12.02.2011

I am just 4,74 persons away!

After some weeks away, I am back to blog again. I just finished a long travelling schedule (actually I am on my way back home) and few minutes ago I was reading something really important, that I would like to share with my readers.

I am sure that most of you are familiar with the term "six degrees of separation". In case you are not, this is a study made in 1967 by the psychologist Stanley Milgram. He asked 296 volunteers to send a message by postcard, through friends and then friends of friends, to a specific person in a Boston suburb. He discoovered that on average, using 6 persons as intermediate points, they finally made it, although they had no idea of the address of the person. The result of the study was that our world, even in 1967, was interconnected. Using friends of your friends, with six steps on average, you can contact almost anyone worlwide!

A new study, recently completed and based on Facebook data analysis, says that in our era the average steps required are reduced from 6 to 4,74!

The sample was 721 million Facebook users, more than one-tenth of the world’s population. The findings were posted on Facebook’s site Monday night (see http://www.facebook.com/data) .

The experiment took one month. The researchers used a set of algorithms developed at the University of Milan to calculate the average distance between any two people by computing a vast number of sample paths among Facebook users. They found that the average number of links from one arbitrarily selected person to another was 4.74. In the United States, where more than half of people over 13 are on Facebook, it was just 4.37.

As the researchers conclude “When considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rain forest a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend.”

Just two comments from my side.

First the world is much more interconnected that we actually understand. And this is something that has not yet been utilized for the improvement of waste management, through massive social collaboration! As we have discovered working on the project "Globalization and waste management" with ISWA colleagues, it seems that interconnectivity and flow of ideas, trends and culture is a key-issue for the waste management practices in the most interconnected parts of our world, the megacities!

Second and last, this interconnectivity does not mean that the whole world is one. Changing the view, you can easily conclude that you will never reach the world without 5 more persons to act as intermediate media! Or, as Milgram said "the result could also be evidence of psychological distance: that we were actually, on average, five “worlds apart.”

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