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Roads, Highways and Airlines
What the evolution of transportation can teach us about networks and history?
Someone sent to me today the following article: “Why Inequality is Efficient”
The physical and cultural constraints that gave rise to a normal income distribution are losing their power. The difference between highway and airline networks explains why
It takes an information from 2007 paper by Albert Lázló Barabási — highway connections are normally distributed while airlines are distributed in a power law — and expands the analysis to conclude that knowledge work will allow for the same power law distribution in income (vs. bell curve for industrial work).
You can read the full article for a more detailed explanation, but I would like to expand a bit more the analysis. Going back even further, imagine the transition from roads travelled primarily using animal workforce to highways.
Roads have historically developed in a decentralized way — culminating sometimes in large interconnected paths like the Silk Road (or more precisely, roads, because it was a network of roads rather than a single one).
Meanwhile, highways were generally planned by single centralized entities like governments. So in a sense airlines are more similar to ancient roads than highways.
That realization of the cyclicality of history is not uncommon. The Helix model of history is one of my favorites: history is both cyclical and progressive. We go in circles but we advance.
See you tomorrow!