Smart Swarm

Some quotes from Perter Miller’s Smart Swarm.  A very interesting book, and highly recommended:

…a large number of individuals without supervision can accomplish difficult tasks by following simple rules when they meet and interact.- p.262

…groups can reliably make good decisions in a timely fashion as long as they seek a diversity of knowledge and perspectives, encourage a friendly competition of ideas, and narrow their choices through a mechanism like voting. – p. 263

…even small contributions to a shared project can create something useful and impressive when large numbers of individuals build upon one another’s efforts. – p.263

…without direction from a single leader, members of a group can coordinate their behavior with amazing precision simply by paying close attention to their nearest neighbors […] but it can also tempt us to follow the crowd uncritically… – pp.263-4

To vastly oversimplify our dilemma, we’re torn between belonging to a community and maximizing our personal welfare. – p.265

And some outlines from the text:

Swarms in nature have taught us two lessons:

  1. By working together in smart groups, we too can lessen the impact of uncertainty, complexity, and change. – p.267
  2. As members of smart groups, we don’t have to surrender our individuality. In nature, good decision-making comes from competition as much as compromise, from disagreement as much as from consensus. – p.268

Natural mechanisms of interactions between individuals (p.267):

  1. Reliance on local knowledge (maintain diversity of information)
  2. Simple rules of thumb (minimise computational needs)
  3. Repeated interactions between group members (amplify faint but important signals and speed up decision-making)
  4. Use of quorum thresholds (improve accuracy of of decisions)
  5. A healthy dose of randomness in individual behavior (prevent getting stuck in problem-solving ruts).

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