We’re All Connected

Everyone knows the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory – that anyone in the world can be connected to anyone else through 6 or fewer intermediate acquaintances.  And its spin-off game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – attempting to link any actor or actress who ever lived to Mr. Bacon through other actors or actresses whom they have appeared in the same film with.

Several years ago, a University of Virginia student, Brett Tjaden, created the Oracle of Bacon, an online service which will calculate the “Bacon Number” for any actor, living or dead.  The Bacon Number (let’s use B# from now on) is the count of relationships someone has to go though to get to Kevin.  So as an example, Elvis Presley was in Change of Habit  with Edward Asner, who was in JFK  with Kevin Bacon.  Elvis and Kevin never worked together.  So Elvis has a B# of 2, and Ed has a B# of 1.  Kevin himself, of course, has a B# of zero.

Then Tjaden went further and calculated the B# for every one of the 800,000 or so people in the Internet Movie Database.  It turns out the the average B# for all members of that database is about 2.8.  So, on average, every movie performer in the world, can be linked to Kevin in 3 or fewer steps.

So, if you can link YOURself to anyone in the movie industry in 3 or fewer steps, you can claim a B# of 6 or less and (kinda) prove the Six Degrees theory.  I tried it for myself, thinking of one Hollywood connection I have: my friend Rob Williams has a brother named Steve “Spaz” Williams, who was a technical effects guy and director for movies like Spawn, Eraser, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park.  I plugged Spaz into the Oracle, and his B# is 2: he directed The Wild, which starred Dominic Scott Key, who was in Saving Angelo  with Kevin.  So my B# is 4: Rob, Spaz, Dominic, Kevin.

I tried it with some others, like Cindy Crawford (whom I chatted with on a plane for 3 hours once).  But Richard Gere (her husband at the time) only had a B# of 2 as well, so no better than Spaz.  Then I thought of Robin Williams – I had a beer with him once at a convention in Vancouver.  Robin’s B# is 2, so mine is 3 through that route since I “know” Robin directly!

So give me 40 acres while I turn this rig around to marketing again.  I’ve mentioned the “she told 2 friends, and she told 2 friends, and so on, and so on,” phenomenon before, and how effective word of mouth between trusted acquaintances is as a message propagation technique.  But 2 raised to the sixth power is only 64 people.  Imagine if everyone told ALL their friends – I could get a message to Kevin in three or four iterations, and theoretically everyone in the world in just 6.  It would be implausible using traditional communication techniques, but some of those wacky Facebook kids out there can share their thoughts with hundreds or thousands of friends instantly.  What will it be like when we’re ALL that connected?

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