Philip Oltermann at The Guardian: “…The name of the initiative was Project Cassandra: for the next two years, university researchers would use their expertise to help the German defence ministry predict the future.
The academics weren’t AI specialists, or scientists, or political analysts. Instead, the people the colonels had sought out in a stuffy top-floor room were a small team of literary scholars led by Jürgen Wertheimer, a professor of comparative literature with wild curls and a penchant for black roll-necks….
But Wertheimer says great writers have a “sensory talent”. Literature, he reasons, has a tendency to channel social trends, moods and especially conflicts that politicians prefer to remain undiscussed until they break out into the open.
“Writers represent reality in such a way that their readers can instantly visualise a world and recognise themselves inside it. They operate on a plane that is both objective and subjective, creating inventories of the emotional interiors of individual lives throughout history.”…
In its bid for further government funding, Wertheimer’s team was up against Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute, Europe’s largest organisation for applied research and development services, which had been asked to run the same pilot project with a data-led approach. Cassandra was simply better, says the defence ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Predicting a conflict a year, or a year and a half in advance, that’s something our systems were already capable of. Cassandra promised to register disturbances five to seven years in advance – that was something new.”
The German defence ministry decided to extend Project Cassandra’s funding by two years. It wanted Wertheimer’s team to develop a method for converting literary insights into hard facts that could be used by military strategists or operatives: “emotional maps” of crisis regions, especially in Africa and the Middle East, that measured “the rise of violent language in chronological order”….(More)“