London: The European Union is all set to fund a 900 million-pound scheme to produce a computer system that could predict spread of diseases and impending financial meltdowns.The Living Earth Simulator Project (LES), which has been backed by leading scientists, aims to “simulate everything” on the planet, using anything from tweets to government statistics to map out social trends and predict the next economic crisis.
Using vast reams of data fed into the Internet, trends can be spotted by analysing information with “the world’s most powerful computers”.
The man behind the idea has billed it as a “nervous system for the planet”, while academics have backed it as a replacement for current outdated economic models.
“The idea is to gather live information from a huge range of sources and then analyse it using the world’s most powerful computers,” the Daily Mail quoted Dirk Helbing, one of the leaders of the project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich as telling the Sunday Times.
“Many problems we have today - including social and economic instabilities, wars, disease spreading - are related to human behaviour, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work,” he said.
According to Helbing, the LES would be able to predict the spread of infectious disease such as Swine Flu, identify methods for tackling climate change and even spot an impending financial crisis.
It would be filled with huge swathes of data, which would be assembled as-yet-unbuilt supercomputer hardware capable of data analysis on a mammoth scale.
Around 30 leading computer science centres worldwide have already pledged their support for the supercomputer, including three in Britain.
Oxford University, University College London (UCL) and Edinburgh University have also formed the FuturICT consortium to help push ahead with plans for the project.
However, the plans to recreate the entire world in a complex computer system have drawn criticism from some science experts who see the project as too ambitious and unrealistic.
First Published: Monday, December 5, 2011, 15:01