from the world's big
The Chemistry of Social Networks
Nicholas Christakis: Well I mean for \r\nthousands of years people have been concerned with very basic questions \r\nabout how and why humans form societies, how and why people form groups,\r\n but the social networks are different than groups in that in addition \r\nto a collection of individuals a network has a specific set of ties that\r\n you add to the individuals. And not just ties, but a specific pattern \r\nof ties. So, for example... the simplest example of this would be if you\r\n take a group of a hundred people that are waiting in line to get into a\r\n theater, for example. That’s a group of people, but it’s not a network.\r\n If you assemble those people into the simplest possible network, a \r\nlinear network, like a bucket brigade to put out a fire for example now \r\nyou have these hundred people and you’ve added 99 ties between these \r\npeople, so and a specific pattern of ties. Each individual is connected \r\nto one individual on the left and one on the right. And now this network\r\n is capable of doing something which the group was not capable of doing,\r\n namely, putting out a fire rather more efficiently than a group of \r\npeople. Or you could take the same group of people and take the same 99 \r\nties, but organize them totally differently in where each individual \r\nnow... in the form of a telephone tree for example, so each person calls\r\n two people, so you take the first person. They call two people. Each of\r\n those two people call two people and then you would get a completely \r\ndifferent sort of branching pattern. Now instead of a linear network you\r\n have a more complicated network.
In fact, the same kind of \r\nstructure, archetypical structure was used by Bernie Madoff in a kind of\r\n a Ponzi scheme, but instead of distributing information outwards, money\r\n was sucked up and drawn inwards towards the center, so these would be \r\nartificial human networks. They have constituent individuals and they \r\nalso have a specific pattern of ties. You add something more to the \r\nindividuals, these ties. And in fact, as we argue in the book it’s the \r\naddition of these ties that makes the whole greater than the sum of its \r\nparts. It’s the addition of the ties that makes the population of people\r\n within it, the network, capable of doing things like putting out a fire\r\n or distributing information rapidly in the telephone tree example, that\r\n it wasn’t previously able to do. So a network of people is a collection\r\n of individuals and a collection of ties between them and a specific \r\npattern of ties at that.
One of the key ideas about human social \r\nnetworks is that in the addition of ties between people and specific \r\npatterns of ties that obey particular mathematical rules the whole \r\nbecomes greater than the sum of its parts. The collection of human \r\nbeings have properties that do not reside within the individuals, and \r\nthis collection of human beings is now able to do things that they \r\npreviously were not able to do. And one of the illustrations or examples\r\n that I most like to give about this is something that most people are \r\nfamiliar with from high school or college chemistry and that is the \r\nexample of carbon. So you can take carbon atoms and you can assemble the\r\n carbon atoms into graphite and here we put particular hexagonal pattern\r\n of ties and you get sheets of graphite and this graphite is soft and \r\ndark. Or we can take the same carbon atoms and assemble them differently\r\n into a kind of a perimetral structure with the ties between them, the \r\nbonds between the carbon atoms and we get diamond, which is hard and \r\nclear and these properties of softness and darkness or hardness and \r\nclearness first of all differ dramatically, not because the carbon is \r\ndifferent. The carbon is the same in both, but rather because of the \r\nties between the carbon atoms. And second these properties are not \r\nproperties of the carbon atoms. They’re properties of the group, \r\nproperties of the collection of carbon atoms. Therefore, when we take \r\nconstituent elements and assemble them to a larger whole, this larger \r\nwhole can have properties that we could not have foreseen merely by \r\nstudying the individual elements and properties which do not reside \r\nwithin the individual elements.
And the same thing happens with \r\nhuman beings. We can take human beings and assemble them in different \r\npatterns and depending on the pattern in which we assemble human beings \r\nthey have properties that we could not have understood just by studying \r\nhumans. For instance, individual human psychology is not enough to \r\nunderstand some of these bigger properties and second these individuals \r\ndepending on how they’re assembled can have different properties, so you\r\n take the same group of people and you assemble them one way and you get\r\n a bucket brigade, which has particular properties or you assemble them a\r\n different way and you get a telephone tree, which has yet again \r\ndifferent properties. And so the pattern of ties between individual \r\npeople is actually a kind of a resource that we all can use. It’s \r\nactually a reservoir of value. It’s a kind of social capital, actually.
And\r\n it’s not just the pattern of ties between people that matters. It’s \r\nalso what is flowing across those ties, so if you inhabit a network with\r\n a particular structure of ties, but it’s a trusting network versus a \r\nmistrustful network it has different implications for your life, or if \r\nyou’re inhabiting a network where a pathogen is spreading versus where a\r\n pathogen is not spreading—different implications for your life. \r\nSomething is spreading through the network. You’re connected to others \r\nand it affects you.
And we have been looking, James Fowler and \r\nI, at a variety of sort of counter intuitive examples of these kinds of \r\nphenomenon. For instance, we’ve looked at how things like obesity or \r\nyour emotions, like happiness, spread through human networks. And we \r\nfind that a lot of deeply personal things, things that people might not \r\nthink of as being under the influence of others are affected, not just \r\nby their friends, but by their friends’ friends and even their friend's \r\nfriend's friends. So people are used to think of things like fashions, \r\nfor example. Like their taste in music or clothes might be affected by \r\ntheir friends or perhaps even they have this image that fashions can \r\nspread through the network or people might be used to thinking that \r\ngerms, that right now they’re not sick, but their friend's friend's \r\nfriend has a germ and that germ is going to spread to their friend’s \r\nfriend and then to their friend and then eventually inexorably to them, \r\nbut what they may not realize is that other sorts of phenomenon like who\r\n they vote for or how big their body is or even how happy they are also \r\ncan behave in similar ways, and that is what James and I have been \r\nworking on trying to understand over the last few years.
Recorded March 31, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen
Like atoms in a molecule, we’re all linked together. Studying the complex matrix that results can illuminate everything from bucket brigades to Bernie Madoff.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.