I was born into a world of intertwined, multi-layered, living networks, surrounding me from both within my body & mind as well as from the outside world. I’m now waking up from my sleep, as a vast network of neurons is firing wake-up signals to my body. I’m now pouring a glass of water from a grid transmitting liquid H2O, and boiling an egg using the grid of propane gas. The nutrients from breakfast are now travelling through the blood vascular network to my body cells. I’m turning the TV on and watching news, streamed through a network of cables and satellites. The news has just enriched the graph of synaptic connections that my brain contains. I’ll later share those connections with friends from my social network through the communication networks. I’m heading to work now, through a complex transportation network, driving on a network of roads, concrete bridges and steel rails. Finally, I’m at work. I’m plugging in my computer to the electrical grid, reading some messages from my network of colleagues, about databases for graphs and networks.
All these networks become denser every day, in an accelerating way. New technology enables us to create more pieces of information every second, in a wider variety of forms and connecting them in new ways, aided by automatic connection mining technology, such as Facebook friend suggestions. We have more social connections today than ever before, new roads are being constructed as the growing population size, and lifespan and urbanization bring the demand for denser supporting infrastructure grids. Existing grids constantly evolve and new kinds emerge. The Internet is the newest grid out there, but it’s definitely not the last one. Have you tried to speculate what the next global grid will be? Perhaps it will be a grid of raw elements supply, for the microwave-like nano-assembly machines that every household will have. These will be used to produce every possible kind of food from molecules. It seems like every newly introduced grid, eliminated just another reason for us to get out of homes.
There are also many types of non-physical networks. They are usually related to volatile relationships between objects and events, and have decaying geo-temporal characteristics. A few examples of such networks: The network of diseases that people transmit, the network of people who passed coins and the network of the biochemical interactions within the living cells. By analysing trends and patterns on such networks, one can try to infer and predict future network structure (e.g. progression of the swine flu spread).
All these networks never stop evolving. They expand as new nodes and connection are formed and contract as they disappear. Nodes clusters collapse & split, in a seemingly chaotic nature. In fact, studies of natural networks discovered that they have a surprisingly predictable growth patterns. Massive clusters of nodes tend to attract more connections to other nodes and form dense cliques; they act as “black holes” influencing nearby parts of the network, making the graph fold into itself as they become super-nodes. Every kind of network has a unique fingerprint of evolution forces.
It is fascinating to observe our inner and outer worlds, both physical and abstract, and discover new hidden networks, exposing more layers of connections that explain the extremely connected and dynamic nature of our universe.