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How Long Will the Famous Be Remembered after Death?

How Long Will the Famous Be Remembered after Death?

How long can most famous people expect to be remembered after they die? Between five and 30 years. That's according to Cesar A. Hidalgo, director of the Collective Learning group at the MIT Media Lab. Hidalgo is among the premier data miners of the world’s collective history. With his MIT colleagues, he developed a dataset that ranks historical figures by popularity. So, for instance, who is the most famous tennis player of all time? Frenchman Rene Lacoste, born in 1904 (Roger Federer places 20th.).

Last month Hidalgo and colleagues published a paper that put his data-mining talents to work on another question: How do people and products drift out of the cultural picture? They traced the fade-out of songs, movies, sports stars, patents, and scientific publications. They drew on data from sources such as Billboard, Spotify, IMDB, Wikipedia, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the American Physical Society.

Hidalgo’s team then designed mathematical models to calculate the rate of decline of the songs, people, and scientific papers. They found that "The universal decay of collective memory and attention concludes that people and things are kept alive through ‘oral communication’ from about five to 30 years.”

Possible Preaching Angles: In other words, the Bible is very accurate when it says that we are dust and to dust we shall return and our lives are a mist. Our only hope is in the permanence of a new kind of life given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Matt Woodley, Editor, PreachingToday.com; Adapted from Kevin Berger, “How We'll Forget John Lennon,” Nautilus (1-10-19)

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