Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is Six Now Three?

Most of us have heard of the expression six degrees of separation. Wikipedia describes it this way:

Six degrees of separation (also referred to as the "Human Web") refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. It was popularized in a play written by John Guare.

Funny thing is when do a quick search on this story, just told me the notion originated with Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called "Chains." Did Guare steal the idea from Karinthy without attribution?

I remember reading an article about Kevin Bacon being the most connected person in Hollywood, with all these charts and lines of connection to other actors and directors of disparate genres of films and maybe Broadway connections and who knows. I believe they used computers and plugged in all the Hollywood stars to get a composite picture from which they could deduce conclusions.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and Social Networks I have begun to wonder if six degrees of separation has been reduced to five or four, or even three? Through Twitter last November we were two or three degrees of separation from terrorists firing assault weapons in the Mumbai financial district, as it happened.

I do not know how this plays out in the rest of the world, but for sure I would think that in this country we are three or four degrees of separation from anyone, at most. You are reading this, wherever you are. The convenience store clerk is two degrees from me. Her boy friend, that kid with the racy T-shirt and a smudge of chocolate on his chin, is but three steps away. And we all know how connected he is.

Many people have tried to verify this theory to see if it holds up. In August 2008 Microsoft claims that after studying billions of electronic messages, they verified that any two strangers in the world are 6.6 introductions away from one another. According to their science you are less than seven steps away from Bob Dylan, Richard Branson, John Cleese and the Dalai Lama, thogh if you Twitter you can actually be one step away from the latter three... if you follow them... and two steps away if you follow me.

If we take the 2008 number of 6.6 as a benchmark, we'll see what Microsoft tells us about 6 degrees of separation in 2015. Will we be getting closer as the world population expands, or are we actually drifting farther away from one another?

1 comment:

Web 3.0 Technology said...

Very cool blog post. I can't argue with it. An expanding population yet we are getting closer to each other.