“The intelligence community was looking for alternative explanations,” he added. “The old way of thinking, wasn’t catching the new dynamics, trends, that don’t fit into the way they understand things.”
To meet this task, the team recruited from American academia and included leading political scientists, sociologists and methodologists. In the beginning, they focused on variables as broad as environmental degradation and social conflict. The focus later shifted to cover four main topics — revolutionary and ethnic civil war onset, adverse regime change, state collapse, and genocide.
PITF calculates each event’s chance of occurring with probabilistic forecasts from six months to two years out, in 167 countries, which the team monitors on a daily basis. Within every country, the PITF’s global model accounts for baseline political dynamics, and disruptions in patterns within these dynamics.
The results of the forecasts hold impressive heuristic accuracy. “[With] what this approach can do — probabilistic models — they’re stuck at about 80 percent accuracy. That’s good. That’s why we’re still around,” Marshall said.