Swarm Intelligence and What Your Body Knows that You Don’t

Tess Neau

Sometimes you go through your day in a common routine — wake up, take the subway to work, grab lunch, eat lunch, leave work, take the subway home, eat dinner, go to sleep — and you can’t even remember exactly what you’ve spent your day doing. Someone could ask you at the end of the day ‘How was your day?’ and all you want to answer is a simply few word sentence ‘Pretty good. Craig, the new guy, gave me lots of work but overall a good day.’. You won’t mention all of the people you walked around in the 6pm subway crowd, or mention that all day you’ve been walking, setting your left foot in foot first maybe and then pushing your body forward and catching yourself with your right. What I’m getting at is that we take our body’s intelligence for granted.

If we broke down our daily walk from point A to point B into an algorithm, the number of steps could be infinite. We do these activities all the time and yet we aren’t highly conscious of doing them. The model isn’t as simple as us telling our bodies what to do at each step. That resulting movement would probably look a lot different. Besides, remembering and consciously sending all these messages seems like way too much mental energy.

In the history of the western world’s philosophy there is a tendency to speak separately about mind and body. Often the dialogue goes, the mind is the single source of truth and the body is devalorized as just a vessel for the incredible powers of the mind, including consciousness. Yet, as we’ve seen, there are so many actions and reactions that our body automatically fires before we have a chance to realize what we’re doing. If you’re trying to teach someone how to bike, you can repeat the steps as much as you want but you’ll realize there’s more to it than that. Some mysterious gotcha moment that you can’t explain in words. And these bodily actions and reactions are at the core of what we do everyday.

So our body has an intelligence, how do we describe it? We can’t pinpoint where that intelligence is coming from. Our bigtoe doesn’t seem to have a brain but you bet it’ll trigger a flight response to the sensation of a tack on the floor. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, which are made up of proteins, made up of molecules, made up of atoms, and so on. We are made up of communities, individual units which interact with their neighbors in simple ways.

Emergence is the term used to describe the coming together of small simple systems to create something greater than the sum of its parts. This is a common topic of discussion in philosophy and in AI. Bugs are often a great example of emergent behaviors. Once winter is close, monarch butterflies migrate all the way from Canada to Mexico. Monarch butterflies don’t have the biggest brains individually and yet as a whole, as a swarm, they have a new property: migrating 3,000 miles south to Mexico. This is an emergent property. You wouldn’t expect the swarm to have this if you ‘summed up’ all of the butterflies and each one’s properties.

Swarm Intelligence is the intelligence of emergence. It is used to describe decentralized, self-organized, autonomous complex systems. There is no single source of truth in these models, only single units communicating in simple terms with their neighbors. Because there is no single source of truth in models of swarms intelligence, information isn’t passed down from bigger parts into smaller ones. This makes the whole more efficient, self-correcting, relevant to security systems and useful in solving problems that don’t have clear definitions.

This modeling has been highly influential in the AI of robotics for autonomous cars, blockchain, planetary mapping for NASA, natural disaster rescue missions, boats for the U.S. military which don’t need to be controlled by humans, nanobots which would destroy cancer tumors inside the human body, data mining, agricultural mining, etc… And even more beyond the scope of AI or technology, swarm behavior has been useful in movie graphics such as in Batman Returns or Lord of the Rings to simulate crowds. Enjoy seeing swarm intelligence everywhere you go now and appreciate the small things.

Below is my first favorite video of a swarm simulation:

read original article at https://medium.com/@tessneau/swarm-intelligence-and-what-your-body-knows-that-you-dont-136cb3fe757c?source=rss——artificial_intelligence-5