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Interesting. Perhaps 6 degrees of separation is the foundation of PGP being possible. PGP is based on the “web of trust” concept, by which there is no centralized authority that verifies identity/key pairs. The concept is based on the idea that if individuals meet enough in person, share keys securely (on paper, for example), and then display these keys on their own sites, then any individual can verify the identity of another individual (key) they don’t know, just by using the network of ones that they do. If humans were more separated, this may not be feasible.

I’ve thought about before how unconnected different fields are. I feel like it would do the research world some good to spend one week per year where researchers in every field have to learn the breakthroughs in each of the other fields.

When I was in high school, a few months before the Facebook paper came out. I wrote a program in AppleScript that attempted to determine the number of second degree connections I had in my network. It would scrape the pages, scrolling through all of each of my friends, recording the links of their profiles, and it would repeat the process for them. I believe the second degree connections took a few hours, and the third degree I estimated would take a month (because the script had to interact with the GUI to load the list of friends). This really gave me a sense for how connected we all are.

As I mentioned in class, it’s important to note, especially when people think about the “privacy” concerns of 6 degrees of separation, that these constants are calculated assuming comprehensive knowledge of the entire network. In practice, no individual has this understanding. With regard to the method employed by individuals, it actually follows a greedy algorithm, which is to say that each individual (node) will choose the locally optimal solution (for instance, the individuals in the film often chose their friends who traveled to the destination city frequently). However, the optimal path (the one that could be at even 2 or 3 degrees), could be someone in your network that you never would expect.