Hiding in The Network


Members of an extensive network, whether digital, corporate or social, benefit from an ability to duck within the network’s complexity and dodge personal responsibility. When functioning in such networks the dependence on the system as a whole creates an excuse wherein the individual can point to other components as explanation for an error. A motor vehicle is a useful analogy here: imagine a magical vehicle driven entirely by mechanical components. When this vehicle smashes into a tree can one accurately pin point the source of error? Do not all members of a system bear responsibility for the failure? Surely applying all blame on brake pads that failed to engage fast enough is an inaccurate assessment of the situation.

Beyond this ability to avoid individual responsibility, we see a dispersal of punishment to the entire system that leads to minimal punishment at the individual level. In essence, the larger the network the smaller the personal risks associated with systemic failure. One can not only deny personal responsibility for the error but also avoid the painful punishment when the system fails. When a large company fails the individual employee exits to join a new network. A lethal connection to failure cannot exist when the system as a whole is disconnected from the individual.

The British cell-phone hacking controversy is an example of these “network benefits.” Even authority figures are able to duck into a network and blame others within a network for failure. Even the head of a company, the sole leader and historical beacon of the company’s development and success possesses the cushion of “not knowing” those who failed. As the network expands personal connections disappear and responsibility is dispersed throughout the network. If individual responsibility disperses as a network expands does the network become a Trojan Horse? At what point does a network expand to a level where the individuals are not responsible for the actions and failure of the network?

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