Machine learning dismantling and early-warning signals of disintegration in complex systems


From physics to engineering, biology and social science, natural and artificial systems are characterized by interconnected topologies whose features – e.g., heterogeneous connectivity, mesoscale organization, hierarchy – affect their robustness to external perturbations, such as targeted attacks to their units. Identifying the minimal set of units to attack to disintegrate a complex network, i.e. network dismantling, is a computationally challenging (NP-hard) problem which is usually attacked with heuristics. Here, we show that a machine trained to dismantle relatively small systems is able to identify higher-order topological patterns, allowing to disintegrate large-scale social, infrastructural and technological networks more efficiently than human-based heuristics. Remarkably, the machine assesses the probability that next attacks will disintegrate the system, providing a quantitative method to quantify systemic risk and detect early-warning signals of system’s collapse. This demonstrates that machine-assisted analysis can be effectively used for policy and decision-making to better quantify the fragility of complex systems and their response to shocks.

Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 5190 (2021)
Marco Grassia
Marco Grassia
Assistant Professor · Network Science and Machine Learning

Assistant Professor. Researching Network Science and Geometric Deep Learning. University of Catania, Italy