PCMag.com: 'Google Flu Trends' to Track Influenza Outbreaks
With the events of the past few days, it's become clear that even the strongest players, the biggest companies and the richest investors are facing serious financial challenges.
The speed at which things have come unraveled is breathtaking. Only a few months ago inflation was the big worry and some analysts were suggesting that the U.S. economy might avoid a recession. Now, the fear is of deflation and a global depression.
The reason we are in this mess is that Americans, collectively, lived beyond their means for many years, consuming more than they produced and investing more than they saved, thanks to trading partners and foreign investors who were only too happy to lend them lots of money at cheap rates. Now that the credit bubble has burst and the party is over, Americans will have no choice but to go through a painful adjustment to get things back into balance.
That means that American households will have to spend less and save more, as they are beginning to do. It means that voters will have to decide whether they want to pay higher taxes or reduce the level of benefits or services they demand from government. It means that housing prices will have to fall to levels that make homes affordable to the people who live in them. And it means that companies will have to shrink their operations to reflect that new, lower level of consumer spending.
Flu Trends has been in the works since last year when Google software engineers met with the "predict and prevent" team from Google.org. "We decided to focus on outbreaks of infectious disease, which are responsible for millions of deaths around the world each year," Ginsberg and Mohebbi wrote.
Why not rely solely on CDC data? Early detection, according to Google.
"It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly," Ginsberg and Mohebbi wrote. "By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza."
Google shared early results from the 2007-2008 flu season with the CDC's influenza division and "we saw that our search-based flu estimates had a consistently strong correlation with real CDC surveillance data."
The world is waiting for President-elect Barack Obama , and some of its most prominent leaders are flying into the United States this weekend clamoring to meet with him. But they will have to keep on waiting.
The leaders of 19 foreign powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, converge on Washington on Friday for an emergency economic summit meeting hosted by President Bush. Although invited, Mr. Obama has opted to stay in Chicago and will not meet any of the leaders separately.
Several Obama advisers, in separate interviews, all used the word “awkward” to describe the situation. But Robert Gibbs , a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said: “While some may say it’s awkward that he’s not there, it would be far more problematic to be there. We firmly believe there is only one president at a time.”
We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.
Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The reality of the narrative is irrelevant. It can be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount. The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek or want honesty. We ask to be indulged and entertained by clichés, stereotypes and mythic narratives that tell us we can be whomever we want to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities and that our glorious future is preordained, either because of our attributes as Americans or because we are blessed by God or both.