National Defense, December 2011
By Dan Parsons
The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community spend billions of dollars each year trying, with mild success at best, to predict the future.
They organize elaborate wargames, develop computer algorithms to digest information and rely on old-fashioned aggregation of professional opinion.
Past intelligence failures have been costly and damaging to U.S. national security. Trying to avoid previous pitfalls, agencies are on a constant treasure hunt for new technologies that might give them an edge.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity in February solicited industry proposals for how to improve the accuracy of intelligence forecasting. Under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, IARPA invests in research programs that provide an “overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries.”
Applied Research Associates, a New Mexico-based firm, has launched a program it hopes will improve upon the traditional methods of gathering expert opinion by using computer software that could make better-informed predictions. The system chooses the best sources of information from a huge pool of participants.
ARA won the bid and started working on its Aggregative Contingent Estimation System, or ACES, in May.
Phi Beta Iota: A more nuanced understanding, from 55 top authors in the field, can be found in COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (Earth Intelligence Network, 2008).