I, for one, welcome my future-reading silicon overlord…

If we ask it the right question will we get the wrong answer?

Well the news has been abuzz with talk of a mighty new computer that can predict the future.  It managed to predict Osama Bin Laden’s location and when the Arab spring was going to happen.  The computer is called Nautilus and it’s very smart indeed.

Unfortunately it didn’t.

What it did was read the news from some time ago and then some scientists interpreted it would have predicted these events if it had been around at the time.  Now, I don’t know if I am the only one to spot the flaws in this sort of thinking…

I think this quote is particularly interesting.

“I liken it to weather forecasting. It’s never perfect, but we do better than random guessing.”

Yeah that never goes badly.

But here’s the real problem and the one that will really make me put my head in my hands if this sort of tech’ catches on.  We know it’s going to inexact.  Models of chaotic systems can never be infallible – it’s just not possible for us to build a computer that powerful, even if it’s a currently fashionable topic in SF*, even if (just if) we are actually living in that sort of simulation.   But that won’t stop poorly educated politicians and journalists making strident claims based on its output.  There was an outbreak of this sort of thinking after 9/11. A lot of money was poured into large databases at the time.  In fact it had been on the cards for a while anyway – it’s called Echelon.

Many people said at the time that if the US had a big enough database of information then it could predict what would happen.   Nautilus is eerily similar isn’t it?

I wonder what Asimov would have made of this… or for that matter George Orwell.  The sad truth is that I think of all of them Terry Gilliam was probably right when he made Brazil.  Is this really the price we’ve got to pay because of those sad events?

Here’s what Charlie Brooker has to say.

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