Is it possible to know the future? In general, the answer is a resounding “No!” But in certain instances, tools are emerging to predict what might happen in the near future with high probability. This kind of knowledge — say, that civil unrest and violence is likely to erupt in a specific country within the next few weeks — would be extraordinarily useful for journalists.
Of course, intelligence agencies and research firms (e.g., Rand) with the capabilities to collect and crunch huge amounts of data have the ability to figure these things out already. News organizations, even the best of them, can’t afford the exorbitant amount of money that the CIA puts into trying to anticipate world events.
But there is hope on the horizon, which is why I’m urging you to watch the video above of RecordedFuture.com CEO Christopher Ahlberg explain how significant news events often can be foreseen by changing the way web search works. Organize the web for analysis, rather than search, he says. And that’s what his company has done by creating a “web intelligence platform” which organizes and analyzes open sources of many kinds on the web in order to better anticipate major future news events.
His speech from a couple weeks ago at TEDx Cambridge is worth your time, because Ahlberg’s research and his company’s technology show us a (near) future when more of us, including journalists, will have better tools like this to use to anticipate significant news.