Monday, June 29, 2009

Your Email Can Predict the Future

An examination of emails sent by Enron senior staff, for an 18-month period until the company's downfall, seems to show that email-patterns can be a good indicator of impending organizational-demise. The investigators didn't read the emails but instead only looked at exchange-patterns.

The study claims that the main indicator of crisis seems to be the growth of email cliques - small and isolated groups that exchange emails amongst themselves. The logic is that before times of trouble, people tend to communicate with those that they trust most within an organization. Of course, further investigation will be required to confirm these initial findings.

If these patterns are proven to be valid signs of future problems, then this could represent a substantial leap forward for social-predictive technology. This information might be used for positive purposes such as predicting man-made disasters or impending epidemics. It could also be abused by over-zealous security agencies or evil-doers to foresee threats or public discontent.

With basic social interaction quickly shifting to the digital world (primarily Internet and Mobile), real-time digital records can be easily collected and stored. I predict major debates in the near-future on how to apply these heaps of new and valuable social-data.


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