Dirk Helbing (ETH Zürich) highlights the importance to create an open, value-oriented information system for the world in order to solve the complex challenges in the society of the 21st century. Proposal at CERN, May 2013:
FuturlCT is a global initiative pursuing a participatory approach, integrated across the fields of ICT, the social sciences and complexity science, to design socio-inspired technology and develop a science of global, socially interactive systems. The initiative wants to bring together, on a global level, Big Data, new modelling techniques and new forms of interaction, leading to a new understanding of society and its co-evolution with technology. The goal is to create a major scientific drive to understand, explore and manage our complex, connected world in a more sustainable and resilient manner.
FuturICT is motivated by the fact that ubiquitous communication and sensing blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds, creating unparalleled opportunities for understanding the socio-economic fabric of our world, and for empowering humanity to make informed, responsible decisions for its future. The intimate, complex and dynamic relationship between global, networked ICT systems and human society directly influences the complexity and manageability of both. This also opens up the possibility to fundamentally change the way ICT will be designed, built and operated, reflecting the need for socially interactive, ethically sensitive, trustworthy, self-organised and reliable systems.
FuturICT wants to build a new public resource - value-oriented tools and models to aggregate, access, query and understand vast amounts of data. Information from open sources, real-time devices and mobile sensors would be integrated with multi-scale models of the behaviour of social, technological, environmental and economic systems, which could be interrogated by policy-makers, business people and citizens alike. Together, these would build an eco-system leading to new business models, scientific paradigm shifts and more rapid and effective ways to create and disseminate new knowledge and social benefits – thereby forming an innovation accelerator.
FuturICT would create a “Planetary Nervous System” (PNS) to orchestrate a high-level, goal driven self-organised, collection and evaluation of Big Data generated from sources such as social media, public infrastructures, smart phones or sensor networks. The aim is to create an increasingly detailed “measurement” and a better understanding of the state of the world. For this, the sensing concept used in the physical and environmental sciences would be combined with machine learning and semantic technologies and extended to social and economic contexts. The information provided by the Planetary Nervous System would fuel the development of more realistic, and eventually, global scale models that bring data and theories together, to form a “Living Earth Simulator” (LES) enabling the simulation of “what if …” scenarios. The LES would reveal causal interdependencies and visualise possible short-term scenarios, highlight possible side effects and test critical model assumptions. The “Global Participatory Platform” (GPP) would open up FuturICT’s data, models, and methods for everyone. It would also support interactivity, participation, and collaboration, and furthermore provide experimental and educational platforms. The current activities to develop a “Global System Science” (GSS) will lay the theoretical foundations for these platforms, while the focus on socio-inspired ICT will use the insights gained to identify suitable designs for socially interactive systems and the use of mechanism that have proven effective in society as operational principles for ICT systems. FuturICT’s “Exploratories” will integrate functionalities of the PNS, LES, and GPP, and produce real-life impacts in areas such as Health, Finance, Future Cities, Smart Energy Systems, and Environment. Furthermore, the “Innovation Accelerator” (IA) will develop new approaches to accelerate inventions and innovations. A strong focus on ethics will cut across all activities and develop value-sensitive ICT. Targeted integration efforts will push towards the creation of a powerful and integrated ICT platform that puts humans in the centre of attention.