Using people to predict the future, is this the future?

What will happen in the future? Microsoft tries to answer this question by launching the Microsoft Prediction Lab. The lab is an interactive platform that is partially built around the basis of a game. Users can invest points by predicting the outcome of certain future events. If a prediction is correct, the user gains points and if the prediction is wrong the user looses his or her points. Not only is the prediction lab a game, it is also a lab (off course). David Rothschild, an expert in data driven predictive methodology and researcher at Microsoft, sees the lab as a great laboratory for researchers and a new social experience. The team behind the lab tries to figure out what is the best way of predicting the future, using more than the typical dataset.

Why is this development intriguing? First of all, this platform shows that the wisdom of crowds can be used for making accurate predictions. The users fill in their predictions based on personal expectations as well as earlier predictions made by the crowd. The user adds value to the lab by making these predictions. This can be explained as value co-creation, where the value is equal to the correct predictions. Secondly, this digital platform uses positive network effects for its own benefits. The more users submit their expectations and predictions, the more reliable the overall prediction is.

I think Microsoft’s Prediction Lab is on the right track, if you consider the fact that it gave an 84% change of a ‘No-vote’ for the Scottish independence, and predicted 15 out of the 15 knock-out games on the FIFA World Cup correctly. For now it will focus on political events (such as elections) and sport, but the tech-giant plans to use the prediction technology for far more than that.

Microsoft has plans to incorporate the outcomes of the predictions into its existing products. Cortana, Microsofts’ digital help, could answer questions like ‘what will be the outcome of the next match?’ or ‘who will be the next president?’. I think this ability to use the lab for products is the most valuable contribution of the prediction lab; not the actual outcomes, but the value it adds to the existing products. Where do you think this technology will lead to?


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