Entropy and the Predictability of Online Life

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Using mobile phone records and information theory measures, our daily lives have been recently shown to follow strict statistical regularities, and our movement patterns are to a large extent predictable. Here, we apply entropy and predictability measures to two data sets of the behavioral actions and the mobility of a large number of players in the virtual universe of a massive multiplayer online game. We find that movements in virtual human lives follow the same high levels of predictability as offline mobility, where future movements can to some extent be predicted well if the temporal correlations of visited places are accounted for. Time series of behavioral actions show similar high levels of predictability, even when temporal correlations are neglected. Entropy conditional on specific behavioral actions reveals that in terms of predictability negative behavior has a wider variety than positive actions. The actions which contain information to best predict an individual's subsequent action are negative, such as attacks or enemy markings, while positive actions of friendship marking, trade and communication contain the least amount of predictive information. These observations show that predicting behavioral actions requires less information than predicting the mobility patterns of humans for which the additional knowledge of past visited locations is crucial, and that the type and sign of a social relation has an essential impact on the ability to determine future behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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