Duncan Watts: "Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age"
Lecture held on January 12, 2005, 18:00.
Audimax, ETH Zurich. Event broadcasted to SHARE / Consulate of Switzerland, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
We've all heard of the small world phenomenon - the idea that each one of us is connected to everyone else through only “six degrees of separation.” But where did this idea come from? Is it true? And if it is, what implications does it have for the problems of modern society? This talk sketches out the scholarly history of the small world problem (alongside its meteoric rise in popular culture), from its origins in sociology up to the recent explosion of work in physics and mathematics that uses it as a central reference point. The lecture also discusses the relevance of the “six degrees” theory to a range of phenomena, from job hunting and organizations solving complex problems, to the spread of disease and the cascade-like dynamics of cultural fads. In the modern world, it is not enough to recognize that we are all connected; we must go further to understand both the patterns of these connections and the way they drive our individual and collective behavior.
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