TASC - DARPA's Psychohistory

Technologies for the Applications of Social Computing (TASC) is a new DARPA plan to make use of the social computing phenomenon.

The agency is seeking whitepapers to fuel the development of a scientific approach to predicting the actions of large masses of people.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), invites ... the development of new technologies to rapidly create theoretically-informed, data-driven models of complex human, social, cultural, and behavioral dynamics that are instantiated in near-realtime simulations ... technologies of interest include the formalization and semantic representation of social science theories, the semantic integration of disparate types of social science data, techniques for analyzing these data, and efficient computational techniques for rapid data processing. DARPA anticipates all these technologies would be integrated to develop a flexible, modular social simulation system that integrates sound social science theory with real world data, that facilitates a wide spectrum of military and intelligence applications, and that supports reliable, real-world decisions ...

Fans of Isaac Asimov may see in this effort an attempt to get at the basic principles of psychohistory from his 1951 novel Foundation.


(Hari Seldon contemplates the plan)

PSYCHOHISTORY–...Gaal Dornick, using nonmathematical concepts, has defined psychohistory to be that branch of mathematics which deals with the reactions of human conglomerates to fixed social and economic stimuli....

... Implicit in all these definitions is the assumption that the human conglomerate being dealt with is sufficiently large for valid statistical treatment. The necessary size of such a conglomerate may be determined by Seldon's First Theorem which ... A further necessary assumption is that the human conglomerate be itself unaware of psychohistoric analysis in order that its reactions be truly random ...

Read the true story of how Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wanted to be a psychohistorian. From The Register; thanks to Winchell Chung for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/8/2009)

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