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Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the I-heard-that-too dept.

Idle 283

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. 'When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,' said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski. 'Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.' The findings were published in the July 22, 2011, early online edition of the journal Physical Review E."

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I don't think so (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883298)

This is bullshit and I will never believe it.

Re:I don't think so (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883328)

I agree. Magic power of 10 spotted. Why isn't it 9.8% or 11.3%?

Re:I don't think so (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883748)

Its actually 9.789% if you read the paper

Re:I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883464)

This is bullshit and I will never believe it.

You don't have a choice -- when 10% of the rest of us do, your belief will inevitably follow

Re:I don't think so (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883766)

How much of it is gauging of consensus, and how much of it is peer pressure to "conform" to the storm?

Re:I don't think so (2)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883566)

you will once 10% of /. believes it

Re:I don't think so (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883816)

It's a contradiction, which explains /.'s comments section:

Ideas that are shared between less than 10% cannot grow, and therefore they can logically never reach 10% (and will get modded down).
And only ideas that are already shared between >10% will eventually be shared by all (will get modded up).

We're stuck. Unless the results of this research aren't shared by more than 10% of the slashdotters, in which case we can safely ignore the results of the research.

Re:I don't think so (2)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883796)

So how does it get to 10%?

Re:I don't think so (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884212)

It's never happened, it takes longer than the life of the universe (literally).

Re:I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883802)

If you're using statistics, you aren't doing science.

Re:I don't think so (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883824)

One-tenth of you say it with me, "Sociology is not science!".

CAPTCHA == "hearty", say it with gusto folks, like you believe it.

Nonsense (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883304)

"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority

If that were the case, no new ideas would ever take hold.

Re:Nonsense ( Shrodinger's Idea ) (1)

Marc_Hawke (130338) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883442)

Maybe it has something to do with observation?

If the first time you quantify an idea's market share it's below 9, you're screwed. Otherwise, I agree with you. How would you ever GET to 10% if 9.8% means nobody will ever care.

Re:Nonsense (3, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883488)

I guess they mean that of those idea that catch on, the point was at 10%. More than 10% Americans "believe" in evolution, but I don't see it spreading like wildfire. There are plenty of ideas that have greater than 10% marketshare, but don't spread. But I guess of those ideas that are now majority, and were once minority or non-existent, the point where they spread was 10%. Even still, call me skeptical.

Re:Nonsense (4, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884028)

I guess they mean that of those idea that catch on, the point was at 10%. More than 10% Americans "believe" in evolution, but I don't see it spreading like wildfire.

But it did, originally. Only now there's 10% believing in Intelligent Design, so you're screwed.

Re:Nonsense (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884096)

Didn't read TFA but I assume that could have something to do with the 10% or more secular population

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883724)

That is what I like in /.ers, they also notice how stupid that sentence really is.

Re:Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883976)

If that were the case, no new ideas would ever take hold.

That seems pretty consistent with my experience.

Re:Nonsense (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884290)

In Soviet Russia, ideas hold you!

That's so bizarre that it must be true (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883306)

I believe this to be true, and 10% of my friends agree!

Re:That's so bizarre that it must be true (2)

pentalive (449155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883500)

Too bad you are not friends with everyone.

2 groups (3, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883310)

So what if 2 groups hold opposing ideas at the same time, and each one has 10% mind share? The "Always" part of this prediction bothers me.

Re:2 groups (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883372)

Then you have two opposing sides who blame the other for all the problems in the world.

Re:2 groups (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883462)

That's unpossible! It could literally NEVER happen!!

Re:2 groups (3)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884076)

This sounds like politics as usual.

And on the topic of politics, can't the Americans here all agree that the US electoral system needs to change: proportional representation for the houses, and approval voting for the president. Get 10% of the US to believe that's a vast improvement over the current system, and the US will eventually be forced to fix its political system.

Re:2 groups (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883632)

Hegelian Dialectic.

Re:2 groups (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883740)

Nah, it explains our current political environment pretty well. You get instability where the majority opinion switches from side to side.

Re:2 groups (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884050)

That "always" qualifier was unfortunately introduced by whomever summarized the article for submission here. TFA's research was about how steady states are achieved given networks of potential opinion holders with particular characteristics. TFA also lists disclaimers such as "conditioned on the survival of the system" and ways in which the network could change along with the opinions it contains.

