March 20 is World Behavioral Analysis Day; Let’s talk cards

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March 20 is marked as World Behavior Analysis Day. At no time in modern history has the analysis of human behavior been more important than in the past two years, since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID epidemic -19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Mapping human behavior, including its movements, is intrinsic to good epidemiology. And thanks to advances in technology, maps today can capture the human behavior – whether mobility or lifestyle – critical to the spread of an epidemic. Starting with the Johns Hopkins University Dashboard which came out even before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, to the thousands of maps and map-based applications that have been put into use to control the spread of the virus, the delivery of health care services or even the recent distribution of vaccines, for logistics management in a confined world, the role of cards had never been so pronounced. Likewise, as countries gradually reopened – a process still ongoing – the maps played a pivotal role in monitoring human behavior – where people were, which cities saw more confidence, how people felt. consumers and how to build around that.

Unacast’s interactive social distancing dashboard informed about changes in how people moved across the United States during the pandemic. As of 3/12/2022, average traffic per site for all industries in the US was still down -42% from 2019. Courtesy of Unacast

Modern maps are by default about human behavior

Gone are the days when maps were about geography on a flat, two-dimensional sheet of paper. The advent of GIS in the 1960s revolutionized cartography from flat, static information to a dynamic multilevel entity. GPS for civilian use in the late 1990s, Google Earth in the early 2000s, then GPS-enabled smartphones in all hands, the availability of the Internet, and advances in Big Data and cloud computing led to an explosion cartography today. Modern maps are a three-dimensional, living, breathing atlas of the planet, with human behavior and the resulting aftereffects making up the central nervous system.

Today, it is people, not cartographers, who ask questions. Maps today default to mapping human behavior and its impacts – be it urbanization or deforestation, wars or natural disasters. Even our Internet search queries, our mobility or shopping habits or our posts on social networks contribute to the mapping of our environment.

But do we learn anything from all this knowledge? Does our addiction to cards change our behavior in any meaningful way?

Of course, if we want to, as we have seen in the first months of the pandemic. From a more generic point of view, traffic maps help us decide which route to take or which restaurant to visit. Mapping our search queries or social media posts helps intelligence agencies track crimes; emergency agencies to provide relief in disaster areas, epidemiologists to monitor epidemics… the list is endless. Mapping human behavior helps agencies monitor areas of conflict, human rights abuses, or even track endangered species.

human behavior map
Google is constantly adding resources for refugees fleeing Ukraine. This map shows the free train routes through Romania. Courtesy of Google

ALSO READ: GeoInt, OSINT comes of age for near real-time coverage of Ukraine conflict

Mapping consumption patterns also helps companies make strategic decisions about their business, while it helps governments plan better infrastructure and policymakers develop better policies.

In recent times, the concept of smart cities has given way to the idea of ​​building more resilient cities. Again, at the heart is human behavior – where and how we live, eat, travel, shop or even sleep – captured by smart sensor-equipped devices and smart utilities.

How we use this knowledge to our advantage is up to us, as the most evolved spices on the planet, to decide.

Our selfish and senseless consumption patterns are wreaking havoc on the planet and its ecosystem – whether it’s global warming, air and ocean pollution, extreme weather events or increasing social inequality. and the disappearance of species.

Beyond the pandemic, the years 2020 and 2021 will go down in history as two of the most catastrophic years in terms of weather-related disasters, which scientists believe are directly related to human behavior. In 2020, a WWF study found that 58% of the Earth was under intense human pressure, while a Nature Conservancy report indicated that 84% of Earth’s land surface was directly affected by humans.

How we use this knowledge will set the agenda for how we rebuild our world. As the United Nations asserts, “every human being on earth – even the most indifferent and laziest person among us – is part of the solution”.

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