Tag Archives: prediction

What is the Buxton index?

buxtonAn interesting science-fictional concept concerning intitutional longevity, via the late pioneering computer scientist Edsger W Dijkstra, in this essay (EWD 1175):

The Buxton Index of an entity, i.e. person or organization, is defined as the length of the period, measured in years, over which the entity makes its plans.

For the little grocery shop around the corner it is about 1/2,for the true Christian it is infinity, and for most other entities it is in between: about 4 for the average politician who aims at his re-election, slightly more for most industries, but much less for the managers who have to write quarterly reports.

The Buxton Index is an important concept because close co-operation between entities with very different Buxton Indices invariably fails and leads to moral complaints about the partner.

This is an interesting concept: and one that helps explain a lot of attitudes and responses towards issues like climate change, environmental destruction, and DRM.

In each case there are two different parties that are thinking in terms of two completely different Buxton indices. Short term profit vs. longterm survival in AGW or short term data security vs. longterm preservation of cultural artefacts in DRM.

[via this comment in Charlie’s Diary][image from Parksy1964 on flickr]

Google search terms can predict flu outbreaks; what next?

sneezeYou’d have to have been under a pretty large metaphorical internet rock to have missed all the reports about Google Flu Trends that are floating around the web today like sneezed particles of snot, but just in case:

By tracking searches for terms such as ‘cough’, ‘fever’ and ‘aches and pains’ it claims to be able to accurately estimate where flu is circulating.

Google tested the idea in nine regions of the US and found it could accurately predict flu outbreaks between seven and 14 days earlier than the federal centres for disease control and prevention.

So I was thinking, if they can predict flu outbreaks by using search terms as an indicator, what else can be predicted in a similar way? Stats geeks were rinsing comparisons of Obama and McCain as search terms in the run-up to the election, but politics is a bit more complicated than infectious diseases.

Or is it? [image by trumanlo]