The Six Degrees of Bacon

David Ng is a geneticist, writer, and creator of The Candy Hierarchy. Read more by him at McSweeneys and right here.

Lately, I’ve been writing about the philosophy of science and thereby finding myself pondering the plight of Bacon. Not the food, but rather Sir Francis Bacon, the renowned 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.” 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. This calculation has never been formally proven, and there is evidence to suggest that social media has brought it down to four degrees, but 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 all dead.  

With this in mind, we need to return to the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” This originally concerned itself with connections in the entertainment industry, but the phrase nowadays is symbolic of humanity’s interconnectedness. Put another way, Kevin Bacon is the unofficial figurehead of this game.  

But figureheads are usually transient. Mr. Bacon is no longer the sprightly young man that danced into our hearts in Footloose. Nor is he, despite having played an invisible character in Hollow Man, capable of hiding from the debilitating march of time. As he ages, the concept and the mathematics of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” will ultimately no longer be practical or relevant.  Consequently, there will need to be a proper discussion about a “six degrees” successor.   

And why not start that discussion now? How would one decide on such a successor?  Of course, this would come with a few rules. 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. These being speculations born of procrastination, 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, this option should totally include a throne and also a crown that can be worn on special occasions.  Maybe a fancy sword as well. A sword would be awesome: consider “The six degrees of the sword of Bacon.”

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

 The obligatory “reality TV” option. As Mr. Bacon is no stranger to the entertainment industry, this is perhaps the most logical model to find a successor. A dance-off would be particularly magical. Think of the fun, the spectacle, the press! And think of the Kevin Bacon-themed So You Think You Can Dance stationary. 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 deathmatch.  

4. The Kevin Bacon as Eternal Deity Model

Maybe Kevin Bacon would rather keep all the glory to himself, and 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: every time you pass on, there is a reincarnated version of you being born elsewhere. I'm not sure how this would work, exactly—how would we identify this reincarnated Kevin Bacon?—but it seems reasonable. Plus, the thought of an organized religion with the word “bacon” in it ia appealing.  

Let me end by saying that if this all sounds a little too complicated, then let's simplify things and just pick me. I would absolutely be down with it, especially if I can score a throne, crown and a sword out of the deal.  

Bacon illustrations: David Ng, from Takemori39 and Renee Comet. Thumnbnail art: Anonymous.

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