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Which clippings match 'Biological Systems' keyword pg.1 of 1
25 FEBRUARY 2016

Universal resilience patterns in complex networks

"Resilience, a system's ability to adjust its activity to retain its basic functionality when errors, failures and environmental changes occur, is a defining property of many complex systems. Despite widespread consequences for human health, the economy and the environment, events leading to loss of resilience—from cascading failures in technological systems to mass extinctions in ecological networks—are rarely predictable and are often irreversible. These limitations are rooted in a theoretical gap: the current analytical framework of resilience is designed to treat low-dimensional models with a few interacting components, and is unsuitable for multi-dimensional systems consisting of a large number of components that interact through a complex network. Here we bridge this theoretical gap by developing a set of analytical tools with which to identify the natural control and state parameters of a multi-dimensional complex system, helping us derive effective one-dimensional dynamics that accurately predict the system's resilience. The proposed analytical framework allows us systematically to separate the roles of the system's dynamics and topology, collapsing the behaviour of different networks onto a single universal resilience function. The analytical results unveil the network characteristics that can enhance or diminish resilience, offering ways to prevent the collapse of ecological, biological or economic systems, and guiding the design of technological systems resilient to both internal failures and environmental changes."

(Jianxi Gao, Baruch Barzel & Albert-László Barabási, 17 February 2016, Nature)

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TAGS

2016Albert-Laszlo Barabasi • Baruch Barzel • biological systems • cascading failure • Cognitive Visualization Lab • complex networkscomplex systems • critical phenomena • data visualisationdroughtecological balance • ecological networks • ecological sustainability • ecological systems • ecosystemenvironmental changeenvironmental statisticsextinctionglobal issuesIBM • IBM Watson • interrelationships • irreversible change • Jianxi Gao • loss of resilience • Mauro Martino • multidimensional systems • network dynamics • network earth • network ecologynetwork model • network relationships • networked interaction • nonlinear phenomena • Northeastern University • one-dimensional dynamics • phase transitions • resiliencespeciationsustainability • system collapse • technological systems • universal resilience function • universal resilience patterns • visual explanations • visual representation graphicallyvisual representations of scientific conceptsvisualising data • wildfire

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 FEBRUARY 2015

The Creepy Collective Behavior of Boston Dynamics' New Robot Dog

"Robotics company Boston Dynamics has a new four–legged addition to its family: a 160–pound quadruped named Spot...

We know from Spot's reaction to that kick that he can dynamically correct his stability–behavior that's modeled after biological systems. From what Couzin can tell, the robots' collective movement is an organic outgrowth of that self–correction. When the two Spots collide at the 1:25 mark, they're both able to recover quickly from the nudge and continue on their route up the hill. 'But the collision does result in them tending to align with one another (since each pushes against the other),' Couzin wrote in an email. 'That can be an important factor: Simple collisions among individuals can result in collective motion.'

In Couzin's research on locusts, for example, the insects form plagues that move together by just barely avoiding collisions. 'Recently, avoidance has also been shown to allow the humble fruit fly to make effective collective decisions,' he wrote.

It doesn't look like Spot is programmed to work with his twin brothers and sisters–but that doesn't matter if their coordination emerges naturally from the physical rules that govern each individual robot. Clearly, bumping into each other isn't the safest or most efficient way to get your robot army to march in lock step, but it's a good start. And it's relatively easy to imagine several Spots working together in organized ways if the LIDAR sensors fitted on their 'heads' were programmed to create avoidance behaviors–like those locusts–rather than simply reacting to collisions.

Spot's life–like motions are uncanny, but when you add this emergent, collective behavior–which can sometimes be unpredictable–the possibilities get downright scary. Will Spot's group dynamics stop at the point of swarming like locusts? (Ominous.) Will they cluster into self–protecting balls like sardines? (Less so.) Or could they end up as smart and responsive as humans?

Couzin goes so far as to call this bump–and–grind between Spots One and Two a social interaction. 'No matter how primitive, there's no doubt that these interactions could enhance the decision–making capabilities of such robots when they must make their own, autonomous, decisions in an uncertain world,' he wrote. We'll just have to hope that decision–making involves not trampling us when a pack of Spots starts stampeding like wildebeest."

(Neel V. Patel, 11 February 2015 Wired News)

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TAGS

2015animal locomotionartificial lifeautomataautonomous creature • avoidance behaviour • biological systems • Boston Dynamics • bumping • collective animal behavior • collective behaviour • collective decisions • collective motion • collective movement • collision detection • decision-making capabilitiesdogfruit flyherd • Iain Couzin • LIDARlocomotionmechanical being • nudge • physical rules • quadruped • robot army • robot dog • robot machinesrobotic creaturerobotics • self-correction • social interactionspeculative engineering • Spot (robot) • stabilityswarming • swarming locusts • walkingWired (magazine) • Wired News

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 SEPTEMBER 2014

Paul Pangaro: What is cybernetics?

"Cybernetics as a process operating in nature has been around for a long time ... as a concept in society has been around at least since Plato used it to refer to government.

In modern times, the term became widespread because Norbert Wiener wrote a book called 'Cybernetics' in 1948. His sub–title was 'control and communication in the animal and machine'. This was important because it connects control (a.k.a., actions taken in hope of achieving goals) with communication (a.k.a., connection and information flow between the actor and the environment). So, Wiener is pointing out that effective action requires communication.

Wiener's sub–title also states that both animals (biological systems) and machines (non–biological or 'artificial' systems) can operate according to cybernetic principles. This was an explicit recognition that both living and non–living systems can have purpose. A scary idea in 1948."

(Paul Pangaro)

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TAGS

1948 • achieving goals • animal and machine • biological systems • complex human goals • control and communication • cybernetic principles • cybernetics • effective action • goal-directed systems • goals • Heinz von Foerster • human perception • living systems • man machine • navigator • non-biological artificial systems • non-biological systems • non-living systems • Norbert Wiener • Paul Pangaro • Plato • steering • systems that embody goals • taking action

CONTRIBUTOR

Liam Birtles
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