One hundred and fifty – 01/15/2022 – Antonio Prata

Ilan Kow introduced me to Alan Alda’s podcast, Alan Alda introduced me to Robin Dunbar’s studies, Robin Dunbar didn’t introduce me to anyone – but he said very interesting things in the interview.

Ilan was my editor at Estadão. Alan was the protagonist of MASH Ilan is my friend. Alan, unfortunately, does not. Robin Dunbar, British anthropologist, psychologist and primatologist, is not my friend, nor Ilan’s, nor Alan’s, but on the other hand, he discovered and baptized the “Dunbar Number”. One hundred and fifty is, on average, the number of people with whom a human being can establish meaningful relationships, simultaneously.

Not just a human being. Close to 150 is the maximum number in any primate herd. After that, it splits in two. When we were hunters and gatherers, 150 was the average of individuals in each group. Facebook did a survey of 60 million users and found that while some profiles have hundreds of “friends”, the ones that really matter are, tchananam: 150.

According to Dunbar, in a village with up to 150 residents, everyone knows each other and personal relationships function as institutions. You avoid picking up the lady sitting on the haystack not because of a moral imperative, but because the lady sitting on the haystack is Dona Magali, daughter of Elcinho Bola Sete, who played triangle in Uncle Olavo’s salsa band – that God has. It went from 150, it became a mess: police, judge, lighthouse, turnstile, VIP bracelet and other Foucauldian baubles enter.

Robin Dunbar cites studies: People with many significant ties get sick less and live longer. Playing a triangle on Tio Olavo’s salsa band causes Elcinho Bola Sete’s brain to release dopamine, which helps strengthen the immune system. Can you imagine how many months of life doesn’t guarantee a collective hug in a Corinthians goal?

Among the 150, each individual has an intimate relationship with just five people. During the pandemic, by leaps and bounds, we managed to stay close to these five. Of the other 145, no. My greatest joys in this reopening (momentarily paused by the omicron pubic hair, but soon resumed, inexorably and definitively) have been seeing these 145.

The other day I visited my friend Flávia. Who opened the door was her husband, Luiz. We know each other little. For me, he is my friend’s husband. For him, I am the woman’s friend. But it was to catch my eye to feel my leukocytes pumping and understand that the same was happening in the immune system ahead. It made me want to hug and jump screaming “aha, urrú, 150 is ours!”.

Since he retired 20 years ago, Ilan’s father has seen his five friends twice a day. In the morning, they had coffee at the bakery on the corner. same table. Same places. Late afternoon, they had coffee in a pastry shop in the mall. same table. Same places. Last year, the bakery was renovated and they put a turnstile right where Ilan’s father’s gang sat. They didn’t consult the guys or warn them. People arrived for coffee and the program was dead.

In a good flock of, say, 130 capuchin monkeys, I doubt that would happen. The first one to arrive with the ratchet was given a thrashing of poop and given up on stupidity. It’s kind of gross, but let’s face it, it’s wise.

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