Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics

Another, more recent TED talk from Christakis on the power and potential of social networks.  The obvious question is how ethical the”massive passive data collection” that he discusses actually is.  It sounds very invasive and Orwellian to me, but it also offers a tantalising method to study social structure and perhaps to improve how we manage a whole range of social problems.

He also mentions the “friendship paradox“, a phenomenon first discussed by S.L.Feld back in 1991.  The paper is available here.

After mapping humans’ intricate social networks, Nicholas Christakis and colleague James Fowler began investigating how this information could better our lives. Now, he reveals his hot-off-the-press findings: These networks can be used to detect epidemics earlier than ever, from the spread of innovative ideas to risky behaviors to viruses (like H1N1).

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Skhizein (2008) by Jérémy Clapin.

This is another of my favourite animation shorts of the last few years.  It received a commendation form the Oscar committee that year but it really should have been nominated.  It, in any case, won the audience award at Annecy, the Kodak award at Cannes, and the “best short” at the Manhattan Short Film Festival so to hell with the Oscars!

The film itself is a humorous yet deep meditation on being “beside yourself”, literally.  Clapin says the word derives from the Greek, meaning “to split” or “to cleave”, and shares the same root as the word schizophrenia.

I don’t want to spoil the story but for me it is about alienation, and the loss and loneliness that many of us experience as the contemporary condition. Part two is here.   Enjoy…


Žižek on Charity

Another RSA Animate short, this time featuring Žižek (again) on the negative impact of charity on the contemporary world.  He quotes from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 essay “The Soul of Modern Man Under Socialism” (“Their remedies do not cure the disease; they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease”), the text of which is available here.  Enjoy…