Living Earth Simulator will predict the future of everything

A bunch of researchers in Europe, none of whom seem to be named named Hari Seldon, are working on a computer program that will use every bit of data produced by everything in the world to create a simulation that can see the future of our entire planet.

At this stage, the Living Earth Simulator is basically just the fantasy of some horny computer scientists, but they're making serious efforts to plan out what may eventually become a computer program that's capable of modeling everything going on everywhere all at once. The LES would suck data from just about every source imaginable, including news feeds, the stock market, Wikipedia, your medical records, Twitter, and some fancy NASA sensor networks that don't exist yet. It would somehow be able to take all of that info and cram it into one gigantic model of how our planet works to be able to accurately predict everything from global weather to disease epidemics to economic collapses to local traffic to what you're about to have for lunch.

The LES won't just be predicting things, it'll actually help to make the future better by letting scientists mess around with virtual changes and then hitting fast forward on the modeling program to see what long-term effects they might have. For example, people have suggested a bunch of rather extreme ways of combating climate change, including giant solar mirrors and dumping massive amounts of iron into the ocean. Since nobody's quite sure what would happen if we were to implement one of these ideas, an Earth simulator could provide a way of figuring out the safest, cheapest, and most effective method of combating these global issues.

So is this the prelude to Isaac Asimov's future-predicting Foundation? Pretty much. The LES, at least initially, won't be focusing on social modeling, and it's not designed to foresee specific social and political changes. That said, social and political changes are often precipitated by other factors which the LES is designed to model, so it's not a big conceptual step to add a few more equations that might be able to protect humanity from the next Justin Bieber (or other lesser social disasters).

FuturITC, via BBC

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