Local links run the world

BOOK REVIEW

Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior, Author: Deborah M Gordon.

By Deborah M Gordon – We live enmeshed in networks. The internet, a society, a body, an ant colony, a tumor: they are all networks of interactions, among people, ants or cells – aggregates of nodes or locations linked by some relation. The power of networks is in their local connections. All networks grow, shrink, merge or split, link by link. How they function and change depends on what forms, or disrupts, the connections between nodes.

The internet dominates our lives, not because it is huge, but because each of us can make so many local links. Its size is the result, not the cause, of its impact on our communication.

A tacit recognition of the power of a well-connected network underlies a widespread fear of ants. What is scary about ants on the kitchen counter? A moment’s reflection should reassure anyone that they are indeed much bigger and stronger than even hundreds of ants. What is alarming is the sense that the ants are all connected and working together.

But ants function using networks of interactions, not as they do in horror movies, urged on to attack by malevolent leaders. Their effectiveness is not due to powerful individuals who are situated to influence the behavior of others. more>

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