Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation

2009, Science  -   84 Comments
8.07
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Ratings: 8.07/10 from 59 users.

Six Degrees of SeparationDocumentary unfolding the science behind the idea of six degrees of separation.

Originally thought to be an urban myth, it now appears that anyone on the planet can be connected in just a few steps of association.

Six degrees of separation is also at the heart of a major scientific breakthrough.

That there might be a law which nature uses to organize itself and that now promises to solve some of its deepest mysteries. (Excerpt from bbc.co.uk)

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tripleb
tripleb
1 year ago

Absolutely horrible I was forced to watch this as homework, and the entire time I wanted to off myself, I couldn't bear to finish it so I just guessed on all the answers

Vivian
Vivian
2 years ago

The adverse impact of the network is illustrated by the COVID-19 epidemic

Carlos Ramos
Carlos Ramos
4 years ago

I thought it was 3 degrees of separation, not 6

Mango
Mango
4 years ago

Yo who in ba1002 rn and hates that straight need who calculated love with math cuz he a nerd

Herb Spencer
Herb Spencer
5 years ago

Te test is biased to Western people who can afford to use UPS, FedEx, etc.

Wayne Phillips
Wayne Phillips
8 years ago

Truth is "god"? Yeah right

Wayne Phillips
Wayne Phillips
8 years ago

I saw this doco on the TV more than a year ago and thought it was great, but watching it for a few minutes on-line, and I've had a few drinks, I realised the study is flawed, because it involves middle-class people with access to technology. How would it go if the people didn't have that background? Would a San person from the Kalahari have that connection with the outside world? Would they care? I know the world is a small place and "getting smaller", but let's not be disingenuous and try to put a spin on something with a cultural socio-economic bias.

Frank Goodman, Sr.
Frank Goodman, Sr.
8 years ago

PS Expand this to fractal geometry, mathematics itself, all design, anatomy, and function. It is the proof of the Darwin theory of evolution, survival and the math of statistics.

Frank Goodman, Sr.
Frank Goodman, Sr.
8 years ago

I first encountered this several years ago. I toyed with it and descended to the idea of contraction rather than expansion of networks. I had the epiphany about 20 years ago with the idea of a network with only two degrees of freedom. It is the real world of all that is true. It is the binary system of number. It the random chance of being true or false of any possible combination of two elements. The world of two degrees is the physical world of facts. It may even may be a better way to see the real world. An event is one degree and the negation or non-event the second. The network of all possibilities consists of random events each with two degrees of freedom. The impossible has no freedom to be. The impossible has no freedom. The possible has two, to be or not to be. That is the question. The God created world is a world of two degrees, possible and impossible. The possible has two degrees, true or false. At the level of six degrees it becomes a hub based network described in this example. No matter how many random events, they connect at a limit of about six. It is the basis of evolution, species, biology and the periodic table of the elements. Think about it. Truth is God. TIG

James Thomas
James Thomas
9 years ago

I really enjoyed this and there is a genuine sense that there is something really important here, but alas, I am too dense to know just what that is. That said, I'm pretty certain I'm no more than six steps away from someone who clearly sees and understands much of the significant implications.

Braiden
Braiden
11 years ago

Well-made documentary though I am skeptical in the validity. I would consider a geneticist like Marc Vidal a 'hub' in this network theory and the success rate was still remarkably low. Choosing a more common person (say a rice farmer) with a larger sample size (possibly up to 1000) and a more reliable way of connecting (using all sorts of media - not just the post) would produce more accurate results.

It was still entertaining to watch.

DigiWongaDude
DigiWongaDude
11 years ago

Lovely to find this excellent BBC Horizon doc once again. The 'science of networks', with some nice details.

inewyorkerp
inewyorkerp
11 years ago

well this explains a lot!!! like why those that rule so desperately try to separate us from others when every single of us is connected to another..
if we all start believing this theory it would simply make this world fall apart!
think for a moment that nobody would fight against not one!
think that this could make peace on earth!
that nobody would starve because 5 of us would know a single person that has enough money (=hub) and will to buy dinner for the other 5!!!!!!

