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Science

The Rules of the Swarm 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-collective dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at the Collective Animal Behaviour Laboratory at Princeton University, builds computer models of virtual swarms with thousands of individual agents that he can program to follow a few simple rules. Among the findings are that swarm behavior has patterns common to many different species, that just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, swarm behavior can also change abruptly in character, and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction. The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies and researchers are working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish. "How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm."
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The Rules of the Swarm

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  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:48PM (#21344649) Homepage Journal
    Spawn more overlords.
    • by UnderDark (869922) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:21PM (#21344917)
      Can not build more Overlords: More minerals required!
      • At least the zerg make sense.

        If all the Terrans you're going to have are in the first command center and just get "trained" by the barracks, how come you can hit the psi limit even after getting a hundred marines killed?
    • nah ah! You must be using teh mineral hackz if you have that many units already! cheater! *uses disconnect hack*
      Btw this article is idiotic. Cancer cells use principles of chemistry to move. Swarms used intelligent neural networks aka millions of neuron cells, not one cell. There's absolutely no corrolation in how each works beyond pure coincidence. They just added that BS to cover the fact that their research has no purpose at the moment. I hate people who study something with no purpose other than t
      • by khallow (566160)

        Cancer cells use principles of chemistry to move. Swarms used intelligent neural networks aka millions of neuron cells, not one cell. There's absolutely no corrolation in how each works beyond pure coincidence.

        Then you don't get it. In either case, you have a population of cells or organisms with some sort of rudimentary communication ability able to perform interesting large scale behavior. All you need in your component units is some sort of movement and communication, then you can have swarming behavior.

        • heh, i'm a little drunk and i was trying to say something along those lines. very nicely put, i'm glad i invoked my 3 rewrites and it's not worth posting rule.
    • This just in...

      There is a new overmind growing on char

      News at 11
  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:49PM (#21344659) Journal
    You will be assimilated
    • Such is life [bitstorm.org]. John Conway's [wikipedia.org] game of life, that is. And it's been around a lot longer than this rebranded form of cellular automaton [wikipedia.org] called "Swarm Theory" has. Note that Conway also worked at Princeton. Small world, and smaller attribution.
      • by famebait (450028)
        it's been around a lot longer

        I'm pretty sure swarms have been around longer.

        I can see how this research might remind one of 'life', but that does not mean they are the same. A notable difference being, for example, that the game of 'life' says fuck-all about how swarms of higher animals behave.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jagdish (981925)
      Jesus is returning, Resistance is futile [somethingawful.com].
    • You will be assimilated


      If we are, this research sure isn't going to help. The same observations could be made by watching any given swarm for about 2 minutes.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:50PM (#21344675) Homepage
    Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

    Strangely enough, it also explains republican voting habits.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, because of course the average (and I mean **average**) Democrats is any more informed and makes their decision based on their indepth knowledge of the issues and having weighed all options...

      Jeebus. Just shut up. The fact is that MOST people vote for whomever is offering them what they want, be it welfare or bombing some turd-world country. The few rational, enlightened individuals who are NOT bent on exploiting the mob tendencies of the voting bloc for either party (if you think Democratic or Repub
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that there is some kind of new law that says you can't write this kind of response without mentioning Ron Paul.
      • by hey! (33014)
        Actually, I'd say the median ("average" in this case is meaningless) Democrat is more likely to vote his political interests, the median Republican voter is more likely to vote the interests of the class he'd like to belong to. In a sense, middle class Republican voters are more altruistic. Alternatively you could say Democratic middle class voters see their interests aligned with the poor whereas the Republican middle class voters see their interests aligned with the rich. I should point out, however,
    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:51PM (#21345147) Homepage
      That's right, keep the Republican jokes comming. Typical Slashdot "Swarm-think".

      Hey, I just discovered something...
      • That's right, keep the Republican jokes comming. Typical Slashdot "Swarm-think".

