Sunday, June 22, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

The principle of six degrees of separation was originally formed in 1909 by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi. The original idea was spurred by a study from the radio pioneer, Marconi, that simply claims that if one person is one step away from each person they know and two steps from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is an average of six steps away from each person on earth. This study has been found to have mixed conclusions on other studies since Macroni's Nobel Prize speech nearly one hundred years ago. In simple terms, six degrees of separation is referred to each time somebody utters the words what a small world.

"Wait so you study at SDSU, so where do you live?" I asked our Australian visitor Daniele. Already amazed that I met a student from my alma mater through our Australian housemate Jenny, I had to know more just out of curiosity. Through two questions of my innocent curiosity, turns out Daniele is living in the same house I lived my final year of studying at SDSU. She lives in the upstairs or as I know it, BJ's old room. Go figure, a simple dinner conversation which started as meeting just another friend of a friend turns out we happen to know the same neighbors and friends in another hemisphere.

What a small world it is.

This concept has always amazed me, partly to the fact we live in a planet filled with 6 billion inhabitants. Six freakin billion people! It really sparked my interest when my brother and I happened to encounter several peer travelers in two different countries in the Eurotour '07. However, the European backpacker community follows similar course partly in result to it being one of the most saturated routes for world travelers. Therefore, enough justification was on the table for the 'small world' philosophy to be fully convincing. However, my semi-annual life in Argentina has pushed me looking back into the eyes of six degrees of separation. Many of my current friends here, mainly those with whom we play futbol games, were introduced indirectly via my good buddy Amit, who lives in San Diego. Amit visited us in February and met a nice English lad Josh on the plane back from Rio de Janeiro (Carnaval) to Buenos Aires. We proceeded to play games of futbol with Josh and his friends, many of whom are now our closest buddies.

What a small world it is.

I now find it very difficult to disprove the six degrees of separation. The few travels I have thus far tracked in my lifetime have illustrated a common theme of one person knowing another through mutual contacts. The emergence of social networking on the internet will only bring people closer together, I'm convinced. The challenge for social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc. appears to lie in how to consolitate them all into one platform. A natural need for human beings is to be in contact with others, thus the creation of the internet. Each word that I write in this moment and upload for your viewing comes from my simple need to connect some message or thought to you. The need of connecting to others is one that has not been overlooked since the emergence of the internet. As of March 2008, nearly 1.5 billion of the 6.5 billion people on the planet have internet access according to The world average of internet use has grown by 290% just since the turn of the millenium.

Just think about how many people you may have in your social networks. All that time dedicated to social networking sites these days was once invested in the chat rooms just eight years ago. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the six degrees of separation is here and has been for a while. This trend is definitely closing the gaps between those in our network, hence the six degrees of separation could soon become a divided number, to the delight of statisticians all over the world. Hopefully they'll all be connected through one platform to form an outstanding principle greeted with little speculation.

Even if you thought we wouldn't see each other in a while, we may soon find each other through our friends.

What a small world it is!

1 comment:

KRISTIN said...

Only 1.5 billions have access to the Internet??? Wow. I thought almost all had that...
I understand the need to be in a contact in one way or the other with the fellow-earthlings ( I hope this is a real word(?)), I've been online communicating with people from different parts of the world for over 6 years and love it. I've sent a simple stone to the USA, a clipboard to Aussie, I-don't-even-remember-what to Pakistan etc.etc. I have NO IDEA why I need to do that.

As for the "world being REALLY small" - you should see us here in Estonia! Here's around 1 million of us so if you meet someone he or she will most definitely know someone you know or be someone's relative or student or whatever. Often even more than one person. So "small world" is very popular slogan here ;))