Can the military make a prediction machine?
What could the military do if it could better understand the massive amounts of data that humanity creates, an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes every day? Could it predict aspects of the future?
If Pentagon funds can help create—even partially—a machine capable of understanding cause and effect, or causality, and do so on the scale of thousands of signals, data points, and possible conclusions, then, perhaps, big data will reach its real potential: a predictive tool that allows leaders to properly position soldiers, police forces, and humanitarian relief long before the action starts.
Among the military programs probing this new realm is Big Mechanism, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. It seeks to turn machine-collected (or machine-generated) data into real insights into complex systems, and do so automatically.