‘Culturomics’ Predicted The Arab Revolutions—And Now It Predicts Global Unrest

Through a computerized analysis of news reports, researchers claim they can forecast major human events (via @_alea).

The online peer reviewed journal First Monday reports that by analysing 30-years worth of news “culturomics” could have predicted the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; the stability of Saudi Arabia through May 2011; and the location of Osama bin Laden’s bunker to a 200-kilometer radius in north Pakistan.

For instance, here’s how culturnomics predicted Egyptian unrest:

On 25 January 2011, popular dissent with the Egyptian state culminated in mass protests that continued through President Mubarak’s resignation on 11 February. Figure 2 shows the average tone by month from January 1979 to March 2011 of all 52,438 articles captured by SWB mentioning an Egyptian city anywhere in the article. Only articles explicitly mentioning an Egyptian city were included to filter out casual references to Egypt to return only articles reporting on the country in more detail. To normalize the data, the Y axis reports the number of standard deviations from the mean, with higher numbers indicating greater positivity and lower numbers indicating greater negativity. January 2011 reports only the tone for 1 January through 24 January, capturing the period immediately preceding the protests. Only twice in the last 30 years has the global tone about Egypt dropped more than three standard deviations below average: January 1991 (the U.S. aerial bombardment of Iraqi troops in Kuwait) and 1–24 January 2011, ahead of the mass uprising. The only other period of sharp negative moment was March 2003, the launch of the U.S. invasion of neighbouring Iraq.

Looking at the world, the study concluded that “news is becoming more negative”—which seems to predict global unrest.

The below map shows the Summary of World Broadcasts content from 1979-2010. Green is positive and red is negative.


 Check out the entire paper here >