Better living through data crunching, or a centralized tool for global government shenanigans?

I’m an old-style Albert Einstein/Bertrand Russell/Buckminster Fuller internationalist. I think that national sovereignty will—and should—give way to a democratic “Spaceship Earth” world government at some point in human history (perhaps with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights functioning as an international Bill of Rights). And so I like this idea for global situation rooms that monitor, on a moment by moment basis, the Earth’s vital signs. It would give international leaders, in hours of crisis, a place to make good decisions based on high quality real-time data. But I can imagine anti-world government conspiracists and rapture ready fundamentalists having a field day with this (as reported in MIT’s Technology Review):

Today, Dirk Helbing at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich outlines an ambitious project . . . Helbing’s idea is to create a kind of Manahattan project to study, understand and tackle   . . . [various] techno-socio-economic-environmental issues. His plan is to gather data about the planet in unheard of detail, use it to simulate the behaviour of entire economies and then to predict and prevent crises from emerging. . . .

Helbing’s simulator will look for economic bubbles and collapses, warn of global pandemics and suggest how to tackle them, it will model and predict the outcome of regional conflicts and determine the effect of our behaviour on the climate. He even wants to create ‘situation rooms’ in which global leaders can view and manage crises as they occur.

This Google-Earth-on-steroids is to be called the Living Earth Simulator and Helbing’s plan is to have it working by 2022 at a cost of a cool EUR 1 billion, funded by the European Commission. He’s even assembled an impressive team to help, including partners from most of the top universities in Europe.

Doesn’t the idea sound great?

But don’t tell Glenn Beck.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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