        Hey, I just discovered something...
        That we are the beekeepers?
      • You mean that people with similar points of view tend to congregate in the same venues? And here I was thinking /. was a diverse, representative cross-section of humanity...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, studies have been done and Democratic voters are generally less educated and less informed. See the book --> "If Democrats Had Brains, They'd Be Republicans" by Ann Coulter. Or just watch the people lined up to vote in any majority Democrat district. It's like watching the inmates milling around at the asylum. Some things are true whether you believe them or not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by innerweb (721995)

        For our next trick, we will quote Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern as principles of honesty and integrity in reporting.

        Group think is really a misnomer. Group think is really a large bunch of individuals not thinking (or thinking at a minimal level). So, republicans, democrats, libertarians, religious assemblies, whatever, is just minimal thinking individuals participating in groups guided by a few individuals in swarm behavior. It really does make so much sense this way. It has almost always worked when

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @05:46AM (#21347493) Homepage Journal
      Republican jokes aside, if crowd behaviors on a large scale are provably predictable with swarm rules, what does that say about individual free will? We like to think we have it but in the grand scheme of things I don't think we're any smarter than ants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The Raven (30575)
        Overtones of Psychohistory [wikipedia.org]. Luckily, later research into chaos and information theory has pretty much ruled out the possibility of Psychohistory being real.
  • Now we all know, but when will we actually learn...probably never.
  • Gaia? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ynososiduts (1064782) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:54PM (#21344715)
    Maybe they are each part of the same consciousness? Have you not read Foundation's Edge?
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Maybe they are. Maybe there's a flying spaghetti monster. Or an invisible pink unicorn. Or an honest politician. Wait, no, that's going too far.
    • by vandan (151516)
      I have a single moderation point left, but I think I'd prefer to respond personally and congratulate you on your insight :)
    • by Santana (103744)

      "[...] look, see those birds? At some point a program was written to govern them. A program was written to watch over the trees, and the wind, the sunrise, and sunset." - The Oracle.

      Probably not a program as we know it, but maybe a spirit that governs the swarms.

    • More to the point would be Michael Chrichton's "Swarm". That might have something to do with this news article.

      Also, on the lines of another thread up here... the Republicans.

      I don't think this says so much about the republican party, as it says something about the validity of democracy as a basis for government. Not that I think a tyrant is any more valid -- I just sometimes don't see a difference between a tyrant who rules by force, and a tyrant who persuades tons of people to vote for him (via swarm be
  • Just like fractals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gabest (852807) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:59PM (#21344745)
    We are already "cells" of a thing called "economy", for an alien the earth may just look like a single living being.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Explodicle (818405)

      We are already "cells" of a thing called "economy", for an alien the earth may just look like a single living being.
      See also: Gaia hypothesis [wikipedia.org].
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:03PM (#21344775)
    Nobody talks about the swarm.
  • Stephan Wolfram is going "I told ya so."
    • I don't think the credit goes to Wolfram. He just popularized the idea, but the study of cellular automata goes back before him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BCGlorfindel (256775)
      Stephan Wolfram is going "I told ya so."

      Wouldn't that be more like "WE told ya so".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    sounds an awful lot like our "chi"
    • By way of the westernized understanding of "chi" that takes it from being somewhat vauge and meaningless to being entirely so? Sure. Beyond that? No.
  • I, for one, welcome our new Inner Swarm Overlord...

    Would it be redundant to say 'slashdot swarm effect?

    But seriously --- hunger, fright, spawning, yawning, roosting, cheering, migrating, hibernating, buying lotto tickets...you can't have a 'crowd' effect without a crowd, so discovering there is such a thing seems a bit like finding a bullet hole and then inventing the gun. All sounds a bit medieval if you ask me.

    I just want to know where the on/off switch is so I can control it...
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You forgot everyone's favorite, the mob effect... OK, what if everyone, as a group, decided not to act as a group? Not to mention the paradoxical possibilities of a Beowulf cluster of swarm driven computers...

      This message is endorsed by pi.
      • by djupedal (584558)
        "OK, what if everyone, as a group, decided not to act as a group."

        Exactly... Ok if I quote you? As a group, I mean.

        Now, everybody don't move - I want a picture of this one. Is everybody not ready?
    • by Tribbin (565963) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:54AM (#21346113) Homepage
      You got it all WRONG!!!

      A swarm has no overlord!
      • by djupedal (584558)
        It would be the collective, or group, overlord. Sort of the all-4-1 & 1-4-all approach to the mob-acting-as-one big...really big...overlord.

