One of the best things about moving to Europe has been learning about and getting engaged with European-based research initiatives. One of these initiatives is the FuturICT project. I was introduced to FuturICT by Donagh Buckley, EMC Director of Research for EMEA, and through him met the Chair of the FuturICT Steering Committee, Dr. Dirk Helbing, who works at the ETH here in Zürich. Dirk, Anna Carbone (also of the FuturICT project) and I got together for dinner a couple of weeks ago to discuss the project and its points of intersection with EMC technologies and programs.
The goal of the FuturICT project is “to understand and manage complex, global, socially interactive systems, with a focus on sustainability and resilience”. As the FuturICT project summary explains, it’s an ambitious undertaking, drawing on researchers from more than 80 universities and research institutions, intended not only to “reveal the hidden laws and processes underlying our complex, global, socially interactive systems” but also to inspire new information and communication technologies (ICT) that are socially adaptive and socially interactive”.
Over the course of the evening, we discovered a number of points of intersection between FuturICT and EMC, perhaps most importantly in the recognition of the central role that big data has to play in understanding the complex systems that FuturICT is exploring. FuturICT envisions a Living Earth Simulator (LES) that will draw on massive amounts of data regarding societal interactions, technology trends, environmental processes and other areas in order to create simulations and visualizations of current and future global socio-economic phenomena. Creating the simulations and visualizations will require sophisticated big data analytics that can derive insights and intelligence regarding highly complex problems. The simulations themselves will also generate massive amounts of data that will draw on big data analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of the simulations and the implications of their output. FuturICT is a striking validation of the conclusion in the recent Data Science Study that there is an explosion in the opportunity to generate value and insights from big data.
The FuturICT project will need to look at information security issues, both in terms of its model for collaboration and as one of the areas of complexity in social interaction. It will be interesting to see the insights that come from FuturICT regarding information security, such as in the IT transformation that Branden Williams discussed in his blog “What does your perfect setup look like?” in November 2011. We need tools that, as the FuturICT says, will ”increase and connect our innate anticipatory capabilities” in order to address the security challenges we confront today. FuturICT is an important step forward in creating those tools.