Controllability of multiplex, multi-time-scale networks

The paradigm of layered networks is used to describe many real-world systems, from biological networks to social organizations and transportation systems. While recently there has been much progress in understanding the general properties of multilayer networks, our understanding of how to control such systems remains limited. One fundamental aspect that makes this endeavor challenging is that each layer can operate at a different time scale; thus, we cannot directly apply standard ideas from structural control theory of individual networks. Here we address the problem of controlling multilayer and multi-time-scale networks focusing on two-layer multiplex networks with one-to-one interlayer coupling. We investigate the practically relevant case when the control signal is applied to the nodes of one layer. We develop a theory based on disjoint path covers to determine the minimum number of inputs (Ni) necessary for full control. We show that if both layers operate on the same time scale, then the network structure of both layers equally affect controllability. In the presence of time-scale separation, controllability is enhanced if the controller interacts with the faster layer: Ni decreases as the time-scale difference increases up to a critical time-scale difference, above which Ni remains constant and is completely determined by the faster layer. We show that the critical time-scale difference is large if layer I is easy and layer II is hard to control in isolation. In contrast, control becomes increasingly difficult if the controller interacts with the layer operating on the slower time scale and increasing time-scale separation leads to increased Ni, again up to a critical value, above which Ni still depends on the structure of both layers. This critical value is largely determined by the longest path in the faster layer that does not involve cycles. By identifying the underlying mechanisms that connect time-scale difference and controllability for a simplified model, we provide crucial insight into disentangling how our ability to control real interacting complex systems is affected by a variety of sources of complexity.


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