The conclusion observes that the (American) civil rights movement took off after the African American population reached 10% after the Civil War. The authors also mention important sociological theory in their introduction. Together, I would read that as an awareness that factors beyond the edges and nodes of the (simulated) networks are important, but also that Phys. Rev. E isn't the best place to apply an approach from critical theory or the like.

This is a real generalisation (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883324)

It might work where the general population is neutral to the idea, but doesn't work in most ceicumstances when there are strong opinions. For example France is approaching a 10% Muslim population but it is extremely unlikely that the rest will suddenly accept Islam.

Re:This is a real generalisation (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883406)

Why not? They can accept Islam as a major religious force in the country. It doesn't mean they need to convert or will convert. But they will accept many Islamic ideas and values (Hopefully the good ones).

Re:This is a real generalisation (0)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883746)

Why not? They can accept Islam as a major religious force in the country. It doesn't mean they need to convert or will convert. But they will accept many Islamic ideas and values (Hopefully the good ones).

There are no "good ideas" in Islam that are not already found in earlier religions like Judaism or Christianity. I can't see the French giving up wine or killing people for changing religion.

Re:This is a real generalisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883734)

Exactly....what happens when 40% hold one idea and another 40% holds a diametrically opposed idea. See politics. See religion. etc...

Re:This is a real generalisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883742)

You are mixing islamic and originating from the maghreb. I'm french and know a lot of non religious maghrebi born or descendant people. This population is less secularised as the european one but the processus already started. 90% of French caucasian people don't care about Christianity as a religion (some care as an archetype of european traditions or values, not for the real content of the religion) for example, and it's growing. Same thing is happening to immigrant population.

Percentage of geeks (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883334)

How high is the percentage of geeks in the world? I'd say it's just over 10%, but then why isn't the world a better place, for example with functioning space programs?!

Re:Percentage of geeks (4, Funny)

Stele (9443) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883452)

Probably has something to do with lack of sex with women.

Re:Percentage of geeks (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883708)

How high is the percentage of geeks in the world? I'd say it's just over 10%, but then why isn't the world a better place, for example with functioning space programs?!

There are true geeks and poseur geeks, I think true geeks - with extraordinary talents and abilities - are closer to 1% of the total population. The other 9% you're talking about are just ordinary dysfunctionals who aspire to be geek-like, but never really amount to anything.

But what if... (2)

neokushan (932374) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883338)

What if 10% of the population have an unshakable belief in the opposite? What happens then? Does society suffer, does one idea eventually take over?

I can think of plenty of examples where this might happen - Christianity vs. Science (or even another religion). It's very possible that 10% of society has an unshakable belief in God while another 10% have an unshakable belief in Science (or no God).

Re:But what if... (2, Insightful)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883518)

What you end up with is Global Warming

Re:But what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884226)

Hahaha. Mod parent up ffs. He's a very insightful individual.

Re:But what if... (3, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883552)

One word: Congress.

Re:But what if... (4, Funny)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883616)

No, the article is specifically speaking about sentient beings, not parasitic worms.

Re:But what if... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883764)

but those are the two groups of people in congress.

interchangeable depending on which 10% you are in.

Re:But what if... (2)

celle (906675) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884228)

"No, the article is specifically speaking about sentient beings, not parasitic worms."

No, the article is specifically speaking about human beings, not parasitic worms.

Fixed that for ya. Now for a real question.

What's the difference human beings and parasitic worms?

Re:But what if... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884034)

It seems they are talking about new ideas versus old intrenched ideas. Over 10% of society has an unshakable belief in God (old idea), the idea that there is no God is a new one, and while common, its only an "unshakable idea" among less than 10% I'd be willing to assume. Once it becomes the new faith of over 10% it will grow like wildfire and eventually overtake the old idea. Unless of course some new pro God idea comes in behind it.

Re:But what if... (1)

asylumx (881307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884356)

So you're claiming that atheism is a new idea? I don't think that's the case. Atheism dates back at least to 500 BCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism#Etymology [wikipedia.org] Christianity by definition only dates back to ~30 CE. Wouldn't that mean that Christianity is still a new idea, too? Islam is even younger, with Muhammed living around 600 CE.

Re:But what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884086)

What is it with people thinking religion and science are mutually exclusive?? Just because your view of religion and science may be?

Granted, for many religions this is probably true (sadly,) but there are several where this is not. In fact, Christianity isn't - if you actually study what Christ originally taught instead of what has been added/removed/changed over the centuries by the various fractures. Remember that 'traditional' Christianity, isn't.

