Francis Bacon, Kevin Bacon, and the Search for the Six Degrees of Separation Heir.
by David Ng
By DAVID NG
Lately, I’ve been doing a little writing on the philosophy of science, and a consequence of this, is my mind pondering the plight of Bacon. Not the food, but rather Sir Francis Bacon, who as you may or may not know, is the renown writer and gentlemen of the 16th and 17th centuries – famous for being a member of Parliament, friend to the British Monarchy, and (most important to me) often referred to as the “Father of the Scientific Method.”
Such thinking then naturally led to Kevin Bacon, who in turn, reminded me of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Which is also to say that inevitably, I landed at entertaining the specifics of the “Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon.”
This refers to the phrase, “The Six Degrees of Separation,” which submits that you are less than six “friend of a friend” steps away from everyone else on the planet. In other words, it suggests that mankind is more connected than you would think. Interestingly, this calculation has never been formally proven, and there might even be some evidence to suggest that social media has brought it down to four degrees, but despite all this technical wrangling, it is nevertheless obvious that it probably only works well if the people involved happen to be alive.
Which is to say that the “Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon,” a man who died in 1626, are probably all dead.
With this in mind, we need to return to the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Whilst, this originally concerned itself with connections in the entertainment industry, the phrase nowadays is kind of symbolic of humanity’s interconnectedness. Put another way, Kevin Bacon is a little like an unofficial figurehead of this game.
But figureheads are usually transient. Indeed, the fact of the matter is that Mr. Bacon is no longer the sprightly young man that danced into our hearts in Footloose. Nor is he, despite the fact that he played an “invisible” character in Hollow Man, capable of hiding from the debilitating onward march of time. In essence, he should be fully aware that as he ages, the concept and the mathematics of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” will no longer be practical – indeed, it will no longer even be relevant. Consequently, you might suppose that one day, there will need to be a proper discussion about a “six degrees” successor.
And why not start that discussion now? Namely, how would one decide on such a successor? Of course, this would come with a few rules. For instance, whoever is chosen should, at the very least, be younger than Kevin Bacon. Perhaps Mr. Kevin Bacon should even have a role in this process. Anyway, as I continue to procrastinate from doing whatever it is I am supposed to be doing, I’d like to put forth the following scenarios and then maybe see if the procrastinating community at large has any thoughts on the matter:
1. The British Monarchy model.
This is where the weight of responsibility is passed on to the first born. Furthermore, since we’re being thematic and all, this option should totally include a throne and also a crown that can be worn on special occasions. Maybe a fancy sword as well. Yes, a sword would be totally awesome – “The six degrees of so and so and his/her sword” has a nice ring to it.
2. The Democratic Model
Why not do this with an open election? This would certainly be entertaining to watch, and would no doubt fuel some interesting discussion. Although the mind boggles at how the nominees will be decided upon, and how exactly they would present themselves (more so, since the principle of the Six Degrees, hypothetically is meant to be immune from the nuisance of ideology).
3. The “So You Think You Can Dance” model.
This would be the obligatory “how can we turn this into reality TV” option. Furthermore, as Mr. Bacon, himself, is no stranger to the entertainment industry, it is perhaps the most logical model to find a successor. A dance off, moreover, would be nothing less than magical. Think of the how fun this might be, think of the spectacle, think of the press, and think of the Kevin Bacon themed So You Think You Can Dance stationary. As well, each time a successor is chosen, the theme of the next reality show could be tweaked according to the accomplishments of the new figurehead. Imagine different contests each time around, ranging from cooking to planning a wedding, to a full on Hunger Games styled competition.
4. The Kevin Bacon as an Eternal Deity Model (and the similar themed “Kevin Bacon Reincarnate Model”)
Let’s face it – maybe Kevin Bacon would rather keep all the glory to himself, and also keep it forever. If so, there is another option out there. Both Jesus of Nazareth and Kim Jong-il of North Korea used it. Basically, it’s where Kevin Bacon declares himself the reference point, and instead of looking for a successor, the actual number of degrees changes with time. In other words, in a few years, we can call it “The seven degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and then “The eight degrees…” and so on and so on. Alternatively, it could be like the Dalai Lama, and every time you pass on, there is a reincarnated version of you being born elsewhere. I am not sure how this would work exactly (how would we identify this reincarnated Kevin Bacon?), but it seems to me a reasonable idea. Plus, the thought of an organized religion with the word “bacon” in it has great appeal.
Anyway, it would be interesting to hear of any other ideas, or even better, to hear a successor suggestion or two. As well, let me just end by saying that if this all sounds a little too complicated, then let’s simplify things and just pick me. I would totally be down with being next in line – especially if I can somehow score a throne, crown and a sword out of the deal.
(Originally published at boingboing.net With apologies to Kevin Bacon and Sir Francis Bacon)