Interacting distribution networks

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CSSS Santa Fe 2009


Big questions:

  • Does the presence of competitors change the stable profitable strategies?
  • Is the competitive (system) solution more costly than the monopolistic solution? Whose interests are optimized in each solution?



Original Discussion

I'm interested in thinking about evolving, interacting (re)distribution networks. Many large-scale aggregate networks are actually composed of several essentially independent subnetworks (e.g. individual airline carriers, local utility distribution companies), each of which takes into account the other agents' actions. While there may be interesting structure in the aggregate view, we know that the system followed an evolutionary path affected by interactions and should expect evidence of that process in the network structure. In other words: let's think of an agent-based model where each agent is a subnetwork maximizing some objective in a shared environment with constrained resources. I know there is some work on creating networks using games, but the agents are typically single nodes - see On a network creation game

There may be some reasonable biological applications (for example, competing fungal hyphae networks; there was a recent work which modeled individual fungal growth - see Biological solutions to transport network design, possibly root structures, functional neural modules?) or social applications (competing idea networks). At the moment I'd love to think about anything other than airline networks.

There are many directions to take this depending on the system in question. Off the top of my head:

  • Under what conditions (i.e. which games) can competing entities coexist? In this case, do they all form similar network structures, or do different structures allow them to occupy noncompeting niches?
  • How does the game structure affect equilibrium network structure?
  • Apparently certain environments support different size networks (small-scale regional carriers, large-scale national/international carriers) - is this realizable with an identical objective function for all agents?

I know basically nothing about game theory, and I'd love to take this in a biological direction. I'm also happy to go off in another direction if this inspires a tangential idea. Daniel Wuellner

Caroline Farrior This sounds pretty cool. I don't know much about networks, or airlines, but I do know about evolutionary game theory.

Randy Haas I'd like to talk some more with ya'll about this. It sounds relevant to a problem I'm interested in, which involves the emergence of settlement hierarchies in 'prisitine' state societies. I'm playing with the idea that such hierarchies are a redistribution solution to optimal resource allocation. Do you see a connection with Christaller's Central Place Theory? It's an oldy, but it seems relevant that a cited critique of the theory is its inability to capture dynamic process.

David Brooks I have some experience in the analysis and specification of multi-modal and multi-step transportation systems and would like to discuss your intended direction and methods.