And Then There Were Six
Those We Call The ‘Others’
It’s their fault.
I don’t know. Them, those that aren’t us. The others.
Okay, time for a reality check.
It’s relieving to have something to blame other than ourselves, isn’t it? Especially if that something doesn’t have a face. Only a name — an obscure one at that. An epithet to which we can direct our hatred.
These kinds of bias have been the ground zero for many enduring conflicts. It’s a meager spark that ignites hellfire. Holocaust, genocide, ethnic cleansing, the World Wars — you name it.
Pitting two sides against each other on the battlefield won’t bring neither glory nor salvation, not even for the one victorious. Warfare only ushers death and suffering.
History bares itself open for us to contemplate, and if there is one good thing we can learn from its bloodstained chapters, it’s this:
There are no others. Only us.
In this unanimous, tight-knit world, humanity is a singular entity. A vast gestalt which parts are only separated by several degrees.
Six, to be exact.
So, Six Degrees?
Yeah. There’s this idea which states that we can connect two people, chosen at random anywhere on the face of the earth, in only six or fewer steps. Basically, it’s a friend of a friend chain that can hook you up with anyone.
This idea is known as the six degrees of separation. And it’s not new.
I assume, this six degrees thing may sound familiar to you. There’s a good chance you might have stumbled upon it somewhere on the internet already, so I’m not gonna ramble on too much about it.
That being said, you may still be a bit skeptical about its truthfulness. As do many people — some of which decided to do something about it, and devised various kinds of exploratory works related to this question. Some noteworthy examples would be Frigyes Karinthy’s short stories and Stanley Milgram’s small-world experiment.
One that piques my interest in particular is this 2016 research by Facebook. The researchers found that among 1.59 billion of users (roughly 20% of the global population at that time), each person is connected to everyone else in an average of 3.57 steps. That’s three and a half degrees, not six — and this data is from four years ago.
What’s the number now, I wonder?
The Distant Butterfly
Reflecting upon this realization, a curious thought came to mind:
What if we connect the six degrees of separation, for instance, to the butterfly effect?
(There are other similar concepts, namely the ripple, domino, and snowball effect. But I feel that the butterfly can be a better metaphor in this case.)
The basic premise is that minuscule disruptions can affect the occurrence of a much grander phenomenon. So much so that even the wing flaps of a butterfly can catalyze a whole tornado.
We already went into this conjecture in the first section, where we discuss that a seemingly innocuous behavior like prejudice can even set a global discord in motion. And by bringing the six degrees into the mix, we can only imagine that the butterfly effect is becoming even more evident.
With this close distance — that will only grow closer, and will soon turn irrelevant — between one another, the impact of every event will reach a wider range of recipients. The consequences of our deeds is no longer something we can ignore. Not even the small ones.
Now, more than ever, our actions are shaping the world.
The Right Thing to Do
Alright, so, what should we do with this knowledge?
At this point, Uncle Ben’s message to young Peter Parker has become cliché to our ears, but the fact remains that it’s true: With great power comes great responsibility.
It’s a bit unnerving to think that we hold great power in these small hands, especially when we often feel powerless in reality. Don’t let yourself be drowned by this, though. The basics remain the same: Be kind. Offer help. Give value to your surroundings. Alleviate their pain. Expand their horizons.
Don’t think too much. There is no right thing to do. And if you ever feel that what you’re doing is insignificant, remember the butterfly.
There are no others. Only us.
You’re reading this only six degrees apart from me. That’s crazy.
Frigg, 17th of Apru
The topic of this writing, Six Degrees of Separation, is suggested by Damang Payungan Hutasuhut.
The title is an homage to “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, which is in no way related to this writing. I just thought I’d mention it because it’s a memorable book, and I enjoyed its erratic mystery.