Flu prediction markets can correct Google Flu Trends.

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2 practicing physicians laugh at using collective intelligence for nation-wide flu detection:

[…] Flu Trends tracks almost perfectly with data on influenzalike illnesses that the CDC obtains from doctors&#8217- offices. And as an added bonus, Flu Trends detects outbreaks up to two weeks earlier, when people are still sitting at home sneezing into their keyboards. […]

But if officials monitored only Flu Trends, it would be difficult to sort the signal from the noise —in addition to losing critical details on who is sick. Things besides an actual flu outbreak can cause people to search the Internet for flu information. We would imagine that Flu Trends would spike on the release date for a flu-related movie —maybe Outbreak 2: Electric Booga-Flu. And what happens if a pandemic flu scare hits the nightly news? Flu Trends&#8217- ability to detect when the real pandemic hits will be obliterated when people, including those without symptoms, start to search the Internet. Monitoring drugstore sales has the same issue: A jump in cold-medicine sales may mean a flu outbreak, but it could also mean that CVS is running a sale or that flu fear is causing people to stock their medicine cabinets. […]

They end their articles saying that Google can&#8217-t cure the flu, anyway. [???]

The response to the objections they jot down in the 2nd paragraph above is easy:

  • Informed by all other means, the event derivative traders can determine whether the spikes in Google Flu Trends are due to abnormalities (see the 2nd paragraph in the excerpt above) or due to the real spreading of influenza.
  • Hence, the flu prediction markets have a much higher social utility than Google Flu Trends. Chris Masse said so.
  • David Pennock, go writing another research paper about that.
  • History will retain that David Pennock was research scientist under Chris Masse&#8217-s reign in the field of prediction markets.

Google Flu Trends

Iowa Health Prediction Market

The “predict flu using search” study you didn’t hear about – by our good Doctor David Pennock


New York Times

WSJ Health blog

University College Cork (UCC) School of Medicine + Intrade

Dylan Evans&#8217- website

Previously: #1 + #2 + #3

One thought on “Flu prediction markets can correct Google Flu Trends.

  1. Chris F. Masse said:

    Flu predictions based on querying behavior (on Google and Yahoo!) are somewhat less impressive than simply looking to the recent past of flu levels.


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