Is Big Data Analytics Capable of War Prediction?

Undoubtedly, big data and analytics are capable of giving many answers to tricky questions. We`ve already discussed how predictive analytics is eliminating the guessing work but there is one big question. Is it that good to be utilized anywhere? Like the prediction of an armed conflict for instance. Today we have rich data of human sentiment, movements, behavior to predict population level events like war, genocide, revolution, etc.

Lars-Erik Cederman, Professor of International Conflict Research at ETH Zurich in partnership with Nils Weidmann published an essay in Science Magazine. Their thesis is that, in fact, the risk of armed conflict is identifiable at an early stage. Unfortunately, his study does not show data analytics ability to predict its start.

Why? Cederman compares such analytical task with the prediction of future earthquakes. There is enough data for risk maps creation but it is almost impossible to predict when and where such event will happen.  “In Syria, for instance, the situation was already known to be volatile long before the civil war broke out. But conflict is enormously complex”, says the Swiss professor in a recent interview for Futurity.

Cederman – Weidmann team found out that media reports are important data source in conflict research. Such data might be analyzed automatically to a certain level. They also add that some scientists believe that highly complex conflict patterns can be modeled in a fully automated solution, even though Cederman – Weidmann do not credit such thesis because the credit of the media sources is a key to the optimal outcome and artificial intellect is not good enough with this yet. Cederman adds that social media information is a great source of data but such networks are often restricted in a high risk zones.

The truth is that the world’s history doesn’t offer a linear sequence of logically ordered events preceding armed conflicts. Today it is even harder to come up with such prediction having in mind rapidly changing politics and leaders` attitudes often giving up values for interests.

Everything is repeated, in a circle. History is a master because it teaches us that it doesn’t exist. It’s the permutations that matter.

― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum


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