Maps have evolved in some pretty amazing ways, from the night sky maps carved onto cave walls in Lascaux, to modern day collaborative maps built by millions of citizen cartographers around the world. Using maps, we can look at how the world around us has changed. We can also use maps to govern more effectively, save lives or just find the cheapest beer.
But what makes maps really exciting isn't what they can tell us about our past or present, but what they could potentially tell us about our future, both good and bad.
A recent Fast Company piece entitled, "Google Maps Help Predict Meth Labs Before They Open" touches on this idea. In his 2009 book, Geography and the Drug Addiction, Dr. Max Lu took three years of data around meth lab seizures and used it to show the likely spread of those meth labs in the future.
Thousands of miles away, predictive analysis was being used by GeoEye to map political conflict and refugees in central Africa. Using the AnthroMapper and Signature Analyst tools, GeoEye's analysts were able to identify the pattern of both the Lord's Resistance Army and related refugee populations.
They then used statistical models to represent the geospatial "signature" of this activity and identified regions where new conflict was more likely to occur in the future. Combining this model with population density statistics helped NGOs, local governments and the military focus their resources...
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