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《财富》最新专题:传染

Clifton Leaf 2014年09月01日

从病毒性瘟疫是怎样爆发的,到企业并购谣言是如何散播,再到股市恐慌是如何传染的,《财富》杂志推出系列文章,将带你走进各种“传染”现象背后令人震惊的秘密。
【传染之一】比SARS更致命:蝙蝠病毒MERS是如何成为人类杀手的
【传染之二】“自拍”何以变成社会流行病
【传染之三】市场抛盘是怎样发生的?
【传染之四】并购传闻如何不胫而走
【传染之五】从贾斯汀•比伯到数据学家,Twitter何以成为一门显学

    专家警告称,对于一些鼠疫已经在小范围流行的地区来说,气候变化很可能会加剧鼠疫爆发的风险,新的危险区也有可能随之出现。但目前这还只是猜测。斯坦瑟斯及其同事在《PLOS医学》(PLOS Medicine)杂志上撰文指出:“人们对鼠疫病菌在天然宿主体内的发展及其变异对人体的风险所知甚少。国际社会应该比现在更加重视鼠疫问题。”

    是的,在黑死病大爆发几百年后,这一史上最著名、被反复研究的瘟疫依然笼罩在神秘之中。与此同时,我们对“传染”这个过程本身的了解也远远不够。比如说打呵欠也是会传染的,再比如说我们的情绪、面部表情、记忆、办公室的活力,乃至全球银行系统,都容易受到传染力量的影响。

    问题是,对一种传染形式的研究是否有助于我们了解其他传染机制?比如通过研究病菌的传染,能否有助于我们研究金融危机的传染?(1997年和1998年的经济危机又分别叫做“亚洲流感”和“俄罗斯病毒”。)抑或,通过研究“集体情绪传染”(即情绪如何在个体间传染),能否有助于我们预防自杀的“井喷”?

    抱着这样的愿望,《财富》(Fortune)决定探索各种事物的传播机制。我们邀请五位作者深入探究了传染的几种表现形式——有些是比较熟悉的,比如病毒的全球传播;有些则有点不太寻常,但我们收集了相关论文(见下方链接)。

    在两篇文章中,埃瑞卡•弗莱首先调查一种在沙特阿拉伯爆发,名叫MERS-CoV的冠状病毒,是如何从蝙蝠传染到骆驼、再从骆驼传染到人类,最后又出现在印第安那州孟斯特一家小型社区医院的。这种病毒是臭名昭著的SARS病毒的近亲。就在全球正在紧张关注正在西非部分地区肆虐的埃博拉病毒之际,弗莱向我们展示了为什么MERS-CoV可能具有更大的蔓延风险。

    珍•韦茨纳和史蒂芬•甘代尔分别从不同方面研究了股市传染病。韦茨纳首先深入研究了并购圈的谣言传播路线图,展示了一次简单的猜测如何演变成引发股市震荡的流言。具有多年金融报道经验的甘代尔则深入探究了股市上一个多年未解之谜——为什么在没有任何重大负面消息的情况下,会突然出现大范围的抛售股票?换句话说,大家的“恐慌按钮”究竟是如何被人按下的?

    如果你想知道“逃亡”一词是如何跟“畅销书”联系起来的,不妨阅读一下安妮•范德梅评论2014年畅销书——托马斯•皮凯蒂的《21世纪资本论》(Capital in the Twenty-First Century)的论文。杰西•亨佩尔则研究了另一个热门的社会现象——“自拍”。据亨佩尔研究发现,“自拍”的迅速泛滥,既受到科技革命性变革的推动,同时也出于人性的冲动和自恋。最后,埃瑞卡•弗莱又把研究对象转移到了研究者自己身上,阐释了为什么研究Twitter等社交媒体也变成了一种流行的学术行为。欢迎了解大学校园内最热门的学科之一:《Twitter学入门基础》。

    网络的力量既让我们与地球村联系得更加紧密,也使这些“传染病”传播得更加迅速。这张看不见的网已经成为我们日常生活中密不可分的一部分。从理论上讲,每名Facebook用户只需要发送一个交友申请,就可以跟另外13亿人成为朋友。LinkedIn上的近3亿用户,只需要轻轻一点,就可以联系上一个老同事,找到一个新的职业机会,认识一个陌生人。

    即便是用传统意义界定的“人际交往”来看,人们之间的交往也比以往更加紧密了。今年,全球有30多亿人次要通过飞机出行(根据去年的数据)。每次“云端之旅”都有可能让你认识一个陌生人,或者与其他人交换一些东西——比如一次对话、一张名片、一杯不小心溢出的咖啡,或者一种隐藏的病菌。

    中世纪的黑死病再次进入我们的视野。这样一种蔓延极广,横扫了将近700万平方公里区域的流行病,居然发生在飞机、汽车、火车出现的好几百年之前,这实在令人震惊。(的确如此,由于黑死病传播速度之快、范围之广,有些专家甚至怀疑我们或许认错了对象,或许当年爆发的是另一种更致命的、通过空气传播的病毒。)

    在当今世界,我们离整个世界的距离也许只有一封电子邮件、一个YouTube视频、一张飞机座椅那么远。在了解(以及想象)传染病将如何在这样一个时代传播方面,我们只是刚刚迈出了第一步。不过在本系列中,一些令人耳目一新的观点已经开始掀起传染的神秘面纱。(财富中文网)

“传染”系列文章:

【传染之一】比SARS更致命:蝙蝠病毒MERS是如何成为人类杀手的

【传染之二】“自拍”何以变成社会流行病

【传染之三】市场抛盘是怎样发生的?

