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Google Searches Can Also Track Intellectual Outbreaks

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An article in today's New York Times discusses how Google queries can anticipate the rise in reported flu outbreaks and beat the forecasts of the CDC, sometimes by weeks at a time.

A similar technique could be used to track intellectual activity through Google queries. A recent article in The Atlantic suggested that using Google is making us stupid, but didn’t suggest what to do about it or how we can all get on board. We have known since the early 1970s that there is a correlation between the rise of reported flu queries and intellectual activities. Sometimes, the rise in temperature, the muscle aches, and feelings of nausea due to the latter are attributed to the former.

Using the data gathered from Google searches, we can anticipate an increase in intellectual activity before it occurs and take steps to prevent it. While there is currently no preventive vaccine or cure available for intellectual activity, a few basic steps of mental hygiene can reduce the severity of the outbreak:

1. An outbreak of intellectual activity often is preceded by a discussion of the works of any of a number of scholars, including Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis, Walter J. Ong, Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford, Alfred Korzybski or Suzanne Langer.

This may be followed by secondary discussion of Paul Levinson, Lance Strate, Robert Logan, Joshua Meyerowitz or James Carey. Should you encounter a group discussing any of these authors, immediately change the topic to sports, the weather, politics or religion. A good lead in is: "Yes, technology may have influenced the course of human evolution, but weren't weather patterns, available raw material resources and the ineluctable modalities of warfare more significant?"

2. While there is no evidence that intellectual activity can be picked up on toilet seats, it is advisable to always have a supply of alternative reading material available, including old issues of Consumer Reports, copies of Mad Libs or almost any graphic novel, except any by Douglas Rushkoff or Neil Gaiman.

3. Intellectual activity is easily spread among college students and can then be brought into the home during semester breaks or over weekends. One approach is to make enormous quantities of food available when anticipating a home visit and make sure the student's mouth is always full. Others suggest planning a trip to areas of the world not currently experiencing any intellectual outbreaks and leaving before the infected student arrives. While Canada has long been off limits, recent outbreaks in Mexico have put that country in doubt. However, many Caribbean islands are still considered pristine.

4. Intellectual activity is most detrimental to the very young and to the elderly. Special steps should be taken to shield these groups from exposure.

5. Should you begin to feel any of the symptoms of intellectual activity, bed rest, fluids and aspirin — lots of aspirin — are recommended. Symptoms may persist for up to two weeks, with feelings of lethargy and agoraphobia continuing for up to a month after that.

WARNING: Do not under any circumstances attempt to consult a Ph.D. They will only prolong the course of the disease.

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About Bob

  • Google is great, it’s so “intelligent”. Of course we all need to be selective, since not all the stuff on the web is trustworthy. My IT teacher always said that he wrote the most stupid article on Wikipedia, I’m not mentioning the title because it’s really embarassing, but still, it was published and people will believe in it…
    so well, let’s not believe in everything we read… but this thing of the flu, that you can predict it, well I think it’s great. Google is the answer, most of the times.
    let’s just keep safe… baby steps 🙂
    First aid training courses for appointed person and first aid at work is now being run across the uk to aid companies with compliance issues.

  • And Google queries can also predict political races too, as we seen with the resent election of Barack Obama with the electoral votes being very similar to to search volume.

  • Of course you’re not talking about literacy; you’re talking about illiteracy which gives a bad name to an otherwise good condition.

    To be unable to read is a desirable state, not an ill-ness. Let’s not say that someone who can’t read is illiterate, let’s say post-literate, which is a very healthy state.

  • Literacy is a conspiracy to undermine social order. Citizens are advised to remain indoors , watch lots of television and especially, avoid hard cover books like, well… the plague. Text messages are probably safe if they have been sanitized by removing all correctly spelled words. An alternative mantra is: “I think, therefore I think I am.”

  • When assailed with these types of concerns, the best course is to cease thinking about them entirely. Certainly you don’t want to be caught using Google to answer any question, whether about the flu or any particular epistemological consideration. The best course to ensure your privacy is to repeat the mantra: “I don’t think, so I don’t think so.”

  • Are health officials going to show up at my door too? Google is starting to creep me out.