[ Fri. Feb. 8. 2013 ]

Stanford professor and neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky chooses to discuss swarm intelligence.

"Observe a single ant," he notes, "and it doesn't make much sense – walking in one direction, suddenly careening in another for no obvious reason, doubling back on itself. Thoroughly unpredictable. The same happens with two ants, with a handful of ants.

"But a colony of ants makes fantastic sense. Specialized jobs, efficient means of exploiting new food sources, complex underground nests with temperature regulated within a few degrees."

What's fascinating about all this, Sapolsky goes on to say, is that "there's no blueprint or central source of command." Rather than "the wisdom of the crowd," the complexity of an ant colony depends on simple behavior algorithms "that consist of a few simple rules for interacting with the local environment and local ants."