Facebook usually exposes to me how stupid the average Facebookian is. Few months back I stumbled across the Mars Hoax and recently I came across a new phenomena. Groups and applications surfaced asking people to sign-up so that they could finally put the Six Degree Separation hypothesis to the test. You've probably heard about it, the hypothesis claims that people are connected via an average of six links. Links being friends or acquaintances. Around 12 million people signed up on Facebook to try and help the 'research' to prove this hypothesis.
Maybe it's just me but if I were to wake up tomorrow and the headlines would read: Six Degree Separation A Proven Fact! First, I'd be amazed by how the glorious 21st century research has just proved beyond doubt that, on average, I could be linked to a random dude in Boston over six links. *gasp*. Let me take a second to absorb this shock.............. ok, much better now. Second, I'd ask myself, so? What is the real reapplication of this 'discovery'? For sure there will be need for it in a weird sociological research about an extinct aboriginal tribe, but apart from that, how would this 'fact' help those 12 million people who are actively trying to prove it?
In the meantime, real distributed computing projects like: http://folding.stanford.edu or http://setiathome.berkeley.edu are suffering from a much, much smaller user base (as small as 200,000 users in some cases). Those projects only ask for some spare CPU cycles from your PC when you are not using it in exchange for trying to understand and solve real-world problems. These efforts have tangible results that will help make life better for all of us, yet the stupidity of the masses prevails.