Systems Thinking

Swarm Intelligence: 10 Quotes



“[….] a great number of […] living and thinking Particles could not possibly by their mutual contract and pressing and striking compose one greater individual Animal, with one Mind and Understanding, and a Vital Consension of the whole Body: anymore than a swarm of Bees, or a crowd of Men and Women can be conceived to make up one particular Living Creature compounded and constituted of the aggregate of them all.” (Richard Bentley, “The folly and unreasonableness of atheism”, 1699)

“Hence, following the comparison to a bee swarm, it is a whole stuck to a tree branch, by means of the action of many bees which must act in concert to hold on; some others become attached to the initial ones, and so on; all concur in forming a fairly solid body, yet each one has a particular action, apart from the others; if one of them gives way or acts too vigorously, the entire mass will be disturbed: when they all conspire to stick close, to mutually embrace, in the order of required proportions, they will comprise a whole which shall endure until they disturb one another.” (Théophile de Bordeu,” Recherches anatomiques sur la position des glandes et sur leur action”, 1751)

“If we wish to form a mental representation of what is going on among the molecules in calm air, we cannot do better than observe a swarm of bees, when every individual bee is flying furiously, first in one direction, and then in another, while the swarm, as a whole, either remains at rest, or sails slowly through the air.” (James C Maxwell, “Molecules”, Nature, 1873)

“[…] when software systems become so intractable that they can no longer be controlled, swarm intelligence offers an alternative way of designing an ‘intelligent’ systems, in which autonomy, emergence, and distributed functioning replace control, preprogramming, and centralization.” (Eric Bonabeau et al, “Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems”, 1999)

“Through self-organization, the behavior of the group emerges from the collective interactions of all the individuals. In fact, a major recurring theme in swarm intelligence (and of complexity science in general) is that even if individuals follow simple rules, the resulting group behavior can be surprisingly complex — and remarkably effective. And, to a large extent, flexibility and robustness result from self-organization.” (Eric Bonabeau & Christopher Meyer, “Swarm Intelligence: A Whole New Way to Think About Business”, Harvard Business Review, 2001)

“Swarm Intelligence can be defined more precisely as: Any attempt to design algorithms or distributed problem-solving methods inspired by the collective behavior of the social insect colonies or other animal societies. The main properties of such systems are flexibility, robustness, decentralization and self-organization.” (“Swarm Intelligence in Data Mining”, Ed. Ajith Abraham et al, 2006)

“Many ants, all obeying simple rules, create the order that we see in an ant colony. This is an example of what has come to be known as swarm intelligence: behaviour or design that emerges out of simple responses by many individuals. Understanding how this happens is important in designing systems of components that have to coordinate their behaviour to achieve a desired result. Knowledge of the way order emerges in an ant colony, for instance, has been applied to create the so-called ant sort algorithm, which is used in contexts where items need to be sorted constantly, without any knowledge of the overall best plan.” (David G Green, “The Serendipity Machine: A voyage of discovery through the unexpected world of computers”, 2004)

“How is it that an ant colony can organize itself to carry out the complex tasks of food gathering and nest building and at the same time exhibit an enormous degree of resilience if disrupted and forced to adapt to changing situations? Natural systems are able not only to survive, but also to adapt and become better suited to their environment, in effect optimizing their behavior over time. They seemingly exhibit collective intelligence, or swarm intelligence as it is called, even without the existence of or the direction provided by a central authority.” (Michael J North & Charles M Macal, “Managing Business Complexity: Discovering Strategic Solutions with Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation”, 2007)

“Swarm intelligence illustrates the complex and holistic way in which the world operates. Order is created from chaos; patterns are revealed; and systems are free to work out their errors and problems at their own level. What natural systems can teach humanity is truly amazing.” (Lawrence K Samuels, “Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action”, 2013)

“The most amazing thing about social insect colonies is that there’s no individual in charge. If you look at a single ant, you may have the impression that it is behaving, if not randomly, at least not in synchrony with the rest of the colony. You feel that it is doing its own things without paying too much attention to what the others are doing.” (Eric Bonabeau)

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