The Tipping Point

I recently read the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. If was pretty cool and disciussed many things of interest. Most notably, this book seems to have fallen into a new category of non-fiction, which I like to call: Synthesization. Meaning, there are these non-fiction books which have been topping bestseller lists despite their serious content. They do not actually present much new “data”, but rather, they take many different studies and synthesize them into a coherent image that is applicable to real life. Such books, which I have recently read are: The Inginuity Gap, The Tipping Point, Collapse, The White Man’s Buden, and The Weather Makers.

They have very broad relevence to society and science. Below is a brief email I sent to the author of Malcolm Gladwell, if you are familiar with the topic. Tell me what you think.

Malcolm Gladwell,

I have just read your book The Tipping Point, and found it quite interesting. What came to mind when reading the section about the Salesmen, Maven and Connectors was the new website called Much like mySpace and other personal sites it displays peoples lists of friends and shows the different networks that they are part of. But what is of most interest is that some people may have upwards of 300 people listed as friends but have few wallposts, which are comments that are posted by users but are visible to the entire community. It has been said that you judge your love by the amount of people that love you, not the amount of people you love.

This brings me back to the point that as you discussed in your book, Connectors have a knack at making connections with people, but more than that they have knack at making connections that people remember. So some of these people who list 300 friends, but have 50 comments are unlikly to be connectors despite their apparent popularity; whereas someone with 150 friends, but 150 comments may in fact be much more connected. In other words, these people have deeper connections because it is other people who feel a need to contact that one person and not that one person to continuously stay in contact with all his 150 friends.

Another side note that I would have liked to see some case studies about is poverty. As far as I know there have not been any places where a Tipping Point has been reached regarding poverty. Many IMF and World Bank economists claim to be able to start a poor economy on the road to growth by injected an initial supply of capital, framing some key laws and regulations and then letting the country take care of itself. This has never worked despite claims to the contrary. Post WWII Japan took off because of western technology, but the ideas and laws regarding industry were largely home-grown. This failed idea of applying western thought to poor contries is well outlined in the book The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly. So do you think it is possible to apply the theory of the Tipping Point on a large society wide scale, particularly in a society to which you are not native to? Meaning, can you make a third world society sustainable by identifying the Tipping Points of that society with the help of locals and research and then applying your findings to the country as a whole? Just a few thoughts.

Hope your work continues well and that there are more interesting books and articles to come.


Jonathan Olivier BRUN

Published on June 26, 2006