Living Earth Simulator – Supercomputer Predicting The Future


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In Douglas Adams book the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy we encounter a machine called Deep Thought. It is the most powerful computer ever built. Deep Thought is capable of answering questions concerning life, the Universe, and simply everything. Now scientists are planning to create a similar machine. It is called the Living Earth Simulator (LES).

Can a supercomputer really predict the future? There are researchers who believe it possible to construct a machine that can predict anything from next financial crisis to next social trends.

The Living Earth Simulator Project (LES) is estimated to cost £900 million and its goal is to create a computer system that can simulate everything on this planet.

Using data fed into the internet, trends can be spotted by analyzing information with ‘the world’s most powerful computers’.

“The idea is to gather live information from a huge range of sources and then analyze it using the world’s most powerful computers.

Many problems we have today – including social and economic instabilities, wars, disease spreading are related to human behavior, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work, said Professor Dirk Helbing, one of the leaders of the project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Although the European Commission has also put the Living Earth Simulator at the top of its shortlist for £900m in funding, there are scientists who raise a critical voice pointing out that the project is too ambitious and unrealistic.

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  1. Will it also, to be totally accurate in its analysis, have a simulation of itself which will also be simulating itself ad infinititum? Reminds me of the Lewis Carrol quip from Sylvie and Bruno:
    That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,” said Mein Herr, “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”

    “About six inches to the mile.”

    “Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”

    “Have you used it much?” I enquired.

    “It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”

  2. Will the “LES” be as accurate as political polling or weather computer predictions? Maybe i should just Google it? LOL

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  4. Using data fed into the internet

    “into it from the internet” presumably.

    “So what’s the answer?”

    “Which answer?”

    “You know, the big one, the really big question everyone has?”

    “The answer?”




    (Rick Astley plays)

  5. In reply to #9 by PERSON:

    More seriously, this reminds me of the thinking behind the Club of Rome’s “The Limits to Growth“. I suspect the conspiracy theorists will lazily dig up some of the ideas surrounding that. Some of the context, e.g. the way it was viewed at the time, is discussed in AWOBMOLG part 2, “The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts”.

  6. In reply to #5 by AlGarnier:

    Will the “LES” be as accurate as political polling or weather computer predictions? Maybe i should just Google it? LOL

    Huh? The best statistical predictions of the 2012 US Presidential elections were spot on. Have you never heard of ?

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