In this article, The Internet KNows What You'll Do Next, author David Leonhardt describes how the huge machine that is the Internet can be and is being harnessed to predict what the world wants and where it will go. It's an amazing article, and everyone should read it.
It discusses Google Trends, which anyone can use to learn about the history of search terms. For example, a Google Trends search for "Pirates of the Caribbean" reveals that Salt Lake City is doing more searches for that than any other city in the world, while Norway is searching for it more than any other country. Crazy, huh?
Definitely read the article, it's really good.