bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Swarm sense

Just a few bees may be able to direct a swarm according to a researcher at Oxford University, UK. Iain Couzin developed an algorithm that shows how simple animals can use simple rules to make complex group decisions. Only a few animals need to know what they should be doing, and, as the group gets larger, the proportion of clued-up animals actually falls.
The algorithm gives its virtual animals several rules of thumb. One is that they try to avoid becoming cut off from the crowd. ... Another rule is that group members should avoid getting so close that they crash into one another.

In addition to these opposing forces, the virtual animals are given a power of persuasion that depends on their desire to lead the group in a specific direction. Completely naive animals, with no idea of where to go, have zero power.

The simulations show that even when naive and informed individuals cannot recognize one another, the novices spontaneously respond to decisions by the experts, because they follow their tendency to stick with the group.



Blogger Cat said...

A group at MIT has done lots of research on schooling (as in fish) behavior. There is a web site at MIT that addresses this.

There is a book called "The Wisdom of Crowds" which addresses group and collective decisions in humans.

2:28 am  
Blogger Turlough said...

I think what the Oxford researcher has found that is new is:
We also demonstrate how groups can make consensus decisions, even though informed individuals do not know whether they are in a majority or minority, how the quality of their information compares with that of others, or even whether there are any other informed individuals.

1:30 pm  

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