Anirudh Gupta
Anirudh Gupta
11 years ago

Beautifully made documentary. There are some flaws (like the method used to identify contacts and deliver the UPS packages), but the basic idea of 'network theory' is absolutely fascinating. The basic question everyone's seeking to answer is -- "How does order emerge from chaos?" I was hoping that beyond just telling viewers what the six degrees of separation were and the various research studies done on the subject, they would identify applications for the theory and talk about its potential use in the future --- and they did! The human social network is just an extension of the network theory. So is the spread of viruses, both biological and electronic. Its amazing how much someone can achieve by becoming a 'network hub'. Highly recommended!!

kwaussie
kwaussie
11 years ago

absolutely true but have the scientist found how the hubs are generated & why..? Clue this is an element that not only divides cells but holds the universe together with endless energy.

L0LAW0NKA
L0LAW0NKA
12 years ago

Absolute Paranoia

Choom Gang
Choom Gang
12 years ago

This thought experiment is nothing new. The Roman empire used it in conquest, then trade. The british empire used it to dominate world trade. Now the USA is using it with the internet to dominate the world.

The thought experiment I would like them to explore next is how hubs of activity dominate by getting there first, and why and how they eventually die in atrophy/ entropy, then are reborn in different forms.

Melitta Smith
Melitta Smith
12 years ago

How many of the packages were never received by the intended recipient? This speaks to a lack of commitment on the part of a link in the chain, not the degrees of separation. And how many took more steps? And how many took less? The number 6 is an average. We are finding more and more the mathematical, including spatial, time, and geometric synchronizations in nature, i.e. everything. There are other theories that are similar such as fractals, Fibonacci numbers, that can predict relationships found occurring in nature. Since we are animals, a component of nature, why would we be outside the realm of natural law? Yes, we can think for ourselves, but I challenge you to identify one idea you have had or thought about that has not been influenced by some other person, which includes our personal preferences that are influenced by our genetic heritage.
The real found info is the hub theory that flies in the face of the central limit theorem that says with large enough numbers, and all else equal a graph will be the normal, or bell shape for measuring almost anything. The hub theory found a skewed graph with large numbers (a few people who know a lot of people) focused on one end and "falling off a cliff."

Anita Rodriguez-Diaz
Anita Rodriguez-Diaz
12 years ago

BUT we are not CRICKETS , we are SPIRITUAL BEINGS.... but yes we are all connected... one realizes this and its left amaze.... synchronization

david o leary
david o leary
12 years ago

first 2 minutes...this may help us to fight terrorism,fight global pandemic.....nwo propaganda alert goes off in head.press stop find new doc to watch

yxor
yxor
12 years ago

Terrible documentary, just hype on everything being related not one shread of explanation why. So a package got to it's destination, what was the chain? A waste of time to watch.

Deica
Deica
12 years ago

Actually this really works for me and Johnny Depp.

CherryBombpop
CherryBombpop
12 years ago

Aww, I love it when nerdy maths guys "discover" something that is a well known spiritual truth, and they get all giddy and excited about it. No really, it's totally cute. Well, good for them, and it never hurts to be reminded how connected the world is - not just people, but everything.
I remember playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon way back when - but we soon got tired of that and started to do it with any public figure we wanted. It wasn't too long before we discovered for ourselves what a universal idea Six Degrees is.

Daryl Walters
Daryl Walters
12 years ago

Good doc! I'd heard the phrase, now I know what it is. It started as a myth and now is a new science. Fascinating!

Beekers
Beekers
12 years ago

What an interesting documentary. On the one hand, a great description of the importants of networks, hubs, relationships and sharing. This could be advanced, but it is not “new”. On the other hand, the focus on a principle of 6 steps of connection between all people and the conclusion that it “works” is really strange (coming from scientists and mathematician). The data the documentary presented shows that only 7.5% tests complied with the 6 steps of connection between all people theory, and 92.5% of the tests failed to meet the criteria.

Shanaka De Silva
Shanaka De Silva
12 years ago

I love the subtleties of the discovery and the presentation it self. Like how the bug on the blackboard suddenly flap its wings lol.. nicely done.
Kudos to ppl with such passion, madness and curiosity.

