Humans make comeback in Zombie models!

Last Halloween, I alerted readers of the social science statistics blog to cutting edge research suggesting that if zombies attacked, humans faced serious risk of extinction.

It turns out that some of these conclusions may have been premature. Some recent research by Blake Messer suggests that if there is terrain that favors humans in some way, then humans may have a better shot at survival.

But it doesn't end there.

UCLA's Gabriel Rossman points out that Messer's model doesn't account for the possibility of human stupidity/sabotage (always a good thing to include in our models, I guess). Rossman's findings suggest that in the face of a zombie onslaught, small islands of weapons stockpiles might be more favorable for the long-term survival of the human race than a single cache -- perhaps the most important policy implication to come out of this renewed debate.

I think future research in this area will be worth following. First, I hear there is interesting work afoot on the spread of zombification through social networks, although getting the zombies to accurately report who bit who can be difficult. I've also heard rumors of some machine learning research that attempts to classify zombie speech (early results suggest that there is only one category: "BRAINS!"), and I believe some economists are using the apparent exogeneity of zombie outbreaks to finally identify the effect of education on wages.

Stay tuned!

Posted by Richard Nielsen at March 16, 2010 12:49 PM