        Are you with us?
  • by Null Perception (914562) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:07PM (#21344815)
    1st RULE: You do not talk about THE SWARM. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about THE SWARM.
  • by Misanthrope (49269) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:11PM (#21344845)
    Swarm Subtype

    A swarm is a collection of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that acts as a single creature. A swarm has the characteristics of its type, except as noted here. A swarm has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single Armor Class. A swarm makes saving throws as a single creature. A single swarm occupies a square (if it is made up of nonflying creatures) or a cube (of flying creatures) 10 feet on a side, but its reach is 0 feet, like its component creatures. In order to attack, it moves into an opponent's space, which provokes an attack of opportunity. It can occupy the same space as a creature of any size, since it crawls all over its prey. A swarm can move through squares occupied by enemies and vice versa without impediment, although the swarm provokes an attack of opportunity if it does so. A swarm can move through cracks or holes large enough for its component creatures.

    A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not. Swarms of nonflying creatures include many more creatures than could normally fit in a 10-foot square based on their normal space, because creatures in a swarm are packed tightly together and generally crawl over each other and their prey when moving or attacking. Larger swarms are represented by multiples of single swarms. The area occupied by a large swarm is completely shapeable, though the swarm usually remains in contiguous squares.
    Traits

    A swarm has no clear front or back and no discernable anatomy, so it is not subject to critical hits or flanking. A swarm made up of Tiny creatures takes half damage from slashing and piercing weapons. A swarm composed of Fine or Diminutive creatures is immune to all weapon damage. Reducing a swarm to 0 hit points or lower causes it to break up, though damage taken until that point does not degrade its ability to attack or resist attack. Swarms are never staggered or reduced to a dying state by damage. Also, they cannot be tripped, grappled, or bull rushed, and they cannot grapple an opponent.

    A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind. A swarm takes half again as much damage (+50%) from spells or effects that affect an area, such as splash weapons and many evocation spells.

    Swarms made up of Diminutive or Fine creatures are susceptible to high winds such as that created by a gust of wind spell. For purposes of determining the effects of wind on a swarm, treat the swarm as a creature of the same size as its constituent creatures. A swarm rendered unconscious by means of nonlethal damage becomes disorganized and dispersed, and does not reform until its hit points exceed its nonlethal damage.
    Swarm HD Swarm
    Base Damage
    1-5 1d6
    6-10 2d6
    11-15 3d6
    16-20 4d6
    21 or more 5d6
    Swarm Attack

    Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed. Swarm attacks are not subject to a miss chance for concealment or cover. A swarm's statistics block has "swarm" in the Attack and Full Attack entries, with no attack bonus given. The amount of damage a swarm deals is based on its Hit Dice, as shown in the table.

    A swarm's attacks are nonmagical, unless the swarm's description states otherwise. Damage reduction sufficient to reduce a swarm attack's damage to 0, being incorporeal, and other special abilities usually give a creature immunity (or at least resistance) to damage from a swarm. Some swarms
  • by Willbur (196916) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:13PM (#21344865) Homepage
    When I read the summary my immediate response was that this was old news. It has been known for quite a while that cellular automata with simple rules can form universal Turing machines. That means that they can "form a collective brain" and "make decisions and move like a single organism". The interesting question then becomes; What "program" is your machine running, and how do you make it robust so that it works in the real world (with all the noise of nature)?

    The article is a popular science article, but addresses this, more interesting, question much more than the summary. They discuss some of the rules involved in specific situations (ants), and even look at "human swarms" (although that bit is a little cheesy). There is no general theory posited about how to make these rule sets though, apart from trial and error (in simulation if you can). They say that the researchers are starting to see patterns, but don't talk about what those patterns are - pity really, as that would have been very interesting.
    • Programs running on humans = religion

      Hackers = L. Ron Hubbard, whoever wrote the Bible, the Torah, etc.
      • Programs running on humans = religion. Hackers = L. Ron Hubbard, whoever wrote the Bible, the Torah, etc.

        My inner swarm is whispering to me that 1992 called and wants its mass-market paperback scifi novel premise back.

