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20221211 – Cascades

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MAIN IDEA:

This book explores unpredictable and seemingly spontaneous changes in complex networks. When some random event initiates a dramatic increase in the network’s activities to implement massive qualitative change, the results are various and unpredictable. Sometimes the change is successful, and the intended result occurs. Sometimes the change occurs but in a very different shape and form than intended. Finally, the most frequent occurrence: the activity slowly decreases, and the network returns to its original state. The author analyses how exactly it happens and looks at specific details of the processes that lead either to the change’s success or failure. The book reviews successes such as the Ukrainian maidan movement and failures such as Occupy movement. The author’s most crucial point is that the old world of hierarchies is going away, and the new world of networks is coming, and it will dominate the human future. In the afterword, the author even provides six steps plan for how to implement a significant qualitative change:

1. IDENTIFY A KEYSTONE CHANGE

2. MAKE A PLAN

3. BUILD A NETWORK OF SMALL GROUPS

4. INDOCTRINATE GENOMES OF VALUES

5. CREATE PLATFORMS FOR PARTICIPATION, MOBILIZATION, AND CONNECTION

6. SURVIVE VICTORY

CONTENT:

MY TAKE ON IT:

It is a lovely review of the process of mass changes in human societies. I would only notice that the novelty of the network’s role in the change is somewhat overstated. I think it is because the author, like many others in the contemporary world, takes the interconnectedness of modern networks for granted when everybody can easily connect to everybody else. Significant societal changes always occurred even when connections were very slow and the new ideas expanded over decades or centuries rather than days and hours. The key characteristics of the process did not change that much. Similarly, the struggle between networks and hierarchy is not something new.

In my opinion, the distribution of the control over resources among nodes of either network or hierarchy (human individuals) is much more important for the change process than interconnectedness. I would even suggest that one could come up with a formula for drastic change:

The change occurs when the share of distributed resources under the control of individuals unsatisfied with the status quo and capable of coordinating their effort is higher than the totality of resources under the control of supporters of this status quo. The enormous contemporary interconnectedness of the network mitigates the coordination of distributed resource applications. However, it is also essential that easy access to information about who supports what and how makes allegiances fluid, consequently speeding up the process of change.      

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