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Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas 283

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-heard-that-too dept.
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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Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

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  • 2 groups (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BradleyUffner (103496) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @09:25AM (#36883310) Homepage

    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:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @09:36AM (#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:But what if... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @09:38AM (#36883518) Homepage Journal

    What you end up with is Global Warming

  • Re:But what if... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @09:40AM (#36883552)

    One word: Congress.

  • by mbone (558574) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @10:00AM (#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."

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @10:12AM (#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.

  • by tenco (773732) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @10:36AM (#36884494)
    Easy. Just make sure you choose the population size in which you want to spread your belief so that it's smaller than 10 x the magnitude of your followers. Once you've taken over, target a bigger population.
  • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @10:55AM (#36884776)

    I'm fairly sure that more than 10% of the population are atheists, and that similarly, more than 10% of the population are Christians... the two are diametrically opposed ideas, especially when you get to that core group that has the unshakeable belief that they have the one true answer to life, the universe, and everything....

  • by Talderas (1212466) on Tuesday July 26, 2011 @10:56AM (#36884786)

    You split populations into smaller subsets. Let's say you're the only person with an idea. You need to work with a population of 10 or fewer to be able to spread that idea. Anything larger than 10 will fail. So you converted the initial 10. You can now spread the idea through a population group of about 100, then 1,000, then 10,000, then 100,000, then 1,000,000 and so on.

    So if your group of 300 has a radical idea and you're slinging it out everywhere you can, you're probably going to fail dismally since you're targeting too large of a population.

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