Did you ever think it was silly when you hear people say, WE’RE WITNESSING HISTORY! My first thought was always, “GEE, isn’t every waking moment ‘witnessing history’?” I know, I’m just parsing words. What they surely mean is that we are witnessing milestones, tipping points if you will.
Remember the good ol’ days of the internet, say 8-10 years ago in ancient internet times? We had these quaint things called ‘chat rooms’ and ‘message boards’? I thought that was so cool. Leaving a message that somebody on another continent could read. Wow. Not quite what Kubrick envisioned in 2001 A Space Odyssey. But to me, very cool. My Aunt and Uncle were Kansas dairy farmers who just got electricity and plumbing in the mid 1950’s.
So what’s the big milestone? The Iranian (so-called) election, or rather the way it is being exposed! A phony rigged election in a theocracy, I have no doubt that will happen again. The milestone is that we have reached the age of super-connectivity. An exponential proliferation of connectivity, made possible by; Emails, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Digg this!, Linkedin, Reddit and RSS feeds.
Not to mention the old fashioned thing you’re reading now, a blog post. Many blogs are networked to ALL of these, making them accessible practically everywhere. And, here’s the Big Brother part, the proliferation of cheap mobile devices that access any or all of these in virtually real-time.
No longer can an oppressive nation publish strictly controlled press releases and suppress the truth for any period of time. Even though the Iranian govt has tried, the networks have just become overwhelming! Just as electrical grids are re-routed when one connection fails, modern networking has proved to resistant to attempts to block and disrupt the flow! I believe that the 2009 Iranian farce elections should be held as an epic moment, just as Tienamen Square is now.
The Iranian people were not allowed to be counted in their own country, dismissed as mere ‘motes of dust’. They will not be dust to the rest of the world. Their voices have become a swarm on every network possible. The age of governments hiding their deeds behind ‘iron curtains’ is over. We, the citizens of the world can be the antithesis of the Owellian Big Brother. Let North Korea’s people be heard next!
Okay, enough playing politics for NOW. For more about networks –
Networks, and their study inspired a game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” I remember when this started and I was intrigued then. Many of us may know at least one actor, and in that case you are only a few ‘connections’ from Kevin Bacon!
Actors, like all human beings, are part of a network of acquaintances, connected to other actors with whom they have worked on various projects; one actor’s network connects to another’s when they share a common movie. The point of the game is to name an actor and see if he or she can be connected to Kevin Bacon in six movies or fewer. There are so many possible connections that if you give yourself six steps, you are basically guaranteed to connect the movie star to any other actor. In fact, the challenge is to find two actors who cannot be connected in less than six steps!
Here is how it works. You pick an actor, say Richard Burton. How hard is it to link Burton to Bacon, whose careers have no overlap? Very easy, actually. Burton starred with Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days. Bujold starred with Michael Douglas in Coma; Douglas starred with Demi Moore in Disclosure; and Moore starred with Bacon in A Few Good Men. Burton to Bacon is three steps, or three degrees.
Researchers have empirically verified the idea that any two people on the planet can be connected to each other in six steps or less.
Network science is relatively new, and is attempting mathematics capable of explicating its principles. There may never be mathematical equations to describe networks, but it is very clear that networks have interesting patterns that do have a quasi-mathematical character. It is often the case that patterns are detected long before the relevant mathematics appears. The patterns that have been detected so far are best described as; connections, ‘clusters’ and ‘hubs’. Once people began researching networks as science they were astounded that these networking patterns occur literally everywhere. Everywhere, as in REALLY everywhere!
When I speak of connections, clusters and hubs the Internet is the obvious example. And when studied, the researchers were amazed to find that the same patterns occur everywhere in nature! Insects and their behavior are being found to follow the same patterns that developed (supposedly by chance?) on the Internet. Now they are looking into genetics and other cutting edge science to detect and study this apparently organic networking phenomenon. ~sekanblogger