February 16th, 2014 | No Comments
A few years ago, a study made headlines for a day or two and quietly slipped into obscurity. It comes from the Rensselear Polytechnic Institute research team of Xie, Sreenivasan, Korniss, Zhang, Lim and the European computer science genius professor Boleslav Szymanski. The report is available here. If you are not conversant in advanced probability theory, social network modelling, and differential calculus do not fret. The gist of their discovery is explained in surprisingly readable English:
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 pc ≈10%, 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 p < pc, Tc ~ exp(α(p)N), while for p > pc, Tc ~ lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdos-Renyi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.
Joseph Göbbels was on to something with his insights on the große lüge. The RPI team tells us if you stick with an idea long enough, never wavering in your commitment, and if you can somehow convince — by hook or by crook — one-in-ten (i.e., 10%) of your neighbors to believe it too, the idea takes on a life of its own. Soon enough it will be the default, dominant idea.
Imagine how well this works if the idea is actually true.
We can win this battle if only we are determined to win it.