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Sean Gourley    

Physicist, Political Advisor, TED Fellow & Expert In the Subject of Tracking Innovation

Sean is a Physicist, decathlete, political advisor, and TED fellow. He is originally from New Zealand where he ran for national elected office and helped start New Zealand's first nanotech company. Sean studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar where he received a PhD for his research on the mathematical patterns that underlie modern war. This research has taken him all over the world from the Pentagon, to the United Nations and Iraq. Previously Sean worked at NASA on self-repairing nano-circuits and is a two-time New Zealand track and field champion. Sean is now based in San Francisco where he splits his time between mathematical research and his venture capital backed startup Quid.

Quid is a company that is building a global intelligence platform. The underlying technology behind Quid is an extension of my mathematical research into war and insurgency. At Quid we have built a set of technologies that collect open source intelligence through thousands of different information channels. We take this data and structure it to extract entities and events that we can then use to build models that help humans understand the complexity of the world around us. All of this is wrapped up in an advanced visualization layer that allows users to interact, play with and question the data in real time. With Quid we are building software to help people make better decisions in a complex world. You can read more about the technical challenges here, and if you are interested in joining the team we are always hiring.

Prior to Quid, Gourley worked on self-repairing nano-circuits at NASA Ames. He holds a PhD in physics from Oxford, where his research as a Rhodes Scholar focused on complex systems and the mathematical patterns underlying modern war. This research was published on the cover of Nature. He has served as a political advisor, briefed USCENTCOM at the Pentagon and addressed the United Nations in Vienna.

Gourley sits on the Knight Commission, serves on the Board of Directors at Anadarko (NYSE: APC), and is a TED Fellow.

Sean Gourley is founder and CEO of Primer.

Speech Topics

Augmenting Humans to Make Better Policy Decisions

What's smarter? A person, or a computer? Today, at least, the answer is both. Computers cant simply print out the answers to complex problems. Plenty of problems are opaque to raw computing power. From corporate strategy to geopolitics, a purely algorithmic or data-driven approach wont work. In this talk, Sean Gourley will look at ways to combine humans and machines to make better decisions. Well look at some specific examples, such as global space policy, to show how a blended approach improves results and adds to the cognitive ability of decision-makers involved in big, complex, seemingly intractable questions.

The New Corporate Intelligence

Disruptive technology shapes the world, defining political, military, financial, and commercial opportunities and threats. Whether originating in academic research, in National Labs, or in privately held or public companies, these technologies can emerge with explosive impact, creating and destroying value. Yet there are few tools to track these innovationsat a global scale and at a pace that keeps up with the rate of change.

What if corporate strategists could literally draw a map to find growth opportunities? A technique called semantic clustering analysis makes this possible. When applied to technology entities worldwide, this analysis can reveal not only which innovation areas are thick with competition, but also where in the market there are opportunities, or white spaces, ripe for innovation. The result is a data-driven visual tool that can be used to drive corporate innovation strategy.


The future of propaganda: A Q&A with Sean Gourley about big data ...

During the Iraq war, the U.S. military used open-source data, from news reports to Facebook photos, to help detect patterns in the violence. But that's just the ...

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