Recorded Future

October 1, 2010

Our life experiences determine what we are. Based on choices we make, we lead our lives into different paths that have led us to where we are today. If we could only accurately predict how events or choices will shape our future, we could prepare and take action about the possible consequences of those choices.

In order to do that we need data in the form of past experiences. The more data we can put together for analysis, the greater the chances of accurately predicting the future. Does it sound like science-fiction? Well, it is happening right now, right in front of your nose, right there in your screen.

Google and the CIA are co-investing in a company called Recorded Future that claims to represent the next phase of intelligence gathering. Its sources of data are tens of thousands of websites, blogs and even Twitter accounts that it monitors in real time in order to find patterns, events and relationships that may predict the future.

Recorded Future describes the whole process in three steps:

1. Scour the web
Continually scanning of thousands of news publications, blogs, social media outlets, niche sources, trade publications, government web sites, financial databases and more.

2. Extract, rank and organize
Information extraction from text including entities, events, and the time that these events occur. Momentum and sentiment are also measured.

3. Make it accessible and useful
Visualization tools that allow to quickly see temporal patterns, or link networks of related information.

Recorded Future certainly has already proven the effectiveness of its software, as posted in its blog devoted to intelligence analysis. On March this year Israel warned that Hezbollah had obtained long-range Scud-like missiles, something that Recorded Future had already found corroborating evidence about a month earlier.

But the possible applications of such software don’t end just in military scenarios. A growing number of companies are applying predictive analytics to the workplace to figure out which employees are at risk of leaving, who will work the hardest, and who is worth hiring in the first place. As Atanu Basu, CEO of Data­Info­Com, a research-focused predictive analysis firm in Austin, Texas, explains. “Every large company already has access to this tremendous amount of data on their employees,” he says. “That can be used to make predictions about who will be successful and who is going to leave.”

Scary stuff. Imagine your boss accurately knowing you’re about to look for another job, before you even consider such a move.