Wed, 30 Apr 2003 15:11:25 GMT

Scale Free Networks.

The May 2003 issue of Scientfic
American
has an article on

Scale Free Networks
.  The free information online doesn’t
do it justice.

This article explores such questions as what happens as new
actors come on board with respect to the
Six
Degrees of Kevin Bacon
game?
  Naïvely, one would
assume that eventually a seventh degree would be required. 
What happens in practice is that 
power
law
effects kick in.  Most new actors end up being
supporting actors in a movie with a popular actor, and in the
process the popular actor gets more popular.

What are the implications?  Pretty profound. 

For decades the presumption has been that radio spectrum is
scarse and that organizations like the FCC are required to regulate
them.  Recently this
has
been questioned
.  Perhaps adding stations increases
capacity.  Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but not impossible.

Now lets turn to the realm of people.  Clay Shirkey has
ruminated on the relationship between
Communities,
Audiences, and Scale
.  What he says seems reasonable, but
the question remains:

What if Clay Shirkey is wrong?

[Sam Ruby]

This is a discussion that will only be answered by living through it. It may well be that Clay’s argument is absolutely right – humans cannot deal with a densely connected network due to natural constraints (we evolved to deal with no more than 150 connections). But can we develop tools to overcome this or will we develop communities that act like a pseudo-connected network? (fewer connections but enough to balance our limitations with the potential for information flow that comes from networks). By being 3-4 links from everyone rather than 1-2? Humans are nothing if not adaptable. Perhaps we will find some way to get around the 150 barrier or make the densely connected network appear to be no more than 150 people to our feeble brains?