Personal Comment by the Author

In: From Games to Graphs
Author:
Karim Baraghith
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Note that when I started to write this work (in January 2020), the “Coronavirus disease” (COVID-19) had spread globally, resulting in the Coronavirus pandemic, that will most likely mark a historical caesura for the world, not only in terms of public health. Most aspects of social and public life changed gravely – from local curfews and international closings of borders that were meant to be open, to discussions around vaccine mandates for parts of society or society as a whole. Moreover, the sanitary, economic, political, and cultural consequences of this complex process could not have been foreseen, especially for poorer countries and regions, which have been most affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 (some of its variants in particular) is highly contagious and spreads much quicker than other viruses. But even faster spread the information about and around COVID-19 (corroborated reports and references as well as fake news) through social media. It is not a coincidence that Dan Sperber, a strong proponent of cultural evolutionary theory, coined the term “epidemiology of public representations” for cases of cultural transmission and that memes (cultural units of reproduction) have also been called “viruses of the mind” by some authors, such as Daniel Dennett.

The WHO (World Health Organization) recently published an article entitled “How to Fight an Infodemic” to combat a global epidemic of misinformation – spreading rapidly through social media platforms and other outlets – which also can pose a serious problem for public health. Cultural information packages on the internet – such as “#flattenthecurve” on Twitter – as well as sociocultural behavior – such as the inhibition of handshaking – went “viral” between people at a pace that left the spread of COVID-19 (which is also transmitted between cultural agents) far behind. This development can be seen as a most vivid exemplar case of cultural evolution and many theoretical aspects that are reflected within this book are underpinned by it empirically. One example is panic buying (in German: “Hamsterkäufe”) of durable food and toilet paper, which can be interpreted as a case of frequency dependent social behavior, most accurately. I deeply hope that our global culture will overcome this crisis with a minimum of public sorrow. To our great fortune, the number of effective vaccinations against the Coronavirus increases, and we can hope to win (or at least stay in the game of) the arms-race between new SARS-CoV-2 variants and new vaccines. One crucial aspect of being successful in this enterprise will depend on the distribution of (mis-)information about the vaccines among the people of the world.

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