The Blog

Changing the future

You’ve probably seen a movie or two about someone having the power to predict the future or in some cases see into the future. It’s all too likely that if you were able to see into the future, you’ll change a thing or two – and then the future changes.

In the Jan. 2, 2012 edition of The New Yorker, there’s an IBM ad with the title: “Drivers now ‘see’ traffic jams before they happen” citing a case in which IBM helps Singaporean motorists see traffic congestions one hour before they happen.

This and many types of other prediction applications use tons of historic and realtime data to accomplish this feat. The utility of this application is undoubtedly undisputed (pardon the pun). If the removal of fuel subsidy doesn’t discourage people from driving their own cars and hence potentially reduce congestion in a city like Lagos, such an application will be very useful.

Someone might ask, if prediction algorithms are able to tell us there’ll be heavy traffic on 3rd Mainland bridge, then the suggestion might be to take the Ikorodu road route. However, that then causes a problem on Ikorodu road since every motorist will then want to take that route. Good question, but then the algorithm also uses realtime data and would put into consideration the fact that traffic is building up on Ikorodu road and hence make another prediction and hence a new suggestion. It’s like having a traffic warden who sees all the routes at once and can make better decisions as a result of this oversight.

Welcome to the new year.