      • Programs running on humans = religion Hackers = L. Ron Hubbard, Paul of Tarsus, King Josiah, etc.
      • by upside (574799)
        If you start on that path: any "ism", and "hackers" would include
        - Lenin
        - McCarthy

        You know, to people from some parts the ritual of swearing an oath of allegiance to a flag is a quite sinister form of programming. Who's hacking who there? That's right, nobody. It's swarm behaviour to enforce swarm cohesion.

        We all are programmed to take some things for granted, on which we base our interpretation of the world outside ourselves. Travel is great because interacting with others exposes many of your own "program
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by catmistake (814204)
      ~160 years ago, Søren Kierkegaard worked out the First Philosophy of the human swarm:
      The crowd is untruth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by m0nstr42 (914269)

      The article is a popular science article, but addresses this, more interesting, question much more than the summary. They discuss some of the rules involved in specific situations (ants), and even look at "human swarms" (although that bit is a little cheesy). There is no general theory posited about how to make these rule sets though, apart from trial and error (in simulation if you can). They say that the researchers are starting to see patterns, but don't talk about what those patterns are - pity really,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by skiingyac (262641)
        I can't speak for him directly, but I've been to one of his talks and read a bunch of his papers. Basically, the 3 rules for bird/fish/etc movement are very simple and are surprisingly robust. But, it is extremely difficult to reverse-engineer the rules. Sure, those 3 rules are simple enough, but are they the ones actually used by the animals? You can't exactly ask them. And then there are questions about whether an individual gives more weight to a neighboring individual which it can only hear and not
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by m0nstr42 (914269)

          Then there are things like, we'd like to make robot swarms and we want them to act like birds except do X instead of Y. Even if the natural behaviors are modeled it is very difficult to figure out what rules to add/change/delete to get the desired change. Or, we want the robots to do natural thing X, but we need some guarantee that they will do it with some level of accuracy and we need a kill switch in case they become self-aware. This field is wide open and is extremely interesting, because even if we're

    • by Randym (25779)
      No particular comment here -- I just want people to note my long-time .sig. It does raise interesting questions on exactly how a deterministic Turing machine is able to give rise to unpredictable behavior.
  • "How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm."

    Which explains AOL!
  • Stand Alone Complex? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by necro2607 (771790) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:18PM (#21344901)
    "... just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction"

    Wow, did this remind anyone else somewhat of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex [wikipedia.org] and the Laughing Man and Individual Eleven cases? Plus there is plenty of discussion throughout the series about how subtle influence by a select few can affect the whole of society, unnoticed. I know it's a bit different, but it's kind of unreal to be hearing about this in the news after having only just recently watched the two seasons of Stand Alone Complex episodes...
  • This was just in Nation Geographic or Scientific American, one of those rags like that... Fresh articles please
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      It was featured yesterday in the New York Times. I believe there was something new in it.

      And if you're referring to analysis of swarm behavior, well, that's been around for a long time.

  • by yusing (216625) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:21PM (#21344921) Journal
    My inner swarm tells me to suspect the validity of this concept when applied to educated individuals running free-will simulations.

    Not to mention my inner hippy.
    • by upside (574799)
      That's just you rejecting an unsettling proposition to feel more comfortable.

      Explain to me how are educated free-will people doing in foreign countries killing other human beings, if it's not the swarm/hive programming telling them it's the right thing to do.
  • algorithms (Score:5, Informative)

    by cynicsreport (1125235) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:29PM (#21344985) Homepage
    There are several very interesting optimization algorithms based on swarm behavior, such as particle swarm optimization [wikipedia.org] and ant colony optimization [ulb.ac.be]. These methods have a similar ability for non-linear optimization (and pattern recognition) as neural networks.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:37PM (#21345055) Journal
    Cool to see Couzin on slashdot... I coincidentally saw a talk of his last week and gave him a brief lab tour. His own research is somewhat outside my area, but one of the most surprising things I recall from his talk is that marching locust swarms are apparently propelled by cannibalistic behavior. If I'm remembering correctly, baby locusts (before they've grown wings) in a region will feed in a pretty disorderly fashion. However, once salt and protein supplies start running low, they get hungry and start trying to eat each other. The researchers realized this when the locusts in their enclosure seemed to be mysteriously disappearing at a steady rate, due to being consumed by their peers. ;)

