The Economist: Swarm Theory

If you’ve got your shorts in a bunch because the government is wasting your tax dollars on ant science, consider the following:

ONE of the bugaboos that authors of science fiction sometimes use to scare their human readers is the idea that ants may develop intelligence and take over the Earth. The purposeful collective activity of ants and other social insects does, indeed, look intelligent on the surface. An illusion, presumably. But it might be a good enough illusion for computer scientists to exploit. The search for artificial intelligence modelled on human brains has been a dismal failure. AI based on ant behaviour, though, is having some success.

Read the whole thing (The Economist)

One thing the article only touches on is the tremendous efficiency gained when industries adopt ant-based optimizations to determine the best shipping routes. The company Air Liquide, to cite one example, saves over 6 million dollars a year with ant-based systems. That’s a powerful incentive for continued investment in basic research.

4 thoughts on “The Economist: Swarm Theory”

  1. Michael Suttkus, II

    You say “saves 6 billion”. You don’t realize that just means that there is 6 billion less going into the shipping industry! WHY DO YOU HATE THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY? This is why the economy is failing!

    : – )

  2. “That’s a powerful incentive for continued investment in basic research.”

    Eccl. 1:9 RSV (“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun”)

    All that is required is for humans to discover what has been done – and insects are among the best expositors, with some millions to billions of generations to show the best ways.

  3. Good article, and excellent timing. Invest $1 million dollars in Antweb, and gain $6 billion dollars for just one single large company among hundreds more that also benefit. Not to mention that so many US politicians have at least $1 million dollars in their Swiss bank accounts…

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