Biological principles for future internet architecture design

Biological systems have remarkable capabilities of resilience and adaptability. These capabilities are found in various biological organisms, ranging from microorganisms to flocks of animals and even human society.


There are two especially appealing aspects of biological systems that could be beneficial in designing architectures or the future Internet. First, biological systems are always composed of a multitude of protocols that combine various processes to control different elements of an organism. Second, biological systems as a whole exhibit a hierarchical ecosystem structure that allows various organisms and systems to coexist.

Mechanistic thinking vs Systems thinking about Failures

Mechanistic thinking about failures, that is, the Newtonian-Cartesian approach, means going down and in.  Understanding why things went wrong comes from breaking open the system, diving down, finding the parts, and identifying which ones were broken.  The approach is taken even if the parts are located in different areas of the system, such as procedural control, supervisory layers, managerial levels, regulatory oversight. 

Highly Resilient Organisations

Highly resilient organisations can be recognised by the following four behaviours:

  • They anticipate critical disruptions and situations and their consequences
  • They notice the critical disruptions and situations when they occur
  • They plan how to respond
  • They adapt and move into different actions.

Network Resilience: A Systematic Approach

Whether used for professional or leisure purposes, for safety-critical applications or e-commerce, the Internet in particular has become an integral part of our everyday lives, affecting the way societies operate.  However, the Internet was not intended to serve all these roles, and, as such, is vulnerable to a wide range of challenges.  Malicious attacks, software and hardwired faults, human mistakes (eg software and hardware misconfigurations)  and large-scale natural disasters threaten its normal operation.

"The enemy of safety is complexity."

 Behind Human Error, Woods et al, Ashgate 2010 p 23

"Knowledge and error flow from the same mental sources, only success can tell one from another."


Ernst Mach, 1905