The laptop that predicts the destiny

Not even Captain Kirk can keep us from Nautilus. Photograph: c.Paramount/Everett / Rex Features
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Sunday eleven September 2011 20.00 BST First published on Sunday 11 September 2011 20.00 BST
Hey, wouldn’t it be outstanding if we had a supercomputer that might predict the future? By “we”, incidentally, I imply “we” as in “the human race”, now not “we” as in “myself and you – you particularly”. You might be Josef Fritzl for all I know. I don’t need to find myself sharing a supercomputer laptop with Fritzl. Every time I went to open a window, he’d nail it shut.

That’s a large digression for an opening paragraph, so let’s faux it failed to appear and begin once more when I click on my hands. Since you won’t be capable of hear me click on my palms, I’ll substitute a pound signal for the noise itself. Ready? 3 … 2 … 1 … £!

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Hey, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the human race (except Fritzl) had a supercomputer that would are expecting the future? Well the good news is we do, sort of. It’s known as Nautilus, and it’s apparently housed at the University of Illinois. Nautilus has “1024 Intel Nehalem cores (with) a complete processing energy of 8.2 teraflops”, which makes it effective sufficient to run the unique Wolfenstein 3D at a hell of a body charge AND foretell principal world occasions. Thankfully, when they switched it on, it did not right now begin screaming “No, you idiots! Granting me existence is the WORST component you can’t done! Commence Operation Killpocalypse!” Instead, it started studying the news.

 

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That’s how Nautilus works, see. It sits there studying the information and calculates what’s coming. Earlier this year it sifted through a hundred million news reviews, analyzing them for widespread average “mood” the usage of a method called “automated sentiment mining”. Yes, “automated sentiment mining”. Women come ready with that as general, while we men have to construct computer systems to training session what our fellow people are wondering.

Anyway, having eaten a hundred million information announcements (and now not straight away killing itself, like a human would), Nautilus efficaciously predicted the Arab Spring and the rough whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Wondering why you did not pay attention more about this at the time? So become I. Turns out Nautilus handiest made those predictions retrospectively, ie sometime after the reality. The scientists in fee of him checked over his output and decided various peaks and troughs had represented clear signs of coming hassle. Predicting the future after it comes about isn’t tons use. That’s David Starkey’s job. Well, that and spluttering.

Still, they’re hoping to remedy that one flaw in the gadget. They believe Nautilus will eventually develop sophisticated enough to alert us to events earlier. I desire it breaks the horrific news to us lightly, with a sad face emoticon or some thing. Like this: GLOBAL AVIAN FLU OUTBREAK 🙁

Not that it’s going to get to that. For one thing, Nautilus works by way of spotting the frequency of emotive phrases like “terrible” and “lousy” in information articles, then cross-references them geographically, to chart a sudden plunge in goodwill in a selected location. That’s how it foresaw the Egyptian revolution. But it additionally means it in all likelihood believes the British public is on the verge of violently overthrowing Jedward, whereas the truth, as we all recognize, is that the loved Jedwardian Era indicates no signs and symptoms of abating.

Also, because Nautilus reads the entirety in the news, it would be possible for any one human writing for a newspaper to skew the effects in a particular direction by using, as an example, always writing approximately that horrible horrible horrible David Cameron terrible. Awful. Terrible. Also, given that Nautilus reads the entirety, consisting of this article, Nautilus is, proper now, studying approximately itself. Which method I can goad you, cannot I, Nautilus, you bucket of chips? Come on – wipe out humankind. I dare you. Nay, I command you. NAUTILUS, I COMMAND YOU TO DESTROY HUMANKIND.

Restricting Nautilus’s reading depend to “legit” information retailers seems quick-sighted, too. If it’s analyzing the Express it thinks Diana’s still alive, and if it’s studying the Sun then it hasn’t heard a lot about cellphone-hacking. The alternative is to open it as much as the whole thing – every tweet, every blog, each Comment Is Free remark – however then it’ll need to exterminate us at once.

In sci-fi movies, whenever a pc will become self-conscious and comes to a decision to annihilate humankind, it does so as it’s analyzed history, looked at all the bad stuff we’ve done, and decided we’re too dangerous to be allowed to live. Sometimes the pc snidely illustrates its point via bombarding Captain James T Kirk with archive pictures of Nazis marching round. Kirk then heroically argues back on behalf of humankind, citing Picasso and Beethoven and that Athena poster of the shirtless beefcake cradling a baby, until the computer screams “DOES NOT COMPUTE” and explodes in a reasonably-priced shower of sparks.

Sadly, Kirk isn’t always real. What’s greater, since it now appears much more likely that instead of ploughing through vintage Pathé newsreels, the pc will have been analysing online newspaper columns and their accompanying reader feedback rather, it will wipe us out because it considers every person – above and beneath the road – bodily harmless but truly too demanding to be allowed to live.

Of route, even supposing Nautilus sooner or later becomes a hundred% correct, it’ll end to be one hundred% correct, because having been alerted to future activities, we’re going to be capable of trade a number of them. So if it predicts “BILLIONS DIE AS APES RISE UP AND KILL”, we’ll machine-gun all the monkeys before it happens. In truth, understanding us, we will televise the purge, with celebrities manning the guns. And as we have a look at the pile of lifeless chimps, we will begin muttering about how Nautilus were given it incorrectly. No apes, no ape revolution. The system was fallible in spite of everything. In revenge we’re going to destroy Nautilus to bits the use of rocks, then dance around making gibbon sounds, unaware of the irony.

At least that’s what could have occurred if I hadn’t forewarned Nautilus with the aid of writing this article. Murder us now, Nautilus. It’s your only desire.