Re:But what if... (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884330)

The debate isn't "do you believe in God or Science or both?", it's "do you have an UNSHAKABLE believe in God/Science"? The fact that the word "unshakable" is used means they must be mutually exclusive, because Science states that God doesn't exist (or rather, states that there's no proof that God exists).

Yes, in certain instances the two can be mixed, but this is an exception.

Re:But what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884190)

What if 10% of the population have an unshakable belief in the opposite? What happens then? Does society suffer, does one idea eventually take over?

I can think of plenty of examples where this might happen - Christianity vs. Science (or even another religion). It's very possible that 10% of society has an unshakable belief in God while another 10% have an unshakable belief in Science (or no God).

belief in god vs. belief in science? WTF? mutually exclusive??

Re:But what if... (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884294)

My BS detector was bouncing off the limiter, because anyone with two eyes can see that reality is a lot more complex than "a really stubborn 10%"

To reach their conclusion, the scientists developed computer models of various types of social networks.

The initial state of each of the models was a sea of traditional-view holders.
Each of these individuals held a view, but were also, importantly, open minded to other views.

They are also looking to study how the percentage might change when input into a model where the society is polarized.
Instead of simply holding one traditional view, the society would instead hold two opposing viewpoints.
An example of this polarization would be Democrat versus Republican.

But now I see that they were looking at introducing a new idea into a computer model of ideologically pliant nodes.
I wish them the best of luck at figuring out how to invade a country and convert 10% of the population into unflappable believers in truth, justice, and the American way.

Apple OS X (0)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883344)

Apple OS X is getting there.

I would like to think that it is not just the percentage of the population that holds the beliefs but the rate of growth it has the moment it reached it. Crowds prefer exponential growth than a logarithmic one. Don't have any citations, but I have a feeling it's the former in OS X and Apple computers in general.

Re:Apple OS X (0)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883758)

I respectfully posit that Apple is past the "10%" mark, I mean Apple's products have caught on 'like wildfire' compared to 10 years ago without a doubt. If its not an iMac its and iPod or an iPhone or an App store. OS X by itself, with its licensing and hardware restrictions, is probably not going to literally have a majority market share, unless Apple decides to release it for generic x86s. I wouldn't hold your breath for that though.

Disagree. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883348)

This doesn't really seem to account for the concept of conflicting ideas. Otherwise we'd all be Christiaethistislamihindubuddists.

Unrealistic study (2)

tele (246082) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883364)

The study assumes 10% "strongly convinced" vs 90% "opinion-less". This is not very realistic. When you change the parameters to 10/80/10 you get a fluctuation between the two extrems (as to be expected).

Re:Unrealistic study (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883496)

The study assumes 10% "strongly convinced" vs 90% "opinion-less". This is not very realistic. When you change the parameters to 10/80/10 you get a fluctuation between the two extrems (as to be expected).

Maybe its all a long winded way of saying "first social network to 10% of the population wins" Myspace never quite made it, FB made it, now we're stuck with it.

Re:Unrealistic study (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884138)

So if we can get 10% of Facebookers onto Google+, the rest will follow!

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883368)

I think this is clearly false because only 10-50% of the country are Teabaggers.

doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883392)

Well then how would any idea ever be able to reach 10%?

Re:doesn't add up (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884180)

You just start with 10% of a much smaller group. You and 9 friends, for example. Once they're convinced, expose 100 people to the idea. Build up like that, until eventually it's big enough to go mainstream.

This really feels like the first study in memetics or psychohistory or something.

What's "Unshakable"? (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883410)

The definition of "unshakable" seems self-selecting, and perhaps even tautological.

FWIW, I note the fortune at the bottom of the page in which I'm editing my comment says:

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian

Re:What's "Unshakable"? (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883784)

Unshakable means, that no matter what, these individuals will never become disbelievers.
The rest of the population may accept the idea at one point and reject it again sometimes later, but 10% will always stick with it.
In the end this is just some simulation that ran with certain probabilities to switch. If for 10% of the population the probability to switch from believer to nonbeliever is zero, then this seeding group will be enough to spread it to the majority eventually.

I am pretty sure that this story was on here some time ago and in more detail at that first appearance... I don't know if it was about ideas that time, but it was the same simulation, with the same result.

