“Q” COULD NOT BE REACHED FOR COMMENT: Defense Intelligence Agency’s ‘Shark Tank’ Helps Startups Pitch Spy Apps.

Roy stands in front of a digital projection of a map of Syria. Green and red areas show where his proprietary neural network has determined that unrest or violence is likely imminent. Analysts at DIA can use the tool to look at “precursors to instability,” he explains to a small audience.

The analysts can refine the results by adding or subtracting variables — local economic factors, ethnic and religious makeup, even fresh water availability or food price inflation. This, he explains, is a huge improvement over previous models that relied on just four variables computed by humans. Rhombus’s cloud-based neural net can draw in much more information to help analysts make better predictions.

“It doesn’t give directions. It suggests to help override cognitive bias,” he says.

Fine, but users need to remember that data-driven decisionmaking doesn’t have a perfect track record, either.