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Posted: August 01, 2013

The futurist: Every disaster has a beginning: Part 2

Was there a way to stop Ted Bundy sooner?

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1.)

When it comes to spotting deviant behavior, we have the potential for intervening and removing the worst of the worst very quickly. Here’s an example.

One of the most notorious serial killers of all times, Pedro Alonso Lopez, known as the “Monster of the Andes,” murdered enough people to fill a small town. After killing 100 tribal women in Peru in the 1970s, he was apprehended by tribal forces that were just about ready to execute him when they were persuaded by an American missionary to take him to the police instead.

Unfortunately, the police then just let him go, after which Lopez travelled to Ecuador, where he proceeded to kill as many as four girls a week. This carried on until he was caught in 1980, but police were still unsure as to his guilt. But as luck would have it, a flash flood uncovered a mass grave that had hidden many of his victims, which then led to his arrest.

Once again, for some inexplicable reason, the Ecuadorian government decided to release him in 1998, deporting him to Columbia. Lopez allegedly said that he was being released for good behavior. His whereabouts today are unknown.

As we increase our awareness of what’s happening in society, the odds of this kind of deviant behavior being overlooked are dramatically reduced. In most cases, murderers like Lopez or Ted Bundy will be red flagged and caught after the first death rather than dozens or hundreds of deaths later.

But what if these types of disasters could be spotted before anyone died? Is there a data-driven version of Minority Report justice that might actually make sense without relying on mystical “precogs” to guide our way? 

Final Thoughts 

Like a single pixel on a trillion pixel image, we quickly lose our ability to find significance in a single point. But it is exactly that, a tiny little signal on the masterpiece of life that determines what happens next.

Every disaster has a lifecycle with a definable beginning, middle, and end. As with every statistical bell curve, the size and shape of the curve represents the overall impact on society.

But disasters are not inevitable. Human intervention can make a huge difference, and the sooner the better.

We are currently building a massive digital infrastructure with the ability to monitor and assess changes happening anywhere in the world in real time. As we move into the big data era, our awareness of pre-disaster conditions will grow exponentially.

Once we can sense an impending disaster, we will need to create response mechanisms capable of mitigating whatever forces are in play.

I’m certainly not deluded into thinking we can eliminate all or even most of the catastrophes we’ll be facing over the coming years. But we have an obligation to deal with these problems in a far better fashion than we currently are. 

And all of this can happen if we focus our attention on the nano-size events happening at Anomaly Zero.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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