It’s rare to meet someone who has a number named after them.
This week I briefly met and spoke with Professor Robin Dunbar, the charming Oxford University anthropologist who enjoys exactly that accolade.
Five years ago ‘the Dunbar number‘ might have remained an esoteric concept: talked about in rarefied academic circles, but barely pricking the consciousness of the wider public.
The unstoppable rise of social networking changed all that.
With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and the peer-to-peer internet phenomenon which has enveloped us in just 60 months, the Dunbar number has become a bona fide mathematical rarity – a numerical concept which transcends academia to become part of popular culture.
Okay, I might be stretching it to suggest it has gone mainstream. But anyone who dips a toe into the ‘science’ of social media will pretty soon come up against the Dunbar number.
If you have any interest in understanding the behind-the-scenes workings,the foundations or the likely social consequences of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (as opposed to just using them), then you probably want to know something about the good Professor’s work. Continue reading