Averting the Next Big Network Failure: The Theory of Networks

What a perfect article to get back into Graph theory! Everyone should check out this Wired article ASAP! It is awesome, and looking at the syllabus, is covering a lot of what we are going to be discussing in the coming weeks.

THe article starts off talking about  concepts from early in the semester, but they are applied in very complex ways that warrant some discussion. First and foremost, is the idea that we are a globalized world, and what that means is that instead of a plethora of components, Earth is now operating as a giant component. Everyone should know the definition of that, but basically that means that everything is connected to everything else, which is good! Right? Every person, town, and business is linked up to every other person, town, and business in some way or another. We want that, don’t we?

That depends. One perk of interconnectivity is definitely seen in terms of the availability of goods and services, and the ease that these G&S can travel across the Earth. However, this comes at a cost, and that is what this article discusses. What happens when a link breaks? What happens when a central node fails?

This Wired Article draws an analogy between the human body and the Earths giant network, saying that everything works with everything else, and if you break your hip, it could have catastrophic consequences in seemingly unrelated places. Similarly  our globalized network risks one broken link destroying the entire network. This domino, or cascade risk grows with the size of a network, meaning that the larger your network, the more risk of the domino effect ruining the entire network.
There are pros and cons to our interconnectivity, and they are now a part of our existence. All we can do is understand the threats present to this network and work to understand how to combat them.


One thought on “Averting the Next Big Network Failure: The Theory of Networks”

  1. When I read this article I think of risk/ reward….high risk = high reward and we do risk a lot with our giant network component. However the rewards are high – lots of options and services to choose from, people to engage with to do business etc. In the article, they mention how important the actual structure/ architecture of the network is. If there are controls set in place like the telecommunications ‘smart grid’ then system failure can be mitigated.

    I was at my aunt’s house over Spring break and she blew a fuse, however the lights only went out in one room instead of the whole house thankfully due to the way the circuits are wired. So, if there is a way which default strategies can be put in place in case of major failure then that would be good (Although I can’t say that I know how or what could actually be done).


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