Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy
Clicking on the first link in the main text of a Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, will usually lead to the Philosophy article. As of February 2016, 97% of all articles in Wikipedia eventually lead to the article Philosophy. One major loop was found in the past: the knowledge article led to facts, facts to experience, experience back to knowledge. However, as of July 7, 2017, the facts article has been changed to link to verifiability, verifiability to verificationism, and verificationism to philosophy.
The remaining articles lead to an article without any outgoing wikilinks, to pages that do not exist, or get stuck in loops. This has gone up from 94.52% in 2011. The median link chain length to reach philosophy is 23. Notably, starting from the Philosophy article itself, it takes 6 steps to return to it as of 6:30 p.m. September 12, 2017 (EDT).
There have been some theories on this phenomenon, with the most prevalent being the tendency for Wikipedia pages to move up a "classification chain." According to this theory, the Wikipedia Manual of Style guidelines on how to write the lead section of an article recommend that the article should start by defining the topic of the article, so that the first link of each page will naturally take the reader into a broader subject, eventually ending in wide-reaching pages such as Mathematics (which as of 16 September, 2017 loops back to itself), Science, Language, and of course, Philosophy, nicknamed the "mother of all sciences".
Following the chain consists of:
- Clicking on the first non-parenthesized, non-italicized link
- Ignoring external links, links to the current page, or red links (links to non-existent pages)
- Stopping when reaching "Philosophy", a page with no links or a page that does not exist, or when a loop occurs
For example, from this page, you would go: Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy -> Point and click -> User (computing) -> Computer -> Computer programming -> Computing -> Mathematics -> Quantity -> Property -> tangible property -> real property -> England -> country -> political geography -> politics -> decisions -> decision making -> psychology -> behavior -> organisms -> biology -> natural science -> science -> knowledge -> facts -> verificationism -> Philosophy.
You can see mathematician Hannah Fry demonstrate the method in the 'Marmalade', 'socks' and 'One Direction' section of the 2016 BBC Documentary The Joy of Data. Incidentally, the Hannah Fry page was ten clicks away from Philosophy. However ironically it now never reaches Philosophy as it loops around Mathematics.
The phenomenon has been known since at least May 26, 2008, when an earlier version of this page was created by user Mark J. Two days later, it was mentioned in episode 50 of the podcast Wikipedia Weekly, which may have been the first public mention of it.
- web page that renders links graphically in a tree (detects loops and uses the second link to always complete the process)
- getting-to-philosophy (v. 2.1.0), a Node.js library that allows to query any Wikipedia page and get the different pages names that will get to "Philosophy" (also avoids loops and use the second link)
- YouTube video demonstrating this observation, which starts with random article and eventually end up in the article Philosophy
- Analysis showing that over 95% of Wikipedia articles get to Philosophy
- The alt-text of a Cartoon at xkcd notes this phenomenon (see tooltip)
- WikiLoopr a tool designed to find loops when following the first link in articles.
- "The Only Way Is Essex + Wikipedia = philosophy". The Guardian.
- Amy Lee (2011-11-14). "All Wikipedia Ends In Philosophy, Literally". The Huffington Post.
- Wikipedia Pages That Don't Lead to Philosophy an in-progress (unfinished) database of Wikipedia page loops that result in a page not leading to philosophy.