Social Insects

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Social insects such as ants, bees, termites, and wasps, provide us with a powerful metaphor for creating decentralized problem-solving systems composed of simple, interacting, and often mobile, agents. The emergent collective intelligence of social insects lies not in complex individual capabilities but in networks of interactions that exist among individuals and between individuals and their colonies. The daily problems solved by a social insect colony include the following: finding food, building or extending a nest, dividing labor among nest mates, feeding the brood, cleaning the nest, responding to external challenges, and spreading alarms. Many of these problems have counterparts in the business world. The collective behavior of social insects is not only decentralized, it is also flexible and robust. Flexibility allows adaptation to changing environments, while robustness enables the colony to function even though some individuals may fail to perform their tasks. Swarm intelligence provides a basis to explore collective behavior to solve complex problems. Social insects serve as the inspiration for an alternative way of solving complex problems through their flexibility, robustness, decentralization, and self-organized behavior. This constitutes a basis for exploring the following different kinds of phenomena: how to achieve a collective task assignment without any centralized organization, how a collective representation emerges at a level of the colony without any symbolic representation at the individual level, and how to collectively build a complex organization without a plan. These collective behaviors are characterized by a logical pattern that emerges through simple individuals interacting with each other and their colony. This message is emphasized in the paper that complex collective behavior can emerge from individuals following simple rules (Bonabeau). What evidence do the authors provide to support each conclusion? Aspects of social insects...
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