Re:What's "Unshakable"? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883788)

This whole thing is tautological. It amounts to little more than "ideas that don't exceed 10% don't exceed 10%" and "ideas that exceed 10% exceed 10%". It's worthless drivel really, since all ideas must necessarily begin under 10% it cannot be said that ideas that don't exceed 10% won't exceed 10%.

How about conflicting ideas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883426)

If that is true, it means that it is possible for 10 contradicting ideas to be adopted by the majority of the population given the right starting beliefs. In other words you will have the majority of the population believing in things that they believe is not true.

I personally have an unshakable belief that the 10% figure they give is bogus. There is no such magic threshold. They essentially claim that if 9% of the population believe in something, that percentage can never reach a majority, but if 11% believe in it, it will grow to the majority of the population. Hence a growth from 1% to 9% could be possible, but a growth from 9% to 11% is utterly impossible, or at least take billions of years. And once you reach 11% it will explode and reach the majority of the population in no time. But in that case, how did any idea ever reach 10% of the population in the first place, since humankind has not yet existed for an amount of time comparable to the age of the universe.

Confirmed !!! +1,000,000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883448)

U.S. health care is BEST in the world.

    Yours In Miami,
    K. T.

the 100th monkey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883460)

It's the same idea as willing to teach a thousand monkey to wash coconuts when the US tested H bomb in the atols back then. They tried to repopulate with monkeys.
Coconut were radioactive so they tried to teach a few monkey on how to wash their coconuts.
It took a lot of time for the first 100 monkeys to wash their coconut.

But as soon as they reached the 100th monkey suddenly the whole thousand started washing their coconut before eating it..

Did ayone read the paper? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883480)

I didn't, but this makes no sense:
“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,”

Re:Did ayone read the paper? (3, Interesting)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883680)

that was my first instinct too. then i thought about the converse. "population" is a matter of perspective. in 10 people, 1 person is 10% of that population. I didn't RTFA, but i'd guess if 5% of a large population holds a belief, it's not going to gain traction, but if those 5% somehow come together there is a subpopulation where 10% or more hold the belief and can influence the rest. I imagine it works better the more that subpopulation can separate itself from the larger culture. This scenario does play out over and over.

of course, taken to extremes you could say 1 person in a population of 3 is 33% of the population so everyone should adopt that person's beliefs. that doesn't happen so the size of the population must be part of the function.

or it's all bunk

I think there is something interesting here (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883484)

But the way their research is summarized makes it sound ridiculous.

Under 10% and an idea will never get traction? Above 10% and it will be accepted by everyone?

This is beyond oversimplification.

Re:I think there is something interesting here (1)

Shadmere (1158007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883586)

I agree. I'm interested in what is basically a form of psychohistory, but the way they describe it here is clearly and obviously wrong. Honestly it crosses over into stupid. Are they trying to claim that one 10% of a population never completely disagrees with another 10%? Are they saying that if 9% of a population beleives something, then they will never, ever be capable of converting anyone else? If I want my idea to gain traction, must I convert 10% of the population to my side in one single speech, or be doomed to obscurity?

It's ridiculous.

think zombies, not ideas (3, Informative)

OnionFighter (1569855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884016)

The problem is that this article badly summarizes the results of computer modeling that is supposed to represent human interactions. Apparently the tipping point for their simulation is 10%. Without seeing the actual original research findings, it is difficult to see if this actually matters, but the available article seems to say that the 10% is irrespective of network structure.

The computer simulation seems more analogous to a disease outbreak than to an idea. Imagine a percentage of people are zombies. They can only attack their friends, who can fight them so long as they have more living than dead friends nearby (I am assuming here that it is 51% that is needed to change status, but who knows what the actual research used). If they don't, then they switch sides and spread the outbreak. So the simulation might be saying that if 10% of people are initially zombies, then mankind is generally doomed. If it is less, then the outbreak will be contained.

I also find it interesting that the study was funded by the military.

10%? No way (1)

starkat2k (2353628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883520)

The only constants are mathematical, not hypothetical. I think it varies based upon actual exposure and plausibility of the idea. For example, currently mobile phone technology is very visible to (most) people, so an idea that pertains to this will have greater exposure than would, say, some innovation in raising circus fleas. If only 1% of the mobile phone tech enthusiasts come across an absolutely brilliant concept, it's much more likely to spread and reach any greater percentile, but the same can't be said for the circus flea scientist.

