From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 10 Apr 2003 - 01:45:36 GMT

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    At 12:50 PM 09/04/03 +0100, Derek wrote:


    > >Of course there are many memes associated with this
    > >business, including those which spread panic among
    >?>the population. We have already seen massive
    > >disruptions of the travel industry.
    >If it really is possible to track memes in the same
    >way as one can track real viruses, it ought to be
    >possible to produce at least as good a curve for the
    >putative 'travel avoiding' meme as for the real virus.

    You can sure look at the fall in travel to Hong Kong. The airlines didn't reduce flights by 20% without justification. Or you could do surveys to see how many people are concerned. Incidentally, memes about avoiding danger are some of the best spreading kind.

    >However, nobody has even begun (or can even begin) to
    >do that, and in any case, if the predictive power was
    >only as good as that for the real virus (and that's
    >really as good as it could ever get - even with
    >complete knowledge of the mechanisms), it wouldn't be
    >something an airline CEO would want to bet his/her
    >shirt on.

    I venture to say they do it all the time. Airlines expect a certain number of passengers based on studies when they start a new route and expect the numbers to grow in a predictable manor as people become aware of the offering by this particular airline.

    >Contagionism, as a repdictive mechanism for social
    >phenomena, is real a non-starter. The best that can
    >be done is to analyse things in retrospect< and say<
    >here was a contagion> any attempt to predict the
    >future using it is futile>

    It is my opinion that people in marketing and related areas do that all the time. Doesn't *work* all the time, but they do it anyway.

    Keith Henson

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