The idea of crowdsourcing geopolitical forecasting is increasing in popularity, and not just for spies.

Sharon Weinberger, BBC. Intelligence agencies turn to crowdsourcing.

Sharon’s talking about Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a US Government program that crowdsources geopolitical predictions.

Sharon suggests that the crowd may foresee events that we wouldn’t guess at otherwise, like these infamous examples:

The intelligence community has often been blasted for its failure to forecast critical world events, from the fall of the Soviet Union to the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and the Middle East.  It was also heavily criticized for its National Intelligence Estimate in 2002, which supported claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Two sites so far that have come from under the program. The first, called Forecasting ACE, was launched last year, and its intro video explains well the sometimes odd wisdom crowds display. 

The latest site, however, is their most interesting. It’s called Global Crowd Intelligence and its creators have catered to our (that is, human) desires for competition, games, and fun.

Writes Sharon:

Indeed, what users wanted, it turned out, was something competitive, so that’s what the company has given them. The new website rewards players who successfully forecast future events by giving them privileged access to certain “missions,” and also allowing them to collect reputation points, which can then be used for online bragging rights. When contributors enter the new site, they start off as junior analysts, but eventually progress to higher levels, allowing them to work on privileged missions.

Appealing to people is, after all, a good way to solicit information from them.

Sharon looks elsewhere, too, where other crowds are making guesses of their own. At Wikistrat, a privately owned, self-titled Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy (MMOC, seriously) has guessed at possible outcomes for Syria.

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