On collective intelligence of ants

A great article on the collective intelligence of ants from kurzweilai.

Abstract of the paper this article is based on:

Army ants dynamically adjust living bridges in response to a cost–benefit trade-off

The ability of individual animals to create functional structures by joining together is rare and confined to the social insects. Army ants (Eciton) form collective assemblages out of their own bodies to perform a variety of functions that benefit the entire colony. Here we examine ‟bridges” of linked individuals that are constructed to span gaps in the colony’s foraging trail. How these living structures adjust themselves to varied and changing conditions remains poorly understood. Our field experiments show that the ants continuously modify their bridges, such that these structures lengthen, widen, and change position in response to traffic levels and environmental geometry. Ants initiate bridges where their path deviates from their incoming direction and move the bridges over time to create shortcuts over large gaps. The final position of the structure depended on the intensity of the traffic and the extent of path deviation and was influenced by a cost–benefit trade-off at the colony level, where the benefit of increased foraging trail efficiency was balanced by the cost of removing workers from the foraging pool to form the structure. To examine this trade-off, we quantified the geometric relationship between costs and benefits revealed by our experiments. We then constructed a model to determine the bridge location that maximized foraging rate, which qualitatively matched the observed movement of bridges. Our results highlight how animal self-assemblages can be dynamically modified in response to a group-level cost–benefit trade-off, without any individual unit’s having information on global benefits or costs.

The problem of learning from natural systems isn’t just research, it also includes framing of this learning. We could say ants could teach us decentralization, but I don’t think that’s very helpful. Instead, I think, we should consider them as natures’s robust models of cooperation and as cases of composed, robust intelligence. As modulated intelligence (compared to our unified intelligence) that seems very useful for the development of software and hardware systems.


Copycat :P,…,…, (20)

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Oh was this already shared? I thought kurzweil was too obscure even for this forum.

Never! He’s the man!

I’ll find a link to my share of it.

But yours is much more thoughtful and well-written, so don’t delete it or anything!

Edit: here (but the more, the merrier!) --> Mighty Ants! Living bridges

Oh, I didn’t even find it with search, sorry.The important thing as I see it is modular collective intelligence, and the question about how general it is, or can be.
They ants are communicating commands with chemicals, functionally that seems very close to software, but there isn’t a really good analogy when we think about consensus, the problem of consensus is already solved by belonging to the same anthill, or species etc. Ants are interesting because their colonies aren’t an organism, but function like one, so the same functions that would be useful for computing or hardware could be found in the interconnections and collaboration of our and any other organism’s “bodyparts”, how rna, dna, different cell organs and bacteria collaborate for the same purpose. Hofstadter’s Gödel Escher Bach includes some great reflections on ants (among other things), I’d link it but it has no google preview, anyone interested in this stuff should probably check it out ( this will be probably the first book I upload)

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