Of crowds – their madness, wisdom and amplifying feedback effects; Dirk Helbing #brainiac #complexity #crowddisasters

Ach, Gustave. And the more recent guy, with better politics. Now, this from the awesome journal Nature which, (along with the Financial Times and Viz) makes me significantly less stupid than I otherwise would be.

In the 2nd May 2013 there is a “Perspective” piece called “Globally networked risks and how to respond”

“Crowd disasters constitute an eye-opening example of the eventual failure of control in a complex system. Even if nobody wants to harm anybody else, people may be fatally injured. A detailed analysis reveals amplifying feedback effects that cause a systemic instability. The interaction strength increases with crowd density, as people come closer together. When the density becomes too high, inadvertent contact forces are transferred from one body to another and add up. The resulting forces vary significantly in direction and size, pushing people around, and creating a phenomenon called “crowd quake.” Turbulent waves cause people to stumble and others fall over them in an often fatal domino effect. If people do not manage to get back on their feet quickly enough, they are likely to suffocate. In many cases, the instability is created not by foolish or malicious individual actions, but by the unavoidable amplification of small fluctuations above a critical density threshold. Consequently, crowd disasters cannot simply be evaded by policing, aimed at imposing “better behaviour.” Some kinds of crowd control might even worsen the situation….

Managing complexity using self-organization.
“When systems reach a certain size or level of complexity, algorithmic constraints often prohibit efficient top-down management by real-time optimization. However, “guided self-organisation” is a promising alternative way of managing complex dynamical systems, in a decentralized, bottom-up way. The underlying idea is to use, rather than fight, the system-immanent tendency of complex systems to self-organize and thereby create a stable, ordered state. For this, it is important to have the right kinds of interactions, adaptive feedback mechanisms,, and institutional settings. By establishing proper “rules of the game”, within which the system components can self-organize, including mechanisms ensuring rule compliance, top-down and bottom-up principles can be combined and inefficient micro-management can be avoided. To overcome suboptimal solutions and systemic instabilities, the interaction rules or institutional settings may have to be modified. Symmetrical interactions, for example, can often promote a well-balanced situation and an evolution to the optimal system state.”

by Dirk Helbing. Who he? He’s one of them European brainiacs.
“Dirk Helbing has worked as Managing Director of the Institute for Transport & Economics at TU Dresden and is now Professor of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation at ETH Zurich. Having studied physics and mathematics, he investigates complex social, economic, and transport systems with methods from statistical physics, individual-based models, and behavioral experiments. Helbing is well-known for the social force model, in particular its application to self-organization phenomena in pedestrian crowds. Besides the slower-is-faster effect, he introduced the freezing-by-heating effect and the phase diagram of congested traffic states. Recent work applies principles of collective intelligence and dynamics to the optimization of freeway and urban traffic flows. In game theory, Helbing proposed a microscopic foundation of evolutionary game theory and studied self-organized behavioral conventions early on. His current work develops socio-inspired technologies and investigates the role of success-driven motion for the establishment of cooperation among selfish individuals.”

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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