Saturday, September 26, 2009

Emergence and “Swarm Intelligence”


Emergence occurs when numerous simple interactions take place and develop a secondary complexity or a discernible pattern. A more rigorous definition exists mathematically and in physics, but this layman’s explanation works well to explain some of the intricacies related to everything from economics to trends in virtual-environment rules of etiquette. In “Swarm Intelligence” by James Kennedy and Russell C. Eberhart, emergence is introduced in chapter one as a key term for understanding evolution in culture and society.
The first chapter of “Wikinomics” discusses a grand world of collaboration and its subsequent consequences. These consequences are the emergent phenomena of a social construct. There are predictable occurrences, but the unpredictable effects and variations also make an interesting study. The authors of “Swarm Intelligence” state, “Our argument is that cultural evolution should be defined, not as operations on ideas, but as operations on minds. The evolution of ideas involves changes