Gary V
Gary V
13 years ago

Fascinating, I really enjoyed this doc & learned something from it.

can
can
13 years ago

can I find subtitles in English?

lakhotason
lakhotason
13 years ago

The message from the geneticist to the lady can travel any way possible as long as it reaches the very same lady. However, the geneticist does
have the certain knowledge that a series(?) of links exists that leads directly to the lady. Could he find the lady without knowing her name by using this certainty?

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
13 years ago

Yes, a very vague & sloppy presentation here. Eg., if we send a letter addressed to 'Mr Smith, New York', is it a 'hit' if it goes to any Mr Smith?

Or, the receptionist at a hotel with 2,000 guests says on the tannoy, "Would Mr Smith please come to front desk, please". So say 2 Mr Smiths turn up, & even if one is the intended person, is that within the specified 6 steps, or 6-plus 2,000 X 1 (the broadcast tannoy message)?

Can steps be parallel, or must they be sequential? OGT

lakhotason
lakhotason
13 years ago

I too have a wheelbarrow full of questions. First one: If the geneticist only received the Kenyon lady's country of origin as her message to him could he return a message to her? After all, he would know that a link already exists between the two points.

Nadia Porterfield
Nadia Porterfield
13 years ago

Hollywood actors all know someone who knows someone and a few of them know a lot of people. I'm not sure if this is clever or just stating the obvious. Why did only three of the packages arrive? What would happen if they were sent from the US to Timbuktu (would any arrive?). Viruses spreading through human networks and therefore more easily through areas of population density is not exactly brand new information. It all just seems like trying to understand why we understand what we already know and applying an empty equation to it.

azilda
azilda
13 years ago

brilliant! i loved it...still wondering how i can use this new knowledge for the good of all.
az

Antriksh Shah
Antriksh Shah
13 years ago

Amazing Documentary

Doc
Doc
13 years ago

Haha I wouldn't say network theory is the savior of science as the scientists in this documentary seem to believe, but this sure was an interestingly refreshing documentary

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
13 years ago

Anders,
not sure that your experiment 'proves' the theory, since the theory does not closely define what a step of separation is, so it is not strictly provable, so not really a theory.

Imagine I know this: both HM Prince Charles & I use the same brand of trainers. Imagine also I find his address by breaking into the manufacturer's customer base. I might contrive a meeting, but that seems to be a 3-step connection, entirely based on my state of knowledge &/or computer skills - so no macro or systemic pattern of 'connections' revealed.

This seems more reasonable: how quickly we can connect to some other 'node' in the world is dependent on the efficiency of the info-exchange technologies available, ie., how fast we can find info & retrieve it. The number 6 might be some rough & ready index of current IT efficiency states.

But just becoz something 'works' does not prove its associated 'theory' is right. A use value is not a truth value. Lies & deception often work too!

Lastly, if 'everything is connected', why is so much apparently unconnected, isolated, & separate? If your bicycle has a puncture, do you fix it, or do you start thinking about the death rate amongst Brazilian frogs? OGT

Itnabit
Itnabit
13 years ago

Pity scientists are only "discovering" what has been known for hundreds if not thousands of years that everything is connected. Look into this connection and there will be an explosion of creativity, providing we can remove ourselves from the GREED factor of our currently dying system of capitalism.

Brian
Brian
13 years ago

When I was eight years old I was thinking and talking about this. however people thought I was stupid I am sixty eight now I still think it :)

E’Noch
E’Noch
13 years ago

Kevin Bacon!

epolaris
epolaris
13 years ago

This documentary really left an impression on me. I heard about the concept of "Six degrees of Separation" before, but never in any great detail. I think is comforting to know that youre six or so steps away from almost anyone (in a relative sense).
That to me is almost liberating, and while I don't see myself suddenly becoming an extrovert for the sake of degrees of separation, its still incredibly cool to think of the world as an extension of your neighborhood in a literal sense. With the right links, anything or should I say anyone is possible.
Eye opening stuff... I'm going to bookmark this site now...

