Thursday, June 03, 2004

A friend of mine told me that he "didn't get networks". He being brilliant, I had to think about that a little bit. The concepts of "network science" are not that complicated; and rather intuitive. So I took his question to really be "why the fuss?"

So. Why the fuss? Why bother?

One answer is that "network science" provides some useful, even important and powerful analytical tools for understanding how the world works. Pulling the thread, some more, well -- so what?

One of the things that attracted me to networks and especially network science, since network science brings some structured thinking and insight into the "network form", was that it explained a lot about what makes for a successful organization in the age of electronics. The insights are generally applicable to any organization, but my interest mainly being in how society changes, in social and political revolution, and the role of organizations in that process, especially how those insights apply to political or revolutionary organizations.

So the bother now assumes not just a general interest in the world, nature, history, society, the Internet, Qabalah, baseball or any other arbitrary starting point of investigation, where network science (or dialectics for that matter) might be helpful; but now a couple more steps -- that profound social change is necessary and inevitable, and that organizations will play some role in that process. In which case, network science suggests to contemporary organizations how to maximize the distributed intelligence of the organization; how to be robust; how to comprehend weaknesses and address them; how to grow -- i.e., how to be organized to succeed -- how to master the network form.

And then beyond that, organizations operate on the basis of some fundamental philosophical outlook -- the world can change or it can't; change is gradual and evolutionary or change is a mixture of the slow and tedious and the abrupt and dramatic; great people make history or history makes great people; etc. etc. Oftentimes, of course, such things are not discussed or even articulated by organizations. But the outlook is there, and here also network science has important contributions to make.

So now the chain of interest is extended further, and if one is thinking about the philosophical foundation of revolutionary political organizations. So here, again, network science has important, even critical contributions to make.


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