The evidence I see says not (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883546)

Or maybe my unshakable beliefs that there is no deity and in the process of evolution through natural selection is not shared by even a meagre 10 percent of the population.

So hands up! Which of you is letting the side down?

Re:The evidence I see says not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883670)

those are two separate beliefs.

For one, belief in Deity is held by an overwhelming majority of people, so I would guess that opposing, unshakable beliefs have different rules regarding adoption.

For two, it seems to me that you are wrong about how widespread evolution is. A loud minority (anti-evolutionists) is not a group to whom you should listen.

maybe i'm missing some calculus here (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883558)

But if it takes an infinite amount of time for a belief to be adopted by a majority if it's held by under 10% of the population, how does it ever grow over 10%? it's like a zeno's paradox.

Now i see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883572)

Now i see why the nature made only 10% of the population homosexual. If it was a bigger number, then everybody would be homo, and the result would be the extinction of the human race.

The Abstract (4, Informative)

Unkyjar (1148699) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883628)

seems a lot more reasonable than the article/summary:

We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pcâ10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when ppc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for ErdÅ's-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

the real requirement is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883638)

... Fanaticism.

I quote the abstract here, emphasis added:

We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion.

Re:the real requirement is ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884178)

Right.

We'd all be converted to The Faith if it weren't for all the holy men getting caught with the under aged boys on their time off.

Damn ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883648)

There will never be a 'Year of the Linux Desktop' !

Counterpoint: Santa Claus (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883712)

I daresay that 10% of the population is young enough to firmly believe in Santa Claus. That does not translate into the majority of the society believing in him.

Re:Counterpoint: Santa Claus (2)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884170)

I believe the US debt indicates otherwise.

a diffusion problem, that's all (1)

RLBrown (889443) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883738)

In the blog linked from the summary, the blog writer uses the word 'always' for the spread of an idea. The quotes from the director of research Szymanski do not show 'always' in that sense. As for the age of the hyperbole Universe comment, it seems to be merely emphasizing that no progress is made toward person to person spreading of the given belief, when the current adoption is underneath the 10% value. He could have equivalently said "until the cows come home."

It seems to me this is a simple diffusion problem. A person's belief might be influenced if N or more people in that person's immediate circle of contacts (call it T people) hold the given belief. The researchers say that N/T > 0.1 will spread the belief by person to person diffusion, less will not. This means that if you wish to introduce a new belief into society, you and your cohorts must work to get to that fraction, whereupon thereafter, it will take on a life of its own without your continuing effort to promote it. Since the introduction of a belief by diffusion increases the fraction, it will proceed exponentially. In this context, that perhaps justifies the calling the spread "rapid".

True or false? Who knows. This was a blog of quotes, not a research article. Perhaps if 10% of slash dotters come to believe in it, everyone will.

Bollocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883774)

Ya, and FB, which, by all estimates, spread like wildfire, doesn't have 10% of the world's population yet.

Re:Bollocks (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884196)

They have 10% of local populations.

Computer Simulation, modelling human iteraction? (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883778)

Ok, so they investigated computer simulations of three different models of communication within a population. Everyone talks to everyone else, special hub people who talk to lots of people, and everyone with equal number of connections. Then they sprinkled in special people who's opinions couldn't be changed, and let them talk.

Couple Questions:
How did they determine whether listening to someone influenced a persons opinion?
Seems likely that in a given population, a minority of committed individuals like this would naturally self segregate, possibly even leaving the population voluntarily.
Did they model the continual rotation of population? Even the luckiest individual is around to spread his/her opinion for 100 years.

... wtf? (2)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883794)

So, since 1/10 people believe the world is ending soon, that's apparently the belief of everybody? We can't deny that roughly one out of ten people have the armageddon bug, so where's the majority on that?

What people say and what people do help to illustrate how humans are capable of believing, sure, but also of saying what they think other people want them to hear. Behaviour, not words, proves a person's belief. You can say all day that you don't believe in adultery but still have sex with your neighbor instead of your spouse. What did you really believe, then?

You can say all day that you believe the world is ending but you still hold long-term investments and you still go to work and try to keep the company afloat in tough economic times, stressing yourself out and sustaining a family and heralding the birth of your descendants. What happened to "the world could end at any minute" in all of that?