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
13 years ago

makisig,

enthusiasm is fine, but there can be no 'theory of everything'. Just one objection: in a fully determined world where the future could be predicted, there could be no human free will. In fact, what would we need silly, messy human beings for anyhow? OGT

mugen
mugen
13 years ago

amazing. more people should look in to this. maybe we can explain the solar system in the same way?

makisig
makisig
14 years ago

Wow! This could be the greatest discovery of the 21st century!- second only ofcourse to Hawking's ''theory of everything''. Imagine how understanding the simplicity of the ''complex'' would help us find cures to diseases once thought uncurable,stop terrorism,send kids to school, learn the past, or predict the future! What if eveyone will act for the greater good, even if they don't know who needs what, but gets there anyway! This is the world I have been dreaming of! A world where everyone will avoid talking on the library, thus preventing the librarian from leaving the counter, giving a hitman no chance of killing the president who was on visiting the school for his reelection campaign. Or everyone don't drink on weekdays so they wakes up early for the 8 'o clock bus, preventing someone from riding a taxi that will eventually kill a child. A world where math saves lives.

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
14 years ago

Tony,
I was looking at the 6-Step theory in a broader context. Have you ever researched/looked for obscure information? This often involves more than 6 steps, & in some cases, ends in failure. If this idea applies purely to human beings, it could be (more) viable.
Agreed on the rest of your post! OGT

Tony
Tony
14 years ago

Old Git Tom: I think they mention the degree to be inherent from the original internet game 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon. A degree is basically a step or link from one point to another. 6 steps or links. This Doc talks about hubs making it possible for such small steps and with out the hubs it would take many more steps. Every one has that relative that keeps in touch with all other relatives. If you want to spread the word of a get together you call him/her and chances are he/she will let everyone else know with out you making another call to anyone. On the same token you never tell him/her things you do not want other relatives to know about..lol. In regards to the politics you are absolutely right. It is a completely separate topic but makes good sense. To win any battle, communication with your team and allies is paramount. If the enemy can bring down your communication network then they will win. It is much easier to do that by disabling hubs rather than trying to take out individuals that use the hub. No hubs no information and no coordinated strategies. Complete ciaos and the system falls apart. If you are speaking of Government rule then yes I believe we as humans are limited and manipulated constantly to adhere to set agendas etc.. Nature at large on the other hand has its own set of laws and the networks that develop in our bodies and in nature is what intrigued me.

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
14 years ago

To repeat, no definition of what a 'degree of separation' is; too fuzzy an idea. It implies we are all somehow easily connected, or could be. It does not explain why we are so disconnected in actuality. In mass urban conurbations, human beings are anonymous aggregations, usually manipulated & abused, top-down, by a ruling minority. It is precisely becos we are isolated particles that we are so powerless. Particles of the world unite? So where is the 6-step plan? OGT

Tony
Tony
14 years ago

First thing that comes to mind when I think " Network " is the internet. Makes sense to me as a website designer however for a doctor it could be a neural network. For the pilot, a transportation network. This documentary did a fantastic job of communicating the the true intricities of all networks and the sheer dependence of networks for not only strategic data location ( online ) but also how biological networks are a fundamental building block of everything around us, and it is all with in 6 degrees of separation. Entertaining and informative. I enjoyed it.

SteveM
SteveM
14 years ago

oops, recommended. forgot spell check.

SteveM
SteveM
14 years ago

Gotta love BBC doc's. Highly reccomended, exciting new research that is easy to understand.

Old Git Tom
Old Git Tom
14 years ago

Yavanna,
fear not; the greatest issues would be engaged by the best minds. This is what encouraged & worried me by the video. Certain individuals would tend to be the ‘hubs’, loci of opinion & dissent. Like it or or not, collective concerns & thinking always are drawn to he singular mind, or a few spokespeople. Group consciousness is always expressed by, or via, an individual. That’s the way it works. Sure, a great deal of new & awkward questions would be thrown up by a truly bottom-up grassroots system. That need not appall us, becos true democracy is always unstable & dynamic. That frightens the many who yearn for a 100% secure & predictable system. So welcome to the prison camp! But if you want freedom, you will have to learn to live with disorder. The play of order & disorder is human history. All we can hope for is to play the game better. One big advance of self-government – it annuls the gap between wanting ‘X’ & implementing policy ‘X’. In the past, this was always a matter for division of labor & responsibility. If we didn’t get ‘X’, there was always some other to blame. Now, there will be no convenient scapegoats. How strange & challenging the world outside the slave barracks! OGT