Infrastructure is an increasingly popular term these days. Whether we are talking about our failing infrastructures because of the current economic crisis, or we are worrying about targeted infrastructure when discussing cyber-war and terror attacks. All advanced societies depend on infrastructure, and the more advanced the society, the higher that dependency — and the consequences of failure.
Network thinkers know that resiliency requires redundancy — we need alternative choices when we encounter failures. Some redundancy is a good thing — just not too much! Nature uses redundancy in living systems to help them adapt to change. Most client networks we examine, that are effective at getting things done, have a reasonable amount of redundancy in the paths available throughout the structure.
The secret to resiliency are alternative paths in the network. But, how do we know where to put the alternative paths? We can use network analysis to determine our easy points of failure. Other factors, such as geography, can help determine the most easily attacked nodes/links. Although we can not plan for all possible attacks, or natural breakdowns, we can build some alternatives into our systems to make them more robust. We want systems that degrade gradually after an attack, not brittle systems that fall apart after a few intelligently focused hits.
In a world of increasingly interconnected and interdependent systems and networks, we must learn to build these structures in new ways, that not only focus on efficiency, but also on robustness, recovery and the “ability to bounce back” as Andrew Zolli says.
Where would you add new links to make the network above more resilient? Remember, the nodes are not people, but transfer points for whatever is flowing through this infrastructure (gas, oil, electricity, water, etc). (Put your answers in the Comments)