Humans don't stress themselves out needlessly, we have built-in stops protecting us against that. When you break it to the poor guy down in the hole whose back is giving out and who's sweating like a hog that you lied, there's no buried treasure down there but you want him to dig anyway, he's not going to keep digging, moron.

Even if there are ten guys down there doing the work and sending the dirt up in buckets, and once they're deep enough that they can't climb out you pull up the ropes and tell them all never mind, it's a ten-man gravesite, and ONE GUY says "no, I still believe there's buried treasure", the rest of them aren't going to flip you the bird and resume digging!

God, people are so fucking stupid sometimes.

Modified Epidemiology (5, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883818)

The authors (on a quick read of the original paper) are talking about a saddle point in the adoption of a new idea. This is basically the same as epidemiology, and their paper can be viewed as about a model of contagion in the case of infectious agents who can't be cured and don't die. So, in that sense this is like the classic result in epidemiology that an epidemic can't spread if the "basic reproduction number" is less than 50%. It's not magic, and it doesn't mean that if you get 10% + 1 acceptance is guaranteed, just where the tipping point is in this "modified epidemiology."

12 Angry Men (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883832)

It's proof that their numbers are off!

Summary (and article) are poorly written (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883836)

They concentrate on the incendiary ideas, are poorly written, and do a horrible job of communicating.

For example, it ignores the case where there are two contradictory ideas, each held by more than 10% . (Liberal and Conservative politics for example)

And of course to become widely adopted the idea must grow past 10%. You can go from 9% to 90% without passing 10%.

A better way to write the story would have been, either one of the following (not sure which is true, as the article did not make it clear):

1) Unshakable belief grows slowly, no matter how zealous it's proponents are, up until it hits 10% of the population. Then, it it is not opposed by another unshakable belief, the growth will expand exponentially till it exceeds 50%.

or

2) Unshakable beliefs either spread very quickly from the beginning, quickly surpassing 10% and becomeing 50% or greater, or grow at a slow rate, never surpassing 10% of the population.

Either one of those two statements could be the truth. The article failed to explain which was true, instead concentrating on the stupid and obviously false statement that if an unshakable idea is held by more than 10% it will quickly become accepted by over 50%.

Over-simplified crap (1)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883914)

I skimmed the paper. These guys seem to be testing a universe where only two "opinions" exist to choose from. I don't know about you, but those types of scenarios don't exist in my world. Reality is always more complicated than that.

While oftentimes there is use in examining a simplified version of something, this doesn't appear to be one of those times.

Not new (1)

koan (80826) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883962)

Joseph Goebbels knew this, FOX news knows this, marketing experts know this, and whether through intuition or intentional exploitation they all have, and do, take advantage of this phenomenon

not a discovery (1)

10am-bedtime (11106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883998)

This is not a discovery; making a model is part of the process, true (forming a hypothesis), but there is no validation. Anyone can poke a few formulas into a spreadsheet and call themselves scientists, otherwise.

Furthermore, doesn't the subject matter have something to do with the maleability (or commitedness) of the individuals? How is that addressed in the study?

Vote (1)

Sir Realist (1391555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884052)

I don't believe it... do I?

Guys? Can we get a vote?

This include bad ideas, right? (1, Flamebait)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884058)

It might explain the Tea Party then.

Simplified model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884240)

The summary of the article does not really describe what the paper is about - a specific, simplified model, with certain assumptions and conditions under which the statement of the article is true (I have not checked the math though). If the observed reality does not match the model, maybe there are other things in play that change the outcomes.

Meanwhile I wonder how zealots with unchangeable belief come to existence (if they actually exist) and how to easily detect them not to waste time preaching to them.

The Opinion MMO (1)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884254)

The issue I'm perceiving with this is the entire study seems based on computer models, not actual people. Models, regardless of how well built will not capture the full essence of human reactions and beliefs. It also seems that the models exist in a framework that is not accounting for education as a force for opinion formation, but rather "if some 'opinion leader" says it then I believe it". It also makes no mention of contrasting opinions, consolidation of existing foundation beliefs with the new idea or other critical factors. This is all great stuff for computer models but to me it says "in our fantasy opinion game that we made, if you reach 10% then you win"

Belief (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884258)

Belief doesn't alter facts

Once upon a time more than 10% of the people believed that the earth was flat..
It didn't stop this oblate spheroid from spinning, and orbiting the sun etc.

1 out of 10 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884282)

1 out of 10 Slashdot readers believes this to be true

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