Global forecasting tool seeks to improve the human condition
The University of Denver is home to the world’s most complex global forecasting tool. Designed over the last 30 years by Professor Barry Hughes of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, the International Futures (IFs) system is helping people around the world improve day-to-day life.
There are many forecasting systems available today, Hughes said, but IFs, which is housed in the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, is unique in that it allows extraordinarily complex simulations of long-term change.
“We can take representations of key global systems, such as population, economics, agriculture, education, health, food, governance and the environment, and represent each one with a computer model that is as close to the state-of-the-art as is available today,” Hughes said. “But what we do that’s really distinctive is that we put them all together. So, when you look at poverty, you can look at all the other categories interacting with that issue, such as agriculture, fertility and education.”
Based on studies done with IFs, the Pardee Center is publishing a series of five volumes, collectively titled “Patterns of Potential Human Progress.” The first two volumes addressed poverty and education. The third, Improving Global Health, was released in early 2011. The remaining two volumes will cover infrastructure and governance.
Hughes said his mission has always been to create a tool that could be widely used to make life better for people around the world. The publications and recent global partnerships have him feeling that his life’s work is achieving the impact he desired.
The Pardee Center collaborates with the Institute for Security Studies in Africa, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the National Intelligence Council, the Atlantic Council, the European Union and Google.
While many software programs of this caliber have been commercialized and made profitable, Hughes wants International Futures to be free and widely available.
“If this tool can have an ongoing life through the Pardee Center, the University and through the people who use it, then I will have had the possibility of making the kind of impact I always hoped.”