Swarm Intelligence

So far, I have tried to stick mainly to whats going on with my hive for postings here.  I though this was interesting and related enough to post something here.

I explained early on that one of the things that got me learning about bees (which eventually lead to me starting beekeeping) was reading a few articles about swarm intelligence (or swarm decision making, or agent based systems, etc. – it has lots of names).  It got me interested in learning more about these fascinating insects.  Today, while checking out Slashdot, I found a post about an article that looks like it is featured in the July issue of National Geographic Magazine (the article is also available online, and they also have some photos).  It discusses lots of systems from nature where large groups of individuals, with no leader can “organize” and make group decisions.  Some examples include schools of fish,  flocks of birds, and herds of caribou moving and avoiding predators, ants foraging and guarding their nests, and of course honeybees.  They also explain how people have tried to use these examples to help in designing and programing robots, make businesses more efficient/profitable, decrease your wait at the airport, and make Google’s search results better.  If I haven’t been clear enough, I suggest reading the article.  🙂

I just had to smile when they ended the article with this:

If you’re looking for a role model in a world of complexity, you could do worse than to imitate a bee.”

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3 Responses to “Swarm Intelligence”

  1. Linda T Says:

    Thanks for the reference – I loved the National Geographic article. The swarm theory provides an interesting way to think about communication. I’ll use it in a class I teach at Emory.

    I love your blog –

  2. John Says:

    I too enjoyed the article. Thanks for the post. There was a comment that I took exception with:
    “Take bettors at a horse race. Why are they so accurate at predicting the outcome of a race? At the moment the horses leave the starting gate, the odds posted on the pari-mutuel board, which are calculated from all bets put down, almost always predict the race’s outcome: Horses with the lowest odds normally finish first, those with second lowest odds finish second, and so on.”

    Betters, as a rule aren’t that accurate; at least to the point that betting consistently on the favorite will profit a profit. Favorites typically win between 29% – 31% of races at any track. So, a favorite doesn’t “normally” finish first and those with the second lowest odds finish second, and so on.”

    I just thought the author over generalized with this comment. Great article overall.

  3. Devin Rose Says:

    I also have been interested in swarm intelligence. I am a computer programmer and have written artificial intelligence programs in my spare time (including several to play Tetris). I bought a big book about swarm intelligence (search amazon for those words and you’ll see it), but unfortunately it was quite academic, and when the authors finally got around to explaining the algorithm, I could hardly decipher it and couldn’t figure out how to implement it in my program. This is most likely due to my own ignorance, but I wished they would have explained the algorithm better.

    Still, it’s a really cool idea, and bees are a great example of it. Maybe I will pull out that book again and see if I can make more sense of it now that I have bees!

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