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When Fleeing Zombies (Or Flu), Cooperation Saves Lives

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  • When Fleeing Zombies (Or Flu), Cooperation Saves Lives


    When Fleeing Zombies (Or Flu), Cooperation Saves Lives
    Originally published on Thu August 1, 2013 9:01 am
    By editor

    How will humans survive the zombie apocalypse? Will it be each man for himself or will a coordinated effort be what saves us from ultimate doom?

    An MIT professor is trying to answer this question for us mortals. "There is a price that society pays if everyone determines his behavior selfishly," Ruben Juanes says. And this cost of selfish behavior is what game theorists call the price of anarchy.

    When it comes to a zombie attack or a more common outbreak of flu or other infectious disease, the price of anarchy is a much higher rate of infection, Juanes says. His research finds that's especially true in areas with large commuter populations, like the East Coast.

    Suppose the town you live in has an outbreak of something like influenza. You'd want to be able to go about your daily life without getting infected. So how would you plan your commute to minimize the chances of getting infected or further spreading the disease?

    You could act selfishly and use the quickest, safest route home. Or you and your neighbors could all agree on an altruistic strategy that minimizes everyone's collective risk.

    Using U.S. Census data about populations and commuting patterns, Juanes and his colleagues created a mathematical model to determine the outcomes of each strategy...

    ...The findings, which appeared this week in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, show that...