Friday, 26 June 2009

Modular organisation

Another useful quote from Linked, this time on modular organisation in complex networks, a particular focus of mine these days:

Hartwell and colleagues jumped into the middle of this debate by proposing that cells sustain a multitude of functions - i.e., multitask - thanks to a discrete modular organisation. According to this view, the network behind the cell is fragmented into groups of diverse molecules, or modules, each module being responsible for a different cellular function. As modules are connected via a few links to other modules, the network behind the cell is similar to Granovetter's circle of friends, where those within the same circle know each other well and communication with other circles is maintained by a few weak ties...Modularity is a defining feature of most complex systems. Indeed, departmentalisation allows large companies to create relatively secluded groups of employees who work together to solve specific tasks; the Web is fragmented into heavily interlinked communities of Webpages whose creators share common interests; modularity in our intellectual and professional interests allows Amazon to offer book recommendations inspired by the reading patters of people within a comparable intellectual module; a modular computer design allows us to replace the old bulky screen with a flat panel display without redesigning the whole computer. Yet, a modular architecture is at odds with everything we have learned so far about complex networks. Most networks, from the cell to the World Wide Web, are scale free, held together by a few hubs. By virtue of the many links hubs possess, they must be in contact with nodes from numerous modules. Therefore modules cannot be that isolated after all, resulting in a fundamental conflict between the known scale-free architecture and the modular hypothesis.

So the obvious question for me is how to model a modular architecture for da wissum, so it can do specialised tasks more effectively. Answers (with diagrams) on a postcard.


  1. Doris Lessing's Nobel acceptance speech:

    "We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers."