Intelligence agencies turn to crowdsourcing

October 16, 2012

The coming James Bond movie Skyfall (credit: Columbia Pictures)

Research firm Applied Research Associates has just launched a website, Global Crowd Intelligence, that invites the public to sign up and try their hand at intelligence forecasting, BBC Future reports.

The website is part of an effort called Aggregative Contingent Estimation, sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (Iarpa), to understand the potential benefits of crowdsourcing for predicting future events by making forecasting more like a game of spy versus spy.

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.

The idea of crowdsourcing geopolitical forecasting is increasing in popularity, and not just for spies.  Wikistrat, a private company touted as “the world’s first massively multiplayer online consultancy,” was founded in 2002, and is using crowdsourcing to generate scenarios about future geopolitical events. It recently released a report based on a crowdsourced simulation looking at China’s future naval powers.

Warnaar says that Wikistrat’s approach appears to rely on developing “what-if scenarios,” rather than attaching a probability to a specific event happening, which is the goal of the Iarpa project.