Article Review: Dynamics Of Beneficial Epidemics

Dynamics Of Beneficial Epidemics, by Andrew Berdahl, Christa Breslford, Caterina De Bacco, et al.

You might think that in the case of a beneficial epidemic that everyone would want it to be spread to the widest population possible.  Yet according to the researchers in this paper, that is not the case at all, and they examine the limits of spread even where the spread of something is viewed as positive to the infected person, based on the attitudes of those who have the beneficial contagion first.  This paper is heavy on both theoretical and mathematical elements, not least because it is hard to define exactly what a beneficial contagion is from the point of view of evolutionary biology.  If we look at it as something like Christianity, for example, then a beneficial epidemic would mean the spread of Christianity through the world, which is precisely how Christian organizations tend to behave according to the model of evangelism, which offers the highest amount of spread according to this paper, as one might expect.  The other attitudes towards spread, namely the “cool kids” or the “snob” model, offer less spread, unfortunately, because of the ambivalent to hostile attitude that these early adopters have to spreading something that is beneficial but would make them less privileged and special as well.

In a time where negative epidemics are all the rage, it is worthwhile to ponder that even with positive epidemics that there are barriers to the spread of something that is helpful.  As we see when it comes to social issues in our own lives, there are people who have privileges and benefits who are less than willing to share with others.  Some people who have a great deal of knowledge and resources recognize that there are benefits to sharing to make everyone more secure and more committed to cooperative behavior, but there are also those who are more selfish and who view such things as possessions to be hoarded like toilet paper and ramen noodles and not to be shared with undeserving peasants.  It is remarkable that even a field as useless as evolutionary biology can occasionally figure out some worthwhile design insights by modeling the behavior of life the way that people behave in grade school.  As I note often, much to my unhappiness, the behavior of public school students with regards to cliques and foolish conflict and fierce competition is a good model for a great deal of what happens in our cursed world.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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