A company called Recorded Future looks at 100,000 Web pages an hour, scanning across 50,000 sources that include everything from Securities and Exchange Commission filings to Twitter comments. The idea is to look for statements about the future, like notice of an annual meeting or predictions about when a product might be released, look at past developments and then create a “temporal index” that suggests trends.
“The Web has come to reflect the world,” says Christopher Ahlberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Recorded Future. “We can use that to predict things.”
There are both direct and indirect insights. Expected news, like a meeting or filing, can create volatility in stock prices. Recorded Future predicts five days ahead of time. Insider selling of shares, correlated with expected layoffs or corporate restructuring, tends to suggest a 2 percent decline over the value of a stock in the following 30 days. One intelligence agency has requested that the company identify stories in the China Daily newspaper that are significantly longer in their Chinese version, compared to the English ones, on the assumption that the one for the domestic audience is offering more detail and nuance for a reason.
The forward-looking quality of the data is interesting, but this is essentially the kind of computer-aided research service that wealthy institutions have purchased for a long time. Lately, however, Recorded Future has gone into the business of looking at relationships between individuals and data sources, and also started offering a Web-based version of its product on a subscription basis for $149 a month.
Mr. Ahlberg and I sat down with the tool, and looked at individuals in the Chinese Communist Party who appear to have unusually strong relationships with others
These guys are looking into and representing futures but their services are not different from past, except using online sources. This is just one part of future, and the other is crowdsourcing relying on the mass to do it.