Is there a point at which you cease to meet people who are complete strangers?
In the last few weeks I’ve met several people with whom I had some kind of unknown connection. A couple weeks ago it was a consultant who turned out to have run a company that I once did a little research on. Then it was someone who had been a colleague of a friend from college.
Today, in a meeting on using electronic media to facilitate scientific collaboration, I met the sister of Jim Sachs, an inventor and entrepreneur who I interviewed several years ago. And one of the people involved in crafting a new NASA program we’re thinking of submitting to is the
daughter father [ed: thanks, Nancy!] of one of my daughter’s classmates.
This isn’t a case of my social horizons narrowing (I don’t think); it seems like something is happening to the density of my social connections (the term used in the descriptive sociological sense, not in the old-fashioned sense of ties that help you get a job).
When I was an academic, this was pretty much a 24/7 phenomenon, but you expected it: the people you hung out with were, after all, in the same field as you, and you all knew who you were on the basis of 1) what you worked on, and 2) your academic pedigree.
This somewhat makes up for the fact that I’m also noticing an alarming increase in the number of interesting people who got their Ph.D.s several years after me. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
[To the tune of Yoshinori Sunahara, “Sun Song ’80,” from the album Take Off and Landing.]