Now a diverse group of leading scientists has unveiled an extraordinary plan to meet these challenges through a project inspired by historic enterprises such as the Apollo Project. Their ambitious proposal aims to stimulate an urgent scientific effort of unprecedented scope focussed on building a more powerful and accurate science of human systems and their interaction with the global environment.
The initiative to establish a “FuturIcT knowledge accelerator” (where ICT stands for information and communication technologies) has been coordinated by a team of scientists led by physicist, traffic scientist, and sociologist Dirk Helbing of ETH Zurich. The proposal was submitted for the European Commission's Flagship Programme, which seeks to support ambitious large-scale, visionary research initiatives with 1 billion EUR in funding over ten years. While 1 billion EUR sounds much, it is actually little compared to the losses from the financial crises and the money invested into elementary particle and astro-physics, nanoscience, gene technology, systems biology, or nuclear fusion research. The project aims to assemble expertise across the whole spectrum of science – from physics, computer science, environmental science and economics through psychology, ecology and sociology – to develop supercomputing facilities and large-scale laboratories for a new kind of data-rich social science on which intelligent future policies can be based.Most profound scientific initiatives of the 21st century
The complexity of today's social, economic and environmental issues, says social scientist Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC, "dwarfs the capacity of any individual's comprehension." He underlines that only a "collective mind" enabled by resources gathered on an unprecedented scale, as this project envisions, will be able to make "credible and actionable forecasts" useful to policy makers."This is an experiment," says Epstein, "that we cannot afford NOT to do."Fundamental understanding of social problems
But in addition to current economic and financial distress, many other looming problems stem from our inability to understand and manage human systems, especially in interaction with the complex global environment. Global efforts to respond to climate change and environmental destruction have made little headway in finding any practical solutions. Our fundamental understanding of social problems, such as human conflict, is still surprisingly limited. Given the impressive overall progress of science, the people behind this proposal ask, couldn’t we do much better by combining the knowledge of different fields?
Today's social scientists also have an unprecedented means to simulate complex social systems using computers. No human mind is smart enough to foresee what might happen when you make changes in systems involving ten, a hundred, or a million people. The growing web of causes and effects overwhelms the power of even the greatest human mind to foresee what might come out. But social scientists have learned to augment the power of their minds with computing technology, building models of social systems – a community, a company, a market, etc. – in which computer agents act like people, make decisions as people do, learn and adapt. In this way, a promising new branch of social science has emerged based on doing "virtual" social experiments. Such techniques have already had a number of impressive successes.
Hence, Helbing says, the proposal aims to capitalise on the new scientific possibilities which, if pursued energetically, should make it possible to understand human systems more precisely and on a larger scale than ever before, especially in those areas directly relevant to our most pressing challenges. "The idea is to spend 100 million EUR per year for ten years to develop new science and technology that will save hundreds of times as much by avoiding or mitigating future crises and catastrophes."
Target goals of the FuturIcT Knowledge Accelerator:
A Living Earth Simulator. The development of systems able to simulate global-scale systems involving the interactions of up to 10 billion agents providing an experimental system on which whole Earth explorations would be possible.
Crisis Observatories. The development of laboratories running massive data mining and computing systems to detect possible crises, such as bubbles or crashes in financial or housing markets, gain advance warning of critical shortages in, say, oil, water, or food, develop ways to identify potential wars and social unrest, emerging epidemics, environmental instabilities and so on.
Global System Dynamics and Policy: Another aspect of the project will necessarily focus on the difficult issue of how information coming out of the crisis observatories or other data-intensive centres for social science can be made most helpful to decision makers.
These few topics only begin to illustrate the diverse range of ambitious goals articulated in the proposal, which is available in full at http://www.futurict.eu .
The proposed project involves more than 200 scientists from over 50 universities and institutions including ETH Zurich, Cambridge University, University College London-UCL, Oxford University, Imperial College, Politecnico di Torino, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, EPFL, La Sapienza University of Rome, University and TU Munich, Potsdam Institute of Climate Research, Central European University, King’s College London, London Business School, Warsaw University of Technology, and Open University, to mention only a few. A wide range of science organizations and George Soros have written letters in support for the initiative.
The FuturIcT initiative now seeks collaborations with business and industry, and support by foundations.Contact:
Franziska Schmid | idw
An AI that makes road maps from aerial images
18.04.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CSAIL
Beyond the clouds: Networked clouds in a production setting
04.04.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.
Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
19.04.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy