Abstract | In this work, we study protocols (i.e. distributed algorithms) so that populations of distributed processes can construct networks. In order to highlight the basic principles of distributed network construction we keep the model minimal in all respects. In particular, we assume finite-state processes that all begin from the same initial state and all execute the same protocol (i.e. the system is homogeneous). Moreover, we assume pairwise interactions between the processes that are scheduled by an adversary. The only constraint on the adversary scheduler is that it must be fair, intuitively meaning that it must assign to every reachable configuration of the system a non-zero probability to occur. In order to allow processes to construct networks, we let them activate and deactivate their pairwise connections. When two processes interact, the protocol takes as input the states of the processes and the state of their connection and updates all of them. In particular, in every interaction, the protocol may activate an inactive connection, deactivate an active one, or leave the state of a connection unchanged. Initially all connections are inactive and the goal is for the processes, after interacting and activating/deactivating connections for a while, to end up with a desired stable network (i.e. one that does not change any more). We give protocols (optimal in some cases) and lower bounds for several basic network construction problems such as spanning line, spanning ring, spanning star, and regular network. We provide proofs of correctness for all of our protocols and analyze the expected time to convergence of most of them under a uniform random scheduler that selects the next pair of interacting processes uniformly at random from all such pairs. Finally, we prove several universality results by presenting generic protocols that are capable of simulating a Turing Machine (TM) and exploiting it in order to construct a large class of networks. Our universality protocols use a subset of the population (waste) in order to distributedly construct there a TM able to decide a graph class in some given space. Then, the protocols repeatedly construct in the rest of the population (useful space) a graph equiprobably drawn from all possible graphs. The TM works on this and accepts if the presented graph is in the class. We additionally show how to partition the population into k supernodes, each being a line of log k nodes, for the largest such k. This amount of local memory is sufficient for the supernodes to obtain unique names and exploit their names and their memory to realize nontrivial constructions. Delicate composition and reinitialization issues have to be solved for these general constructions to work. |