Thursday, 25 October 2007

5.5 DEGREES OF SEPARATION TO BE EXACT

"Everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice... It's not just the big names. It's anyone. A native in a rain forest. A Tierra del Fuegan. An Eskimo. I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It's a profound thought... How every person is a new door opening up onto other worlds" from John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation.


John Guare made the idea of the six degress famous, but it was Stanley Miligram, the brilliant but controversial psychologist who conducted the small world experiment that brought the notion of interconnectedness to light. In his experiment he sent letters to randomly selected people in Wichita and Omaha and asked them to send them on to people they knew who might know the target in Cambridge. On average it took 5.5 people before the letter got to its target.

However, if we are all only 5.5 links away from each other, and so interconnected, why do lonely hearts still struggle to find a partner? Why do we as a society still need speed dating, matchmaking websites, estate agents, and the classified sections of newspapers? Why do sales people need to cold call? Why do brands still need to do broadcast advertising? Interconnectedness has its complications.