While Dr Richard Hames doesn’t quite have a crystal ball, he does have a knack for reading the future: this is the man who predicted both 9/11 and the Global Financial Crisis.
A musician, former paediatric oncologist and now a futurist, Hames developed an algorithm to predict the future, and it all starts with a single question.
“Security firms look at everything that’s happening in the world and ask what they can do about it,” Hames told Yahoo Finance.
“Then, we interrogate that question using AI.”
And that interrogation looks like scanning “hundreds of millions of documents” and whittling that down to around 24 pages of data.
From that data, experts weigh in with their insights and opinions, and Hames builds four to five different “stories”, each with a different perspective on the original question.
The actual predictions arise when Hames can see the same red flag in each of those stories created.
“When we see that we say, ‘Okay, this is something you need to pay attention to,’ because it requires a response.”
And those red flags led to Hames predicting 9/11 and the GFC.
“The question that was on everyone’s mind was, ‘will terrorism morph into a domestic form of terrorism, and if so, what will that look like?’,” Hames said.
“We did a lot of manual work on this, and it became obvious that the most terrifying form of terrorism would be the terrorism born domestically – people who the security intelligence organisations were not even monitoring.
“And then if that is the case, what would be the targets that you would imagine they would have in their sights, and we chose ten.
“In the US, number one was the White House, and number two was the Pentagon. Number three was the World Trade Centre, and number four was the John Hancock building in Chicago because of its height – funny enough that’s where I have an apartment.”
But security firms failed to take action.
“It annoys me, particularly when people say, ‘Well, you couldn’t possibly have foreseen that happening’. A number of officials of high level, very prominent individuals, were saying that, when they had actually seen the scenarios we played to them – they actually knew this was a possibility.”
So what’s in store for our future?
Hames is turning his focus to capitalism now, and believes that’s the next obstacle society will have to face.
“The question we are looking at at the moment is, ‘how long can current forms of capitalism last?’.”
Hames said capitalism was morphing away from the traditional tensions between “capital and labour” into what he calls “surveillance capitalism”.
“It's the tension between the observers and the observed, and the control of our data and our identity.”
Hames predicts that, within the next decade, “all governments will need to consider how to put a cap on individual wealth.”
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