We've long suspected that we live in a small world, where everything is connected to everything else. Indeed, networks are pervasive--from the human brain to the Internet to the economy to our group of friends. These linkages, it turns out, aren't random. All networks, to the great surprise of scientists, have an underlying order and follow simple laws. Understanding the structure and behavior of these networks will help us do some amazing things, from designing the optimal organization of a firm to stopping a disease outbreak before it spreads catastrophically. In Linked, Barabási, a physicist whose work has revolutionized the study of networks, traces the development of this rapidly unfolding science and introduces us to the scientists carrying out this pioneering work. These "new cartographers" are mapping networks in a wide range of scientific disciplines, proving that social networks, corporations, and cells are more similar than they are different, and providing important new insights into the interconnected world around us. This knowledge, says Barabási, can shed light on the robustness of the Internet, the spread of fads and viruses, even the future of democracy.
The book lays out this theoretical framework very well, and it does seem accurate. The most interesting thing about the book to me, though, was its discussion of some of the implications of this. The existence of hubs means that the connectivity of a network is inordinately maintained by certain nodes and that means that those nodes are critical if you want to either protect or destroy the network. This means, for example, that some banks could be "too big to fail," because if their connectivity were lost the entire system would go out. Even more problematic, I thought, was Barbasi's discussion of the AIDS virus - HIV spreads through a network of sexual connectivity that follows this network pattern. To stop the spread of the disease you would want to interrupt this network. If there is limited treatment available (as there is in many parts of Africa, for example) network theory requires that the most promiscuous nodes have priority for treatment. Logical, but ethically weird to me.
Anyway, overall this was a very good book. It explained its topic well and gave me plenty to think about. Four stars.
I love reading about accessible abstract ways of interpreting all sorts of phenomena.
It was interesting to read about he topology of networks for a while, but when he started talking about the revolution these things will make to science (actually, he mentiones areas specifically), well, then I felt that this reminds me a hype. Of course, I cannot judge it, but he didn't convince me.
E.g. he starts talking about September the 11th, terrorists networks, coming to the conclusion - without using practically any knowledge of networks - that the only way of stopping terrorists is to cease the causes, so that noone wants to join a terrorists network. Yes, that would really be a revolution.
The finding is that if you have a dense network, picking a network node at random and eliminating it will not bring down the network… even if you do so for something like 80% of the network. But removing just 15-20% of the network hubs will cause the whole thing to come crashing down.
My only concern is whether his papers are so well written and whether other books like this can be easily found in research areas that interest me like quantum interactions, doking, and so on.
It would have been really difficult to read from scratch a paper from this Albertq, without all this interesting introductions.
Now i am going to check the current status of his research and start to think how my research could benefit from his insights.