems like this may be able to detect deeper and more complex patterns of cause and effect that humans have missed. I'm sure the technology will be applied to all sorts of fields such as market research to spot trends, predict what would sell best at the moment, etc. At some point, to widen the scope, you probably want to plug in many more data sources such as random internet chatter (FB, Twitter), phone conversations and text messaging/email content, TV/movie/music consumption figures, shopping and e-commerce data, job creation/loss, political sentiment and swings, etc. Yes, I know marketing reasearch companies already do all this to a degree, but it would be interesting to see what it could come up with using such a wide variety of data sets.

By ppardee on 2/4/2013 2:10:31 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone predicts the future. You have a model of what you expect the world to do after a cause and effect chain and you'd be startled if it didn't happen. The future is only the effect of causes in the past/present.

You're using your understanding of the past to predict what will happen in the future.. the trick with the computer is that it has the capacity for a ton of information and can more accurately predict what will happen.

After the next school shooting, there will be a cry to disarm the people, which will be successful and 15 years later we will have a dictator that sends people to concentration camps and there won't be anything we can do about it because we have been rendered impotent by fear-mongering fools.

This is the kind of prediction we're looking for. It will take the most likely scenario, then the most likely scenarios after that and build a very long complex chain of events. It is no different than weather forecasting... the farther out you go, the less accurate they will be. It doesn't make it not predicting the future because you can do it on a small scale.

minority report
By daboom06 on 2/4/2013 12:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
didn't they make a movie about this?

also, will predictions of war increase the likelihood of war? if they dive into this regime of predictions, they definitely wont be able to give information that would be able to prevent death, only that every 40 years or so there's a genocide in some country somewhere on earth.

but then again, it looks like the system is only for diseases and disaster relief, so maybe it can't hurt.

RE: minority report
By mousewiz on 2/4/2013 1:48:31 PM , Rating: 2
Minority Report involves psychic powers, so that's not the most fitting movie. The technology in "Paycheck" is basically exactly this sort of predicting machine (taken to the extreme and then kind of ignored in favour of other stuff).

Wonder what it see's
By stevessvt on 2/4/2013 12:49:43 PM , Rating: 1
In Windows 8's future.

RE: Wonder what it see's
By Argon18 on 2/4/2013 3:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Same as future of Surface tablet, or Windows phone, or the majority of non-Office products for that matter: Failure

By 91TTZ on 2/4/2013 1:37:34 PM , Rating: 3
This system is merely looking at the results from past events. That's not really a bad thing, since that's probably the most accurate predictor of what's going to happen next.

But there's a fundamental difference between predicting the future and looking at the past and expecting the same thing to happen. If I drop something, I know it's going to fall. That's what gravity does. I didn't use future knowledge to predict the outcome, I used past knowledge to understand how reality works.

Large brokerage firms have tried to use tactics like this to predict stock prices. It would obviously make companies a lot of money if they could predict the future performance of stocks. It turns out that the market is irrational and the future can't be predicted. They do use algorithmic trading to do a bunch of micro transactions but that's different than predicting the future. They're just beating their competition to the punch.

Saying that stormy weather will cause cholera in countries with poor sanitation is like saying that crops will die in the desert if you don't water them. It's not really a prediction, it's common knowledge to those who study the factors at work.

I think a more accurate description would be that it's a data aggregator and modeler.

early edition
By darckhart on 2/4/2013 12:19:19 PM , Rating: 2
the ability to predict tomorrow's news today was already done with 100% accuracy in the 90s tv show Early Edition.

By Ammohunt on 2/4/2013 2:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
Humans are predictable? Wow go figure.

I may be crazy...
By johnsmith9875 on 2/4/2013 9:37:21 PM , Rating: 2
But I believe predictive modeling was invented long long ago.

To paraphrase
By FastEddieLB on 2/5/2013 4:58:36 AM , Rating: 2
Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

What this software is doing is like predicting the weather, using established data on a model to determine how things are going to happen and where. It's not 100% accurate, it's also not violating any rules about the time/space continuum, but that doesn't make it any less of a prediction of the future.

Also: This software was predicted by a science fiction novel.

By Shadowmaster625 on 2/5/2013 1:11:54 PM , Rating: 2
Wow you guys are novices. Google Clif High and the web bots. Google "global coastal event".

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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