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MeshForum, Cascades and The Inquisition

Have just found the useful blog MeshForum which is run by Jack Vinson and company.

One entry that caught my eye was on ways of defending networks against cascading failure. The failure they talk about is primarily physical networks, but it seems to have import for human networks, especially if you view heresy - or for that matter innovation - as an attack.

"Just as foresters can often halt a forest fire from burning out of control by deliberately setting firebreaks, it might be possible to reduce the size or spread of outages in a network in the wake of an attack or overload. The Internet and the electrical grid are just two such networks that might benefit from a new model devised by Adilson Motter of the Max Planck Institute ... in Dresden. Several previous network models have shown how an attack on key nodes of a system can cascade into a catastrophic failure. Motter's model shows how such a failure can be mitigated by shutting down selected peripheral nodes that handle only small amounts of the network's total load. Simulating attacks on networks showed that answering the original attack with several successive rounds of precautionary node shut-down drastically reduced the size of the overall cascade."
Last December, I posted about a New Scientist article on networks and heresy. The research indicated that the Catholic Church, from 1250 onwards, had used "scale-free" techniques to deal with the spread of heresy. And one of their early (but not completely successful) attempts to mitigate the cascade of heresy had to do with not the hubs, but the peripheral nodes.
The Dominican friar Bernard Gui, whose inquisitors' handbook is probably the best known, makes it plain that there is no point targeting an individual. All the effort should go into identifying the heretics who have visited the suspect in his or her home, as well as the guides who brought them there and escorted them away, he said. It is all about the network connections, not the nodes.
Anyway, off to put on my hair shirt and have a cup of tea ...


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