Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Normative Network

How can a dispersed lattice of self-sufficient nodes ever produce enough self-regulation to facilitate complex interaction? Doesn't that require hierarchy to impose rules in a top-down manner? Not so much. Here's a paper written by rather precocious high school student Alexander Franks on the matter: "Understanding Evolved Strategies for System-Wide Coordination in Noisy Environments."

He provides a more rigorous, experiment-validated approach to my concept that a rhizome economy can be coordinated without hierarchy through the use of "small-worlds" networks (see A Theory of Power, Chapter 9). Importantly, he points out that the development of coordinated solutions in small-worlds networks may parallel biological evolution in the sense that the system cannot directly solve high-order problems, but must instead gradually increase the difficulty of the problems it solves. So just as multi-cellular organisms did not directly emerge, but rather followed from a gradual complexification of evolving organisms, so perhaps must the rhizome economy begin with less resiliency in the face of systemic shock and gradually develop the complex interconnectedness necessary to withstand environmental problems, defend itself against predators, and succeed in complex economic interactions?

In Franks' experiments, the normative rule (in his case, to push binary digits to 1 rather than 0) was arbitrarily applied. How will such normative processes develop that push diverse nodes to adapt the best-practices of their neighbors? In the case of developing a rhizome economy, the ingrained desire to live a life more compatible with our ontogeny will lead to the adoption of neighboring practices that promise to move our lives closer to that ideal.

Thanks to John Robb for bringing this paper to my attention--see his blog for some thoughts on this concept as applied to open-source warfare.

No comments: