University College London's Department of Mathematics is in the running with the FuturICT project, which aims to create a planetary-scale computer called a 'Living Earth Platform'.
The project's goal is both grand and abstract — a combination of ICT, social sciences and 'complexity science', it would provide new insights into the functioning of society and possibly the discovery of new laws of nature. Dynamic data sources such as crowd-sourced sensor information, digital media, social networks, blogs and public infrastructure would feed into a 'nervous system' of society, which would be used to analyse and manage complex events.
The Living Earth Platform could be used to predict natural disasters or manage and respond to man-made disasters that involve multiple countries or even continents. Societies could be modelled and areas for targeted technological development identified. Ultimately, the team hopes, the platform could lead to more sustainable living and better thought-out social and economic policies.
Photo credit: Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center