Six Degrees

I just finished reading Six Degrees, and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.

Networks are the metaphor for our age. I am attracted to them as the moth to the flame. My gut tells me we've only glimpsed the start of something incredible. Hive mind on steroids. No, words can't even capture what humanity is headed into.

Smarty-pants that I am, I figured I'd get a leg up on most of the civilized world and formulate some rules for understanding the nuances of networks, social and otherwise. This book sucked me in with some great turns of phrase: "It is only slightly unfair to characterise sociology as a discipline that attempts to explain human behavior without the humans."

The author writes:

    Regardless of whether we are discussing magnetization or the frezing of water into ice - procedures that involve completely different physics and ven completely different materials - it turns out that the nature of the corresponding phase transitions is the same!

    The observation that very different systems can exhibit fundamental similarities is generally referred to as universality....

    By knowing all the universality classes for a particular kind of model, physicists can make some very powerful statements about what can and cannot happen in different kinds of physical systems, again by knowing only the most basic facts about them. This is a tremendously hopeful message for anyone interested in understanding the emergent behavior of complex social and economic systems like friendship networks, firms, financial markets, and even societies.

Boy, I'll say. That's what I was after in reading the book. Wow. Let's get it on.

Sad to say, that was about all I learned. Geez. I waded through three hundred pages of a book by a guy with a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics and a professorship in sociology at Columbia, only to find nothing but theories that had no bearing on my reality. Oh silly me.

The science of networks appears to be similar to the science of economics. Supply and demand work if people are rational, and it's too bad they're not, for that rips the heart out of most economic conjecture. Similarly, network analysis usually assumes all nodes are equal or bandwidth is free or some other pie-in-the-sky notion. At least the scientists have figured out that a static diagram is not a very faithful reproduction of a dynamic network.

Let me save you some time. Here are the lessons of this book:

  1. Things may be closer than they appear.
  2. Little things can mean a lot.
  3. History is an unreliable guide to the future.
  4. A diagram of a network is not the real thing.

Oh, and if you didn't know it, that six degrees thing that Stanley Milgram wrote about in Psychology Today, finding that it only took six hops between acquaintances to link any two people in the world, it's crap. Bad data, flawed experiment. Didn't happen. Not a bad name for a book, though.

Posted by Jay Cross at April 15, 2003 10:18 PM | TrackBack

not bad

Posted by: free sex story at June 29, 2004 02:08 AM

30 Poppy Lane
Berkeley, California 94708

1.510.528.3105 (office & cell)

Subscribe to this Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe. We vow never to share your information with anyone. No Spam.

Subscribe Unsubscribe

Reference Pages

Building Community
CSS, Semantic Mark-Up, and codes
First Principles
How People Learn
Knowledge Management
Learning Links
Learning Standards
Making It Work (Implementing)
Metrics & ROI
Social Software
String theory
The eLearning Museum
Visual Learning


Our Infrequent Newsletter
Sign up for our sporadic newsletter.

Entries by category...

Customer care
Emergent Learning
Just Jay
Recycled from Blogger
The Industry
Workflow-based eLearning


Internet Time Group

© 2004 Internet Time Group

Click for Berkeley, California Forecast
Berkeley, California

Recent entries

New Blog
Blogger Experience, Housekeeping, Something New
Loosely Coupled
Above all
Demographics is destiny
Are you setting the bar high enough?
Virtual Apps
Aerobic Learning
Work as Video Game
Oracle and Macromedia, Sitting in a Tree
The Blogosphere
ASTD Silicon Valley
Performance Support
Kingsbridge Conference Center
First Post by Email
Inactive Blog
RSS Feed for New Site
Comment Spam
Testing ... testing ... 1...2..3
IT Doesn't Matter - Learning Does.
All blogging is political
Mutlimedia Learning
Damn, damn, double damn
Nonverbal impact?
The New Religion
Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!
Business Process Management (2)
Really Big
Business Process Management Conference
Don't Lose a Common Sense: LISTEN
It's only natural
Go with the flow
Time Out for the Fair
Informal get-together in SF this Wednesday
Repetition, reverb, and echoes
Who Knows?
Cognitive Mapping
Push vs pull
The Big Picture on ROI
Art Break
TDF Finale
New Community of Practice Forming
More TDF04
Training Directors Forum 2004
A Rare One-Liner
PlaNetwork LIVE 2
PlaNetwork LIVE
ASTD 2004 Leftovers
Worker Effectiveness Improvement, not KM
Upcoming Events
eLearning Effectiveness?
Jay's Talk at ASTD
Mintzberg & Cooperider
Lest ye forget
ASTD International Conference & Exposition 2004
Knowledge Tips
What is Workflow Learning?
ASTD msg 1 of n
Look out, it's Outlook
Collaboration at ASTD Next Week
Tell me a story
User indifference
The shortest presentation on metrics you will ever hear
Back to Blogger
Windows fixes
The Alchemy of Growth
Grab bag
Very loosely coupled
E-Learning from Practice to Profit
Robin Good kicks off Competitive Edge
China Bloggers
Sonoma Dreaming
Upcoming Events
Emergent Learning Forum: Simulations
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Metrics and Web Services
OpEd: ROI vs. Metrics
e-Merging e-Learning
Loosely Coupled
Search me