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Braess’ Paradox in Social Networks

Article: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/510801/braess-paradox-infects-social-networks-too-say-computer-scientists/

This article touches upon how the Braess paradox is often applied to traffic problems — with traffic planners recording many examples of this paradox in cities such as Seoul, Stuttgart, New York, and London. However, the Braess paradox seems to go beyond traffic problems. In this article, the author states that research has suggested that Braess’ Paradox affects social networks as well. According to a study on paradoxes in social networks with multiple products by Apt et al., removing available product choices from someone can eventually make the whole social network better off. Apt et al. introduced a natural game-theoretic framework in the form of social network games to better understand possible undesirable consequences of modifying the choices that are available to the agents within a social network. Apt et al. also found that an addition of a new product to a choice set can result in a permanent instability, in the sense that the sequence of triggered changes may fail to end. The article reveals that this study highlights an important effect on market dynamics. The implications of these research findings suggest that models can be created to inform product designers when to launch and remove products from the market in a way that improves the outcome for the market.

A concept we discussed in class is the Braess paradox and its application to traffic networks. Braess’ paradox states that “in some congestion games, an addition of a new strategy (road segment) can trigger a sequence of changes (an improvement path) that brings the players from the initial Nash equilibrium to a new one with worse travel time for each player” (Apt, Krzysztof R, et al., 2018). In class, we discussed how adding extra roads to a network, such as a “hyperloop”, can lead to greater congestion and a Nash equilibrium with worse travel time for each player. Braess’ paradox informs traffic planners when traffic flows are improved by closing specific roads. In a similar light, having more choices can lead to a lower payoff in social networks with multiple products to pick from; Braess’ Paradox can also lead to more informed decision-making regarding product launches and removals.

 

Citations:

Apt, Krzysztof R, et al. “Paradoxes in Social Networks with Multiple Products.” Cornell University Library, 15 Aug. 2018, arxiv.org/pdf/1301.7592.pdf.

 

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