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Six Degrees of Seperation

Six degrees of Separation

In the video, Veritasium creator Derek Muller explain the phenomenon, Six degrees of separation. This phenomenon states that everyone in the world is connected to each other in 6 degrees or less, as in you and a random person in Australia are probably connected by 5 intermediaries who know each other. Derek states that if one had 44 friends, and each one of those friends had 44 friends as well, by the 6th step the network would include 7.26 billion people, approximately the current human population of planet earth. The phenomenon works for all possible randomly selected individuals. For example, me and a Uzbek factory worker, or the Buddhist in Tibet and the Argentinian sheep herder. This has mainly had to do with the amount of bridges between nodes (connections between people). Since many people have more than one friend or connection to the outside world, the world is not fragmented. Paul Erdos, a 20th century mathematician tested this theoretically by buttons and threads. He saw that once the average amount of threads on one button exceeds 1, the structure between all buttons tend to be much more connected, and if one pulls on one button, the entire structure tends to follow. It is an exponential decrease in fragmentation as more bridges are added. This decrease potentially answers the question we have discussed in the first weeks of class: Is the global friendship network connected? The answer is: Most Probably.


The concept of Six degrees of separation decreases over time with growing technology, social media and increase in Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity around the world. Random acquaintances, whether it be through Facebook, adding someone who they talked for five seconds on campus, or adding the friend of a friend thus decreasing the separation from 1 to zero. It is estimated that currently the sixth degrees of separation is rather five or four degrees of separation. In November 2011, Facebooks links among 721 million users were used to find that in the USA the average separation between two random people were 4.37 and 4.74 in the world. It is safe to assume that recently this number has decreased even further. A mathematical dilemma could be that as population increases it might be harder to connect everyone, but as people increases numbers of connection one can have also increases.


The six degrees of separation does not have much statistical data. Stanley Milgram, a social psychologist, devised an experiment called the Small World Experiment. It was designed to be conducted in the United States, information packages were sent to random individuals. These individuals were instructed to send the packet back to the sender, however only through people they know directly. Out of the packages that were received, the average amount of connections was taken, which turned out to be 5.5-6. Although the research


This makes one wonder, what are the theoretical limits of separation both minimum and maximum? Who is the most secluded person on the planet?




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