Saturday, March 17, 2012


Six Degrees

I heard a recent radio interview with actor Kevin Bacon, in which he discussed the famous social game referred to as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  The game was started by two college men who said that all movie actors can be connected to Kevin Bacon in six steps.  In other words, somebody worked in a film with somebody who worked in a film with somebody who worked in a film with somebody, and so on, and finally somebody worked with Kevin Bacon.

This game sprang out of the notion that anyone is six steps away, by way of introduction, from anyone else on the planet. Although many people have made contributions to this idea for decades, the American psychologist Stanly Milgrim made it very popular through an article he published in the journal Psychology Today.  It was also the subject of a play by John Guare.

I first heard of a variation of this game in 1987 while at a work related conference.  In discussing communications, the speaker said that any U.S. citizen can be connected to the President of the United States by six telephone calls.  The assumption is that the each person receiving the call knows the caller well enough to be willing to accept the call. 

Of course, I had to test the theory.

At the time, I worked at the National Security Agency in Maryland. I was a Branch Chief at the time who had direct access to my Office Director, Sally Schwarzkopf.  Her immediate supervisor was a man named Whit Reid, the overall head of the National Cryptologic School.  He had direct access to the Director of the agency, General Robert Odum.  Gen. Odum might have had direct access to the Secretary of Defense (Cap Weinberger), but I’ll concede that he might have had to go through an Assistant Sec. Def. first.  Then the Sec. Def. would have direct access to the President, Ronald Reagan.

So, there we are, my six steps to the Prez:
ME: Sally S. to Whit Reid, to Gen. Odum, to Asst. Sec. Def., to Sec. Def., to President. Yep, me to Ronny in six calls.  Pretty good, huh?

Now it’s your turn.  Give it a try.  Are you six calls away from the President, or any other celebrity? How about Kevin Bacon?

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