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Who do you know?

28 April 2008

It’s not what you know but who you know they say — well, who do you know?

My wife was watching a TV programme called Human Footprint the other day, which had all kinds of information about what we consume and produce from the cradle to the grave. For example, if all the farts the average person produces over a lifetime were collected and set alight, they would produce a 35000 litre fireball.

One of the more interesting statistics was that the average person knows 1750 people in their lifetime — that is, people they can remember within 2 years of having met them.

I thought it might be interesting to try to list the ones that I’ve known: where I know them from, how I met them, and what I can remember about them. Family, friends, teachers, work colleagues, acquaintances, people one meets on courses and conferences, and so on.

So far I’ve managed to list 144, and the target of 1750 seems a long way off. I wonder how they arrived at that figure. But it’s been quite fun. Many of the people I’ve listed I haven’t seen for years, and I’ve no idea what happened to them. Some people one can find out more about by a Web search — and, interestingly enough, Google is not necessarily the best search engine for this purpose. For some people Google produced page after page of irrelevant results, while Altavista popped up information about the person I was looking for at the top of the list.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 April 2008 8:00 pm

    If it ‘s ‘in their lifetime’, I can see it could easily come to over 1000. When I was at secondary school, I knew 25 other girls very well, and another 100 or so reasonably well, plus staff, and families/siblings of friends, and some other friends at church. Maybe 250 in all. I can’t remember them all now, but I certainly knew them for more than two years.

    Then at least 100 people in our main church in the UK, and the same at the other one – maybe more. And a couple of hundred here in Cyprus, some present, some of whom have now departed. I couldn’t sit down and list them all, but with that, and our various relatives, that must account for at least 700-800 people. And I’m 48… given that I’m not including anyone from the first ten years of my life, I should think there’s a good chance I’ll get to know another 500 or so by the time I’m ninety or so. And I’m an Introvert…

  2. 30 April 2008 7:30 am


    I’m finding it quite fun to make a list, omitting people I’d forgotten after 2 years, just including the ones I remember now.

    I looked at a school photo, taken when I was six, and I could only recognise three people in it, including me. Somewhere in that picture was a girl I was madly in love with, I can remember that her name was Janet, but I simply cannot, with any certainty, point out her face in the picture, so she gets left out. The other two go on the list.

    Actually one of the things I would like to see is a computer database program in which one could enter people and link them in a kind of “six degrees of relationship” thing. I think such a thing would be very useful to historians, and especially biographers, who could organise all their subject’s contacts — friends, family, business associates and the like, even enemies. I’m not enough of a computer fundi to write such a program, though I have done some of the initial design. But my own list I’m keeping in a text database — it doesn’t link the people, but it does search and filter them by place, date and so on.


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