Achieving world peace has been a primary goal of governments and beauty pageant contestants since cavemen first started hitting each other with clubs. As democracy spreads and nations become relatively prosperous, we are seeing an end to war in the conventional sense. Conflict is now less a release of pressure after a prolonged period of tension, and more a sudden outburst, flaring up suddenly with far less warning and opportunity to prevent it politically.
Technological advancement has, traditionally, been associated with war in a negative sense, helping to create bigger weapons to enable more killing. However, it could equally be used to bring peace. Kalev H. Leetaru, creator of the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT) project, which describes itself as a comprehensive ‘database of human society’, has argued that big data has the potential to be a tremendous tool in the fight for peace, asking, ‘Can big data give us peace? I think the short answer is we’re starting to explore that. We’re at the very early stages, where there are shining examples of little things here and there. But we’re on that road.’
Big data can be used to identify patterns and signatures associated with growing instability and conflict. It can also pinpoint the exact causes. This enables governments to implement conflict prevention strategies and stop violence before it has a chance to escalate. There are now a number of initiatives focused on analyzing data from all kinds of sources in order to do this. Organizations such as the US Defense Department, the International Peace Institute, and the CIA have all launched programs in recent years that scrape public data from sources like social media, market data, world news, and so forth, and analyze it for indications of impending conflict.