Saturday, May 25, 2024

(UPDATED) Search engines are predicting human behaviour and the future for government & citizens

Recently I’ve been more and more consumed with understanding human behaviour and wondering what makes us tick.

Recently I’ve been more and more consumed with understanding human behaviour and wondering what makes us tick. Or more accurately is, I’m concerned with how we can correctly predict people’s needs when it comes to delivering services of reaction to certain events that can influence governance. For example…

How do we know if the decisions we make will have the desired impact that we are looking for?

How will people react to Labour’s new leader, Ed Milliband?

How will to coalition survive or will they? Will there be another general election?

Did David Cameron’s new birth of his child and passing of his father had any impact on his influence or support from citizens?

Well, you might be thinking… if I had a crystal ball, then possibly I can predict the future. Well to be honest, that might not be so absurd. A very interesting report was released 2 days ago telling us that we can now actually predict the future. How fun is that? Everyone will become fortune tellers and be one step ahead of the game. Isn’t that everyone’s dream? Well… how you might ask…

It was interesting that after a few minutes of publishing this blog post @Catmachine tweeted me this

… and this basically is Psychohistory, which is a fictional science in Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation universe that combines history, sociology, and mathematical statistics to make (nearly) exact predictions of the collective actions of very large groups of people, such as the Galactic Empire. It was first introduced in the five short stories (1942–1944) which would later be collected as the 1951 novel Foundation.

Psychohistory depends on the idea that, while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: an observer has great difficulty in predicting the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but can predict the mass action of the gas to a high level of accuracy. (Physicists know this as the Kinetic theory.) Asimov applied this concept to the population of his fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered a quintillion. The character responsible for the science’s creation, Hari Seldon, established two axioms:

  • that the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large
  • that the population should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses

There is a third underlying axiom of Psychohistory, which is trivial and thus not stated by Seldon in his Plan:

  • that Human Beings are the only sentient intelligence in the Galaxy.

Find out more about this here.

Its certainly a good background to this post. Thanks @catmachine!

Well, here it is…

Text Analytics Software Released That Identifies New Popular Niches, Trends, and Products Months Before They Become Mainstream Topics

Another report also highlighted how this can predict human behaviours.

A new study has pointed out that the pattern of human behaviour can be predicted with web search statistics.

But the researchers also found ‘traditional’ information sources are just as effective, and in cases more useful, at spotting trends, reports ABC Science.

Sharad Goel and colleagues from Yahoo! Research in the United States wanted to see if web search query logs could be used to predict how well something is going to do in the future.

For the study, they looked at box office movie revenues, video game sales, and Billboard Hot 100 songs over various periods in 2009 to see if Internet search counts could accurately predict what will succeed and what won’t.

The researchers found search-based predictions did provide a good indicator of real outcomes for both movies and video games sales.

But they were only moderately correlated with outcomes for music

They then compared the data with predictions based on traditional information, such as production budgets, critics’ ratings and prequel revenues.

They found these traditional predictors did manage to outperform search-based predictions for movies, music, and sequel video games.

But, search query data did better than traditional methods in predicting the success of non-sequel video game revenues.

Goel said sudden changes in search volume might help to identify “turning points”.

He said this type of information might prove useful for applications such as financial analysis, where a minimal performance edge can be valuable.

Matthew Sheppard, research and development manager of Canberra-based IT company Funnelback said the study also demonstrated search queries are better at predicting how music would perform on the charts.

According to Sheppard another area of interest is using web searches to track flu trends.

Sheppard says overall the paper shows normal methods work fine except when there are sudden changes in trends.

The study has been published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Want to be a successful blogger?

Interestingly enough as well is, if you’re a blogger always looking to blog about the latest trend and want to be ahead of your game, attract relevant visits and be seen as the thought leader in your community of interest… this particular “crystal ball” will be very helpful for you as explained by Sardar Mohkim Khan in his article titled

NowRelevant: The Internet Time Machine Ensures You Get The Latest Results

Now for me is very interesting. When I’m researching a topic, I want to know I understanding the basics of the conversation and being very aware of the current conversations. To present an article or blog post that is relevant now or in the future, you must know and have the knowledge of what people will be interested in knowing in the future to continuously provide interesting content or give them a reason to stay or come back.

I never used to really know what to write about and take the wing it approach but after a few months of blogging, I realized that in order to have the most desired impact or outcome, every blog post production must have valid, scientific reasons to support its presence to fully qualify its predicted assumption of success. Are you still with me?

Making the right connection…

Now I’m not quite sure how this text analytics software can benefit us as government as it might have been intended to support internet marketing gurus more than used to predict human behaviour. But I feel its a fantastic and clever piece of software that presents itself as an opportunity to those who can see past its monetary value or possibilities. Maybe with a bit of tweaking, the product can be beneficial for our social progress.

For me, anything that uses data that is currently available and develops patterns of behaviours that we can work with can be much more relevant and useful than developing expensive new data to fix things from experiences that we have already knowledge of.

Especially when it comes to developing digital strategies. We can have insight into certain possible successes of digital products/strategies to build a more credible business case. Need help convincing your boss or yourself that something will work? Got all the case studies to prove it but don’t know where to find current and relevant ones? Search engine text analytics can be your best friend.

Let’s now be to hasty to think that we can’t learn from the past. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Technology and times may have changed but people are a constant variable that does not change. We cry if we get hurt, we laugh when we are happy and we are disappointed when we feel we have failed. And as a government, we have gone through tough times, had different leaders, different parties ruling the country, and have been through tough economic times. What’s new? Absolutely nothing.

As a researcher, I always depend on data to prove concepts and not assume things. Because let’s face it, ASSUME make an ASS out of U and ME!

Twitter, Facebook, User-generated content, cloud computing, Big Society?

If you are a thought leader or want to be, you might be asking yourself.. will all these digital engagement concepts survive the test of time? Will it gain popularity or will it die down for some new concept to emerge. What will be the trend in politics? How will this affect the Big Society? Do people /citizens know about the Big Society well enough for it to succeed? What are the possible tangible challenges that we can see in the future? How will we overcome them?

These are all relevant questions to ask that you might be able to find the answers to through text analytics software. I know sometimes my thinking can be way outside the box but if it strikes a chord with you, I say YAY! Let me know what you think.

Hope this was useful!