Clustered Networks

Jan 2014


“When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want.”

– Steve Jobs


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark


When we meet someone, we shake hands as a form of greeting. Why do we do that? Is there something in shaking a hand that denotes communication or is it something we developed. If a person lived for years in a cave and when we finally met that person. Would we shake their hand? Probably not. We would just assume they wouldn’t know that’s how we great each other. So we don’t do it instinctually, we do it as an accepted medium of exchange of all of the people within a network, as a scaffolding for how we greet each other.

What is a network? It is a group of people which forms what we would call today a society. And they too evolve. So society is a less a stringent and formidable structure but more a fluid body of accepted thoughts and opinions. You can see it very clearly by witnessing the declining role of religion in day to day life. Religion was once the guiding force of how one was meant to live.

Building miniature networks is what we use to derive value for ourselves. Nationalism, patriotism all stems from the notion of a small network. It’s how we identify with others, by highlighting similarities and derive a sense of belonging. So you’re never truly free because everything you are is derived from other people. So what is a society? It is the aggregate of the views of all of the nodes in the network. Each person is a node. As new nodes are created, the current nodes draw connections to it.

A node cannot survive contact with a new node without changing in some small way. Every time you meet a new person or read something, in a small way you have been influenced. But there are some things that are instinctual. Babies react positivel to smiling. Nobody really knows why. They are reacting to the positive stimuli of a human face. So in built is the ability to recognise faces and respond to them appropriately.

The new nodes are then indoctrinated into the ways of the old ones and subtly influence each other. Everyone within this network is aware of this because they are made compliant by everyone else within the network. If you tried to greet someone by touching their face, it would seem kind of weird. But your intention behind the gesture of greeting may be the same.

A tipping point is reached when some new idea travels through each of the nodes within the network. It becomes the new standard. How does this network develop? I have a feeling it is instinctual and the habits are rote learned. The method is based in human nature. But in changing a network is the proof that human nature is inherently reshapeable. It can take the form of whatever the prevailing ideas of the time. It’s how both good and evil things typically become the norm, because it becomes accepted practice.

Racism, sexism, was just accepted as part of a society until sufficient quantities of new nodes emerged to rebalance the status quo. Similarly new technologies don’t catch on until sufficient numbers of evangelists and users emerge to support it. I can’t help but draw an analogy to politics. The side that wins, whose policies become the law, is the one which receives the most votes by the most number of people.

So for changes to occur, it is spreading an ideal through a network. The interconnecting nodes forms a current by which ideals, like electricity travel through, on the interconnected parts. If two nodes aren’t connected, perhaps by geography, the harder it is for any current to affect them and the less they will be influenced by one another.

It’s why as technology destroys geographical boundaries and the entire world in a sense becomes more connected, all societies will begin to mirror each other in their values and beliefs. They will each have their nuances but in the aggregate will function in a similar manner.

Language works the same way. The language of the internet is English and eventually, you will see English become the dominant language. And the society of the internet will pervade society in the real world. It’s why a lot of interaction these days is starting to seem superficial, distracted and at arms length, because it was a practice of socialising that developed in front of a computer monitor. It becomes compressed by the pressure of the interconnectedness of the network into a sets of universal behaviours. Within these universal behaviour is eccentricity and individuality but it occurs withing a set of societal boundaries.

It can seem overwhelming, that nothing then is truly original and everyone is a smudged together version of countless others. But that’s true. All knowledge is put together by other people, so to know anything is benefiting from the influence of a number of other people and the network at large. Every group of people from all cultures clusters in some form of network.

It’s why whenever you enter a new environment like a new job or school. The first thing that happens is it orders itself into some kind of social hierarchy. People often find it hard to function without knowing their place in the broader scheme of things.