Network archaeology: Phase transition in the recoverability of network history

Network archaeology: Phase transition in the recoverability of network history

Talk presented at NetSci 2018 (


Network growth processes can be understood as generative models of the structure and history of complex networks. This point of view naturally leads to the problem of network archaeology: Reconstructing all the past states of a network from its structure---a difficult permutation inference problem. In this paper, we introduce a Bayesian formulation of network archaeology, with a generalization of preferential attachment as our generative mechanism. We develop a sequential importance sampling algorithm to evaluate the posterior averages of this model, as well as an efficient heuristic that uncovers the history of a network in linear time. We use these methods to identify and characterize a phase transition in the quality of the reconstructed history, when they are applied to artificial networks generated by the model itself. Despite the existence of a no-recovery phase, we find that non-trivial inference is possible in a large portion of the parameter space as well as on empirical data.


Jean-Gabriel Young

June 13, 2018