November 17, 2008: Network analysis and data mining by Google can now predict outbreaks of the flu two weeks in advance of the predictions of the Center of Disease Control by checking search terms and usage of keywords on the Internet. There is also speculation on what else this kind of analysis can do - economic developments, sociological and cultural trends, and much more. Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the misuse of such technology.
Game and Story Use
- If this technology can predict diseases, then how about predicting rebellion and other forms of public discontent? How about identifying the key people in political opposition movements - and learning how to eliminate their influence most effectively? In a Cyberpunk or Twenty Minutes Into The Future setting (or science fiction settings in general which try to portray technological developments realistically), such technology could be an authoritarian regime's best friend in maintaining power.
- In a world where magic is real or destiny is otherwise strong this can amount to a form of divination, with the ability to yield surprisingly specific and eerily accurate predictions even about things that aren't specifically related to anything in the data set.
- The PCs are called on to investigate the sudden disappearance of a Google employee and the stock market analysis program he was working on. An espionage thriller ensues.