The Need for Champions for Approximate Social Search

Y.-A. de Montjoye, J. Haria, M. Cebrian, A. Pentland


The world has recently witnessed several disasters, wherein the human cost of the catastrophe depended strongly on the delivery time of critical rescue information, mostly through strangers, on the location and status of individuals. Unfortunately, these are often situations wherein technology ceases to function. Pen-and-paper solutions then become the only viable option for information transfer. Both the propagation of information in networks and social search through traditional digital devices such as mobile phones and e-mails is welldocumented in the literature. However, existing models usually fail to take into account the cost of the physical propagation of information. We report on the empirical results of a pen-andpaper system involving time-critical approximate social search. In particular, participants’ goal is to locate and assess the status of other participants without further knowledge regarding their identity. We show that when there is a cost associated with information propagation, the network efficiency is mainly driven by the presence of strongly motivated individuals who actively seek to acquire and propagate information.

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