Tuesday, September 20, 2011

FuturICT's Crisis Observatory: A Computer Model Of The Entire World 1

A knowledge accelerator turning massiva data into knowledge and technological progress called the Living Earth Platform?  This is the plan of FutureICT's Dirk Helbing.


There is no doubt that this project is ambitious - involving 1 billion Euros spent over a 10 year period, involving research in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, China and Japan. A large multidisciplinary study, it has all the promise of being a paradigm-shifting project.

What makes this project different from many of the other world mathematical modeling projects is the scope of the academic disciplines involved.  Over 100 academic and research institutions are involved as well as over 300 scientists worldwide.1  Five supercomputing centers are also involved, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Irish Centre For High-End Computing, Jülich Supercomputing Center, and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center.
Integrated disciplines in the knowledge accelerator via: FuturICT

"We know more about the universe these days than about social systems and economics." Dirk Helbing
What is the purpose of this project?  We shall quote from their own website:2
The ultimate goal of the FuturICT flagship project is to understand and manage complex, global, socially interactive systems, with a focus on sustainability and resilience. Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies probably constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century and is equally important for the development of novel robust, trustworthy and adaptive information and communication technologies (ICT), based on socially inspired paradigms.
Dirk Helbing
To us, the most interesting thing about this project is its emphasis on complexity science.  Gone are the days when simple algorithms can hope to deterministically predict most systems in nature, from the protein interactions3  and processes to human interactions.  FuturICT understand this problem.  It seeks to understand it.  Can any form of predictions be made in complex systems.  The answer is as yet not totally known.  But that this issue is the most important in the sciences seems to us, hardly disputable.  Professor Helbing, the man heading this project, is a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich where he manages the Competence Center for Coping with Crises in Complex S0cio-Economic Systems and heads the Physics of Socio-Economic Systems Division of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.4
a chart demonstrating some complex systems in science via:wikipedia


Professor Helbing in a recent presentation, quoted the words of Columbia University's President, Lee Bollinger in regards to the need for this kind of understanding of these world changing forces,
The forces affecting societies around the world...are powerful and novel.  The spread of global market systems...are...reshaping our world...raising profound questions.  These questions call for the kinds of analyses and understandings that academic institutions are uniquely capable of providing.   Too many policy failures are fundamentally failures of knowledge.
We completely agree with this view.  Indeed, as the minute nanosecond buying decisions are made billions of times a day by computers, would it not make sense to use computers to be able to predict when some crisis approaches on Wall Street?  Would we not need their fast reaction time as an early warning system?

We post a short video, to briefly explain the concept of FutureICT and the challenges which brought into existence.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/WR3cUEb-99E.


In our next installment, we shall discuss this new complexity theory which is affecting every branch of science.

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