Limits of Predictability in Human Mobility

Limits of Predictability in Human MobilityOverall FindingsIntroductionDataEntropyUnderstanding this degree of predictabilityMy Own Thoughts

Overall Findings


Our goal here is to quantify the interplay between the regular and thus predictable and the random and thus unforeseeable, probing through human mobility the fundamental limits that characterize the predictability of human dynamics.




Entropy is probably the most fundamental quantity of capturing the degree of predictability characterizing a time series.

Understanding this degree of predictability

My Own Thoughts

In this paper the authors often seem surprised by the fact that an increased travel distance does not translate into a decreased predictability. However, to me this is exactly what I would expect.

People only travel large distances on a regular basis if they are doing so for their work. While some people certainly do travel long distances for other reasons, these typically would constitute traveling for holiday's and/or vacation, which would also be relatively predictable and, furthermore, relatively rare over a long enough temporal period.

Thus, if you accept this premise, their finding that those who travel further distances are more predictable makes perfect sense because, the unpredictability of an individuals movement seems to derive from when they are traveling for things other than work. If you are traveling two hours one way to work every day — you don't have the time, energy, or the desire to inject unpredictable movement into your everyday life.

People who do not travel far for work have more time to do spontaneous things and, thus, have more opportunity to increase the degree to which they can move randomly throughout the world.




Notes by Matthew R. DeVerna