I was struck by the following headline in last weekend’s Sunday Times,
"Virtual ‘mirror’ of world to help predict future".
I see the future as being perpetually constructed in the complex reality of people's present-day interactions. So the claim that it will be possible to make meaningful predictions by 'mirroring' these complex dynamics clearly merited attention.
Digging a little deeper into the FuturICT project to which the article refers, it appears that a wealth of top-level European universities and other scientific institutions are participating in the project. So the enterprise carries a vast weight of academic credibility, based on participants’ expertise and methodological rigour. However, despite recognizing the complex and uncertain nature of human interaction, statements on the related website still make confident claims about the benefits that the project will deliver. For example,
"FuturICT will integrate different scientific areas and activities into a FuturICT platform that will enable participatory science and technology to manage our complex world in a sustainable and resilient manner (my emphasis)"
This prediction (as with others on the site) seems quite a bold one to make, given the inherent complexity and uncertainty of the process that the sponsors are seeking to model – and the absence of the very ‘tools’ of predictability and control that they are setting out to develop!