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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation.

I have always been enthralled by the theory that any 2 people in the world are 6 steps away from being known to each other; and these 6 steps mean 6 people. The world is so small then; so beautifully small. And I must bow to my friends and superiors with enviable data analytical capabilities, with strong statistical abilities and with a pivotal passion for mathematics, that we have been given this social finding that sounds so spiritual in its face value. A beggar who is forced to share the pavement with the army of stray dogs is just 6 people away from knowing Bill Gates; does that causes ripples? Is this the ecstasy of hope or of disillusion?

In 2007 study was carried out by Microsoft employees, Jure Leskovec and Eric Horvitz, who examined a chain of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people. They found the average path length among Microsoft Messenger users to be 6.6; pretty close to the theory of six degree of separation? Huh.

According to a study of 5.2 billion social media relationships in twitter, it was found that the average distance on Twitter is 4.67. On average, about 50% of people on Twitter are only four steps away from each other, while nearly everyone is five steps away.

In another work, researchers have shown that the average distance of 1,500 random users in Twitter is 3.435. They calculated the distance between each pair of users using all the active users in Twitter. It heralds an intellectual debate by galvanizing the thought that an unusually active person might be separated by a number less than 6 to any other person of the world. So, if you aim to make the world a close-knit family, start making the right noise, at the right time, to the right person.

The data team of Facebook data released two papers in November 2011 which document that amongst all facebook users at the time of research (they studied about 721 million users with 69 billion mutual friendships) there is an average distance of 4.74.

It means the nature wanted us all to remain accessible to each other. It is us who played the bad game and created rifts in between humans, social lives, nations etc. You must agree that six is a small number eventually; the onus on us is to break the bar of this number in the way that helps the society most. Do you find a possibility of six reducing to five or may be four in the coming years with the aggressive might of social media spectrums and easy availability of communication machines? Shouldn’t politicians or think tanks of the nations think laterally and use this information to develop a system where the underprivileged gets introduced to the person keen enough to help at that moment of time. At least in India, deserving people have to spend a lot of time in trying to get a break just because they don’t know the right person; can an algorithm be devised for the practical usages?

The world is a small space; let’s shrink it more by knowing everyone. And at the places when knowing everyone does not suffice, let’s help everyone to give the human relationship it’s real meaning back.

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