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Artificial Life

Fall 2005, Vol. 11, No. 4, Pages 407-426
(doi: 10.1162/106454605774270642)
© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Self-Organizing Hierarchies in Sensor and Communication Networks
Article PDF (4.25 MB)

We consider a hierarchical multicellular sensing and communication network, embedded in an ageless aerospace vehicle that is expected to detect and react to multiple impacts and damage over a wide range of impact energies. In particular, we investigate self-organization of impact boundaries enclosing critically damaged areas, and impact networks connecting remote cells that have detected noncritical impacts. Each level of the hierarchy is shown to have distinct higher-order emergent properties, desirable in self-monitoring and self-repairing vehicles. In addition, cells and communication messages are shown to need memory (hysteresis) in order to retain desirable emergent behavior within and between various hierarchical levels. Spatiotemporal robustness of self-organizing hierarchies is quantitatively measured with graph-theoretic and information-theoretic techniques, such as the Shannon entropy. This allows us to clearly identify phase transitions separating chaotic dynamics from ordered and robust patterns.