Swarm theory

Swarm theory practicality for social collaboration- Part 1

I drew the above picture of two ants talking to each other. It is a simple doodle sketch of two ants.

I would like to comment and talk about the subject context behind this simple doodle sketch. Hope you all will appreciate it.

A single bee or an ant is not smart but colonies of them are. We can draw intriguing insights from their behavior.  We must be thinking, a single ant should be very intelligent and confident.  We have always seen it marching so confidently up the sugar bowl in the kitchen cabinet. It is probably executing a planned action.  After all, we have seen ants making long winding lines, build elaborate ant hills and forage food like crazy.

‘It is not the case, a single ant is very incapable of accomplishing anything’ says Stanford University biologist, Deborah Gordon. She had written a good book titled ‘Ant encounters, interaction networks and colony behavior’. If you have the time, read it. It is available on Amazon. You can find the link here.

Then a question comes to our mind, how are they successful as species on earth for so long years. The answer lies in their group behavior. Colonies of ants also known as swarms are far more intelligent than a single ant on its own.  Colonies of ants can accomplish tasks, which are practically impossible for single ants to even think of. For example, colonies of ants can identify the shortest possible route to the food source and they can even organize and allocate various tasks to other ants. They are able to do all this with something called ‘Swarm intelligence’.

Please read our blog post article:  Swarm social media systems, intriguing swarm insights

It is not just with ants. There is a host of other insects and animals, which display the swarm intelligence. A school of Herring fish, for example, can coordinate their behavior collectively and turn their direction in a split second to avoid a threat.  They do this action collectively. It turns out there is no single fish within the school that is aware of the big picture. Scientists term this behavior as the ‘Swarm theory’.

Swarm theory practicality

Many scientists are intrigued by this swarm theory for the past 20 years and research is underway for the past 10 years to gain insights from this intriguing behavior.  Applications of swarm theory are enormous and can be used for wide applications in Artificial intelligence and Robotics to bring business efficiency.

Further, an interesting insight from the colony of ants is that none of the ants have a boss or a manager. The ants forage food, follow other ants, through a pheromone trail, and have countless interactions. They are self-organizing and collaborate among themselves. They have learned to adapt to this swarm behavior for millions of years. Their strengths lie in being together as a swarm and therein lies their success.

Please read our blog post article: Do ants have brains

Similarly, birds do not have a leader. Have you ever seen how migratory birds fly (There is Swarm theory in action!). There are countless pictures of them. Birds change the leadership often, as and when the lead bird gets tired. No bird is telling the other birds what to do. Birds just follow their neighbor as they fly across the sky. For once it is not about individual decision making. It is just blind following and trust on the neighbor birds, to coordinate their movement.

There were many scientific and industrial applications in the last decade on the swarm logic and theory. There were many notable ones. I will cover some of them in the next blog post.

Peter Miller’s article on swarm theory from the National Geographic

For now, I found the last couple of paragraphs on Miller’s article on Swarm Theory on the National Geographic quite enlightening. You can find the article here. The article though published in 2007 is still highly relevant.

Miller explains, that in a complex world, we as human beings would like to change something or the other. It is natural for us to do that. But alas, none of us know the big complete picture to make those changes in the society. It is wise for us to do our duty first and we need to be accountable and responsible for our actions.

It is important that we need to make our own decisions and behave responsibly.

Just like bees or ants, they never see the big picture but they just do their duty and be responsible.  By each bee or ant doing its duty, it helps the colony as a whole. There is no self-interest. The same is with human societies as well.

Cheers.

 

Ramkumar Yaragarla
Available at

Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 42 years old. I have spent double digit years working as a business analyst and a program manager in Human resources and IT functions in several Fortune 100 companies in India and the UK.
Completed Masters in IT for manufacturing at the University of Warwick, UK and a PRINCE 2 certified practitioner.

My interests include collaborative innovation, group dynamics, Idea hubs and work life balance. I am open to your suggestions.
Ramkumar Yaragarla
Available at
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