    In any case, once they start eating each other, the locusts start trying to chase the locusts in front of them, while simultaneously avoiding the locusts behind them trying to eat them. The emergent behavior is that the entire swarm moves as a mass until a new area is found where salt and protein supplies are plentiful enough to cause them to switch out of cannibalism-mode. This presumably has a number of ramification on how to control migration of locust swarms, which are an immense destroyer of food resources in the developing world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by m0nstr42 (914269)
      My favorite thing about Dr. Couzin is his willingness to work with people in other disciplines - particularly the "harder" sciences. It's mentioned towards the end of the article. My advisor, Naomi Leonard, and her students have published several papers with Iain as a co-author - see http://www.princeton.edu/~naomi/ [princeton.edu] and search for "Couzin" and "Levin" on the page for a few references. Dr. Grunbaum, who is also mentioned in the article, is great with this as well (also on the page). They are both fantast
    • When locusts swarm, are they ALWAYS chasing one another? Does the idea of there being several leaders in the swarm and the swarm moving due to a bias still play a part in the swarm's movement?
      • by FleaPlus (6935)
        When locusts swarm, are they ALWAYS chasing one another? Does the idea of there being several leaders in the swarm and the swarm moving due to a bias still play a part in the swarm's movement?

        I'm not sure if he's shown this for locusts, but in his talk he was talking about schools of fish who have the now-standard "attract when far away, repel when close" swarming behavior. When such schools are large enough, you only need a relatively few members applying an additional bias to cause the entire swarm to mov
    • by MrHanky (141717)
      That's an immensely cool image of Ayn Rand's so-called 'rational self-interest'. Not the cannibalism, but the swarm. (After all, Objectivism is based on a radical failure to understand Darwin.)
    • by jafac (1449)
      . . . sounds like this behavior could give us a lot of insight into the behavior of modern capitalist economies. A great example would be this recent housing-market deal, where high-risk mortgages were re-packaged into so-called "Structured Investment Vehicles" - a fancy word for: Fraud.

      These securities were then marketed and sold all over the place like hotcakes, causing an even greater market for bad mortgages, kickbacks and fraud in the mortgage brokering business, and especially home appraisal business
  • I would like to welcome Slashdot to 1986 [wikipedia.org].
    • by m0nstr42 (914269)

      I would like to welcome Slashdot to 1986.

      Certainly no new work in artificial life simulation has been done in the last 21 years, and it's not possible that this has been applied to something new. Certainly not publishable [princeton.edu], especially not in respected publications like Science [princeton.edu] or Nature [princeton.edu] or Nature [princeton.edu].



      ... or IEEE Conference on Decision and Control [princeton.edu]... OK that one was a shameless plug for my own paper. But the others aren't.

  • I didn't RTFA, but I wonder if the guy's work is related to an old artificial life simulation called Boids [wikipedia.org]. The developer of Boids was able to model the flocking behavior of birds by formulating some relatively simple rules. When I first learned about the program, it sounded really neat, and according to Wikipedia it's still used in computer graphics to model flocking behavior.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by m0nstr42 (914269)

      I didn't RTFA, but I wonder if the guy's work is related to an old artificial life simulation called Boids. The developer of Boids was able to model the flocking behavior of birds by formulating some relatively simple rules. When I first learned about the program, it sounded really neat, and according to Wikipedia it's still used in computer graphics to model flocking behavior.

      The rules are quite similar, but the treatment is different. Boids was an artificial life simulation experiment. The stuff TFA r

  • by Sir Holo (531007) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:01PM (#21345215)

    and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction.

    In human populations, we call those marketers.
    • Or perhaps artists...

      Imagine that at any given moment, each element of the swarm has:

      1) A "desire" to behave in a unique way, with some probability;

      2) The ability to persuade some number of nearby elements to follow it, also with a probability.