【传染之四】并购传闻如何不胫而走

【传染之五】从贾斯汀•比伯到数据学家,Twitter何以成为一门显学

    译者:朴成奎

    Experts have warned that climate change might increase the risk of outbreaks in areas where the Y. pestis bacillus is already endemic and that new danger zones may emerge. But it’s all guesswork now. “Remarkably little is known about the dynamics of plague in its natural reservoirs and hence about changing risks for humans,” wroteStenseth and his colleagues in the journal PLOS Medicine. “Plague should be taken much more seriously by the international community than appears to be the case.”

    Yes, centuries after the Black Death, the actual illness at the center of the most famous and studied pandemic in history remains shrouded in mystery. And, importantly, so too does the process of contagion itself, a cascading ripple effect that turns out to be everywhere. Our yawns, our moods, our facial expressions, our memories, our office dynamics, our global banking system are all subject to the forces of contagion, it would seem.

    The question is, whether studying one manifestation of the process can shed light on another. Can researching the way pathogens spread, for instance, help us understand financial contagions? (It may be telling that financial crises in 1997 and 1998 were known, respectively, as the “Asian Flu” and the “Russian Virus.”) Or can making sense of “group emotional contagion”—how moods are transferred among individuals in, say, an office or on a sports team—give us insights into preventing “outbreaks” of suicide?

    With such aspirations in mind, Fortune set out to explore how various things spread. We asked five writers to delve into seven manifestations of contagion—some familiar, as in the global spread of a virus; some, a bit unusual—and we’ve gathered their essays here (see the links below).

    In a pair of posts, Erika Fry begins by investigating how a deadly new coronavirus, the MERS-CoV, emerged in Saudi Arabia, traveled from bats to camels to humans, and ended up in a small community hospital in Munster, Indiana. As the world nervously keeps watch on the epidemic of Ebola, now raging through parts of West Africa, Fry shows why the Saudi coronavirus (a cousin of the infamous SARS virus) has, perhaps, a greater potential to spread.

    Jen Wieczner and Stephen Gandel each probe different ends of stock market contagion: Wieczner takes us deep inside the corporate takeover rumor mill, showing how the thinnest reed of conjecture can quickly become stock-jolting gossip; and Gandel, a veteran financial reporter, dives into one of the enduring mysteries of the market—what triggers a sudden broad stock selloff when there’s seemingly no precipitating news? In other words, how exactly does that collective “panic button” get pushed?

    If you’ve ever wondered how the term “runaway” ever got hitched to the word “bestseller,” then read Anne VanderMey’s essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the bonafide nonfiction contagion of 2014. Jessi Hempel, meanwhile, takes a turn exploring another, surprisingly durable, social fad: the “selfie.” As Hempel discovers, the meteoric rise of the insta-self-portrait is due as much to transformative changes in technology as it is to human compulsion…and, well, narcissism. And finally, Erika Fry returns to investigate the investigators: showing how studying viral trends on Twitter and other social media got to be such a viral academic specialty. Welcome to Twitterology 101: the hot ticket on campus.

    Adding fuel to each of these contagions is our ever-growing web of connections to the global village, with the virtual tethers now so much a part of our daily lives that they no longer surprise. Every Facebook user, in theory, is just a single friend request away from some 1.3 billion others. Each of nearly 300 million LinkedIn members is a mere click away from an old colleague, a new professional contact, a stranger’s query.

    Even when it comes to that old-world concept of human contact, we are more interconnected than ever. Consider the more than 3 billion passengers in the world who will likely travel on an airline this year (based on last year’s figures). With each voyage in the clouds will come an opportunity for a new link or exchange with a stranger—a conversation, a business card, a spilled coffee, a stowaway germ.

    Which, again, puts the Black Death of the Middle Ages in stark perspective. That such a far-flung pandemic—blanketing an area of roughly 7 million square kilometers—could happen centuries before the invention of the airplane, the car, the truck, or the train is astounding. (Indeed, the uncanny speed and scope of its spread has led some experts to wonder whether perhaps they’ve fingered the wrong pathogen in that outbreak, and whether the real driver might have been a more readily airborne virus.)

    We are, of course, just beginning to understand (and imagine) how contagion may manifest in an age when each of us is potentially just an email, or YouTube video, or middle seat away from the rest of the world. Here, some eye-opening perspectives on how it has revealed itself so far.

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