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Meme Epidemiology

SRI is applying artificial intelligence principles to predict the emergence and spread of memes—ideas that spread from individual to individual, shaping social institutions and inspiring cultural movements.

Memes can lead to societal changes with far-reaching effects. Therefore, it would be useful to detect emerging memes and predict their evolution.

To recognize and track memes, SRI's Advanced Analytics Group is applying principles and quantitative frameworks from the field of epidemiology. Using a novel approach of modeling memetic transmission, SRI researchers are exploiting the tools of machine learning, computational lin­guistics, and information retrieval to predict the emergence and spread of memes as they spur cultural change.

Incorporating data from news stories, blogs, and discussion forums, the models will define communities based on shared interests and attributes and predict their repetition of memes. They will also calculate memes' likelihood and rates of transmission.