      Might be an interesting simulation problem. The hypothetical link with reality is analogous to human societies; some the desire and persuasive power (and are therefore opinion leaders). And at various times in history, such people have moved entire societies in unexpe
    • Are you BORED with just following the SWARM? Do you lay AWAKE at night and WONDER how marketers CONTROL the SWARMS? Do you THINK they have a SPECIAL TALENT? THINK again! You TOO can hone your SUPER SWARM CONTROL skills to PERFECTION by playing LIQUIDWAR [ufoot.org] for up to THREE hours every night! That's what the BEST marketers do SEVEN days a week! THAT'S RIGHT! You can do it TOO! But DON'T SEND ANY MONEY! We won't bill you! That's right! We won't bill you! Follow this website to LIQUIDWAR RIGHT NOW [ufoot.org] or just apt-get

  • This guy should get together with Mr. Wolfram. It sounds like these ideas overlap a lot with the stuff in his (highly recommded) "A New Kind of Science": http://www.wolframscience.com/ [wolframscience.com]
  • I welcome our Next Tenants [everything2.com]... whatever.

    Think of ourselves as a well succeeded cluster of cells. Think of the cell as a collection of proto-organisms.

    We are an undefined life form. Trying to get out of the shell.

    Mankind, shoal. Swarm, individual.

    Collective consciousness is far beyond particular will.

  • Me and the swarm of my neurotic friends form a collective brain, it suffers from multiple split personalities
  • by lashi (822466) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:59AM (#21346143) Homepage
    rules of the swarm applies to more than just simple creatures. it probably can be used to study our society, mass hysteria, war, religion.....
  • Bah! Kids these days!
    Although some of the concepts in TFA are interesting, it is certainly building on ideas that have passed before it.
    Much work has been done on emergent behaviour in aggregates of simple organisms, for example the early work of Craig Reynolds [toronto.edu] is a pivotal paper in this area and widely regarded as a key work in this area. When you might ask? 1987 of course. Bonus points that it was done in LISP. (ObXkcd link [xkcd.com]).
    • by Dutch_Cap (532453)
      "(ObXkcd link)"
      I like this one [xkcd.com], it inspired me to try Lisp.
    • by tomzyk (158497)
      No kidding.

      Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain ...

      starting to discover?? I remember doing a bunch of research on swarm intelligence 10+ years ago. (I always thought ant colonies were the most interesting, but even flying/swimming patterns of bats, birds and fish were still baffling. I even tried implementing this sort of "hive-mentality" into some Robocode [wikipedia.org] bots... but never got anything that really was

  • Am I the only one here for whom the word "swarm" has lost all meaning and become a mere phoneme after reading that summary?

    TFA was very cool though. I'd love to watch a video on this.
  • ...cranium rats!
  • by dummkopf (538393) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @04:19AM (#21347161) Homepage
    Currently, Physics Today [aip.org] has an article about the swarming of birds. The studies from the group in Rome [roma1.infn.it] are expected to complement current models since currently there is little experimental evidence to back up the models. Using several cameras they take time-lapse pictures of the swarms and then reconstruct the complex trajectories on the computer (a tour de force...).
  • Background paper (Score:2, Informative)

    by sTeF (8952)
    I recently read one of his papers: Collective Memory and Spatial Sorting in Animal Groups [princeton.edu]. It is a great read, the most interesting results? states of individuals have an effect on the swarm, you don't have to be aware even of the swarm, simple parameters such as perimeters, closeness to other swarm individuals can have a dramatic effect.

    the other interesting result is, that the next state of the swarm can depend on states in the past, this leads to spatial memory effect.

  • Disney developed swarming algorithms to draw stampeding herds in the Lion King and used it many times since. Others used this for the rash of "bug" movies in the late 1990s and for human crowd scenes, e.g. Massive armies in Lord of the Rings.
  • by FlopEJoe (784551) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:11PM (#21350029)
    What do you call thousands of relatively simple animals that form a collective brain?

    Politicians.

  • This is one element of the fascinating SF book, Lady of Mazes.
  • I do research on the business applications of swarm intelligence and its philosophical and managerial implications for organisational behaviour. Practically, swarm intelligence can help your business make millions, including savings. Using swarm algorithms you can actually find the best ways to route cargo, etc. But there is more in the swarm story... If in the future humans learn how to swarm effectivelly, the new business organisations that will arise then will resemble more the current free software c

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