September 23, 2005

"National Infrastructures as Complex Interactive Networks"

We are watching cascading failures of crucial infrastructures as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These failures result from predictable, recurring natural events impacting population centers developed on low-lying ground in known hurricane zones. More attention to study of complex interactive network science may help in preventing future disasterous failures of human response, as long as we can get our policy makers to listen to science.

Massoud Amin of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) introduces his chapter 4 to his book Automation, Control, and Complexity: New Developments and Directions (1999), on "National Infrastructures as Complex Interactive Networks" as follows:

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"The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of energy, telecommunications, transportation, and financial infrastructures pose new challenges for secure, reliable management and operation. No single entity has complete control of these multi-scale, distributed, highly interactive networks, or the ability to evaluate, monitor, and manage in real time. In addition, the conventional mathematical methodologies that underpin today's modeling, simulation, and control paradigm are unable to handle their complexity and interconnectedness. Complex interactive networks are omnipresent and critical to economic and social well-being. Many of our nation’s critical infrastructures are complex networked systems, including:
· Electric power grid
· Oil and gas pipelines
· Telecommunication and satellite systems
· Computer networks such as the Internet
· Transportation networks
· Banking and finance
· State and local services: Water supply and emergency services.

Interactions between networks such as these increase the complexity of operations and control. The networks’ interconnected nature makes them vulnerable to cascading failures with widespread consequences. Secure and reliable operation of these systems is fundamental to our economy, security and quality of life, as was noted in the “Critical Foundations- Protecting America’s Infrastructures”, by the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection Report published in October 1997 and the subsequent Presidential Directive 63 on Critical Infrastructure protection, issued on May 22, 1998."

From the conclusion of this chapter:

"The EPRI/DoD Complex Interactive Networks/Systems Initiative, which began in mid 1999, is leading toward a concept of controls that are “self-healing” in the sense that they make the system automatically reconfigurable in the event of material failures, threats or other destabilizing disturbances. In light of this work, the question is raised as to whether there is a unifying paradigm for modeling the simulation and optimization of time-critical operations (both financial transactions and actual physical control) in any multi-scale, multicomponent and distributed system. These are the characteristics of any industry made up of many, geographically dispersed components that can exhibit rapid global change as a result of local actions."

Automation, Control, and Complexity: New Developments and Directions, Samad & Weyrauch (Eds.), John Wiley and Sons, 1999 Chapter 4 (PDF)

Posted by dougsimpson at September 23, 2005 04:26 PM