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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The First, Second, and Third Laws of Rumor

ImagesI know nothing about how well secrets get kept within the hallways and chambers and conference rooms of the Supreme Court as discussed in Ethan's post, but I'm fascinated because it's possible it constitutes an exception to Lipshaw's First, Second, and Third Laws of Rumor. (The picture at left represents how I think of myself as I announce these laws.)

I mentioned in a comment that I had heard an old Sicilian saying that if more than one person knows something, it's not a secret.  My recollection is that my friend Joe Andolino said that to me back in my corporate executive days.  It was during that conversation I first announced the First and Second Laws.   This is an important day, however, because as I have been writing this out, the Third Law has just occurred to me.

The First Law can be expressed mathematically as AP=KP4, where AP signifies the actual number of people who know the secret, and KPsignifies the fourth power of the people that you know know the secret.

The basis for the exponential aspect of the First Law is the Second Law, which says that no matter what commitments the learner of the secret has made to the discloser of the secret (in my world, these people are called the "tipper" and the "tippee") about not disclosing the secret to anyone else, the learner will in fact disclose the secret to at least one other person upon obtaining a commitment from that person that he or she will not disclose the secret.

Finally, the reason that the exponent is 4, and not much higher or infinite is the Third Law, which says that at a certain point in the operation of the Second Law, the learner just doesn't give a ****.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on June 21, 2012 at 03:31 PM | Permalink


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That is interesting, Adam, and perhaps suggests a Fourth Law, because I would think at some point, the KP number itself means it is no longer a secret. Something well less than 290 would qualify.

The highest KPs that I contemplated were about 25, which means that over 390,000 people actually knew, which seemed about right to me.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jun 21, 2012 4:52:38 PM

Another reason not to use an exponent above 4: At 4,once KP>290, AP will exceed the population of human beings on the planet.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Jun 21, 2012 4:45:26 PM

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