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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