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Network Dynamics and Evolution


Humans are constantly influenced by the opinions and actions of others, which results in popular trends and the rapid spread of ideas. In fact, behavior permeates all kinds of networks, and it influences a variety of species. Although we may not realize it, evolution is very similar to the spread of behavior. When we analyze a certain type of behavior spreading through a network, it is often easiest to analyze it as people purchasing one good or another. People can easily be influenced by what other people do because the actions of others will directly affect their personal payoff in the situation; the payoff could be monetary or something that is not as tangible. Evolution works in the same way; there are multiple types of behavior or physical characteristics that animals possess in a network, and by adapting to one type instead of the other, they are increasing their potential payoff, and in the case of evolution, the payoff is an increased chance of survival.


Researchers have started to uncover the fact that female African elephants are beginning to become tuskless. Unfortunately, elephant poachers are greedy for the ivory tusks that elephants proudly display, and in order to get the tusks, poachers are harming and killing elephants. However, if elephants do not have tusks, then they do not offer much value for the poachers. We can analyze this situation as if it is a network that consists of two different behaviors, one type is the elephants, and the other is the poachers. When there is an abundance of poachers in the network, the elephants will be influenced by the behavior of those around them, and they will adapt to not have tusks, so poachers will not harm them. If they are not being harmed, then their payoff is an increased chance of survival. When the elephants are mainly surrounded by other elephants, they do not have to change their behavior and lose their tusks because in that network, they have a better chance of survival with their tusks. Although this network may seem different from a network that consists of humans being influenced by the use of goods by others around them, they have the same fundamental structure.



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November 2018