How Ideas Are Spread

New Search Method Tracks Down Influential Ideas
Princeton University (10/20/10) Chris Emery

Princeton University computer scientists have developed a method that uses computer algorithms to trace the origins and spread of ideas, which they say could make it easier to measure the influence of scholarly papers, news stories, and other information sources.

The algorithms analyze how language changes over time within a group of documents and determines which documents had the most influence.

“The point is being able to manage the explosion of information made possible by computers and the Internet,” says Princeton professor David Blei. He says the search method could eventually enable historians, political scientists, and other scholars to study how ideas originate and spread.

The Princeton method enables computers to analyze the actual text of documents, instead of focusing on citations, to see how the language changes over time. “We are also exploring the idea that you can find patterns in how language changes over time,” Blei says.

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I think this is cool.  I wonder a lot where ideas come from.   William Gibson’s latest greatest offering has a lot of this sort of thinking discussed in it.  It is disguised as “cool hunting” and other types of (mostly) marketing techniques.   And art. It’s a good book.  Zero History.

I’ve loved every single one of his books so of course I have to recommend it (and him).  His characters always seem so authentic, even when they are weird as hell.  Or, maybe especially when they are weird as hell.  And somehow I identify with lots of them. (!) It’s science fiction, but not particularly futuristic.  CyberPunk, really.  Good stuff, Maynard.

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