Scale-free networking gives humans a competitive edge

June 17, 2015 by Victoria Hollick, University of Sydney
Professor Mahendra Piraveenan and Dharshana Kasthuriratne work has advanced knowledge of scale free networks

Humans arrange themselves into scale-free networks to give themselves a competitive edge according to research published this month in Nature's Scientific Reports. The work conducted by University of Sydney researchers expands on the work done by famous game theorist John Nash by considering the limitations to human logical thinking and modelling human societies as networks.

Dr Mahendra Piraveenan, senior author on the paper "Emergence of scale-free characteristics in socio-ecological systems with bounded rationality" says scientists have known for a decade that human interact in patterns, both online and offline resembling scale-free networks, but researchers are just now asking why and how.

"Understanding why scale-free networks evolved in human societies is important to understanding how to affect better processes at community level " says Dr Piraveenan a complex systems scholar.

Being arranged in scale-free networks has given societies a competitive advantage in situations like war, competition for food and other resources, or natural disasters, and the like.

It makes the society relatively more rational, and is so doing more robust and sustainable. This may be an explanation why so many scale-free structures are found in social systems," Piraveenan states.

"Scale-free networks include many "well-connected" nodes, hubs of connectivity that shape the way a network operates. The nodes within this network aren't necessarily random or evenly connected. But the ratio of well-connected nodes to the number of nodes in the rest of the network remains the same regardless, even if the network changes in size " he explains.

"Humans may have evolved into scale-free structures to provide more rational responses to emergencies such as infection epidemics or . When a society is structured as a scale-free network it responds more rationally to threats even when individuals in the society have not had time to gather information about a disease or disaster," Dr Piraveenan explains.

The paper 's co-authored by Ph.D. candidate Dharshana Kasthuriratne says scientists have discovered that networks of human interactions, whether in online forums such as Facebook or LinkedIn, or offline networks such as friends in a school, or a of people in a certain business show this 'scale-free' feature.

Piraveenan and Kasthuriratne 's study simulated the decision making process of communities of thousands of people inside large distributed computing systems, such as computing clusters.

" We applied 'evolutionary pressure ' to these initially random interaction networks, by rewarding participating communities if they showed higher systemic rationality, and the random interaction networks were allowed to re-wire while keeping the total number of links constant, " says Piraveenan.

"Results of the simulation showed scale-free networks emerging from initially random networks of people, Dharshana says.

"Scientists know that many real-world socio-ecological systems display the 'scale-free ' feature, and our work provides an explanation of why these networks are so prevalent."

"We believe that humans organise themselves into free-scale networks so they can interact more effectively.

It has been vital to our survival as a species. It is possible to argue that those which organise themselves into scale-free structures have had an advantage over the societies which did not," suggests Dharshana.

Explore further: Uncovering complex network structures in nature

More information: "Emergence of scale-free characteristics in socio-ecological systems with bounded rationality." Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 10448 DOI: 10.1038/srep10448

Related Stories

Uncovering complex network structures in nature

December 10, 2014

The global spread of Ebola is due to the complex interactions between individuals, societies, and transportation and trade networks. Understanding and building appropriate statistical and mathematical models of these interactions ...

Why natural networks are more stable than man-made networks

September 25, 2014

( —Interconnected natural networks, such as the ones formed by neurons in the brain, are known to be more stable and resilient to failure than networks created by humans, such as the Internet. Now, a group of international ...

Unraveling biological networks

March 5, 2012

A new approach to disentangling the complexities of biological networks, such as the way in which proteins interact in our body's cells has been developed by researchers in China. The team's algorithm could allow biologists ...

New paper focuses on degree centrality in networks

February 26, 2015

Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter play an increasingly central role in our lives. Centrality is also an important concept in the theory of social networks. Centrality of an individual, called a "node" ...

Scientists review worldwide rise of 'network of networks'

December 3, 2014

The interdisciplinary field of network science has attracted enormous attention in the past 10 years, although most results have been obtained by analyzing isolated networks. However many real-world networks interact with ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.