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In The Shockwave Rider, his 1970s vision of a future that’s arriving faster than we can deal with it, John Brunner talks about Delphi Pools. These public, crowdsourced lotteries let citizens bet on predictions. The government uses this data to decide what’s most important to the population.

Break out your tinfoil hats: now Google and the CIA may be up to the same thing, having invested in a “temporal analytics” startup called Recorded Future last year.

According to Wired:

The CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

Sentiment analysis is nothing new; what’s different here seems to be the visualization and extrapolation of past trends into the future.

Like Brunner’s Delphi, this helps guess what might happen, but rather than soliciting our input directly the way prediction markets do, this uses the trails we leave online — links, comments, retweets, and so on. The predictions can include competitive intelligence, brand monitoring, and personal investigation.

Incidentally, in Brunner’s novel, the government uses the Delphi pools to placate an otherwise implacable citizenry, and often alters the results before publishing them to sway public opinion.


Did Google kill the phone book?

A stack of Yellow Pages, unopened because nobody needs them

A few months ago I noticed a stack of Yellow Pages directories delivered to my apartment block had laid unopened for months on end in our porch, and I realized, people don’t need phonebooks any more. We all use Google to find business contact information now.

According to the Globe and Mail, the Yellow Pages Group have announced that they will no longer deliver their directory in Canada’s seven largest cities unless it is requested. This seems to confirm that the phone book’s days are numbered, it is now a relic from a time when we didn’t have the world’s information at our fingertips, on our phones and on our desktops. No longer do we need to cut down forests just to stay informed. Besides, if you’re missing the Yellow Pages, you can always download the iPhone app!

There’s more discussion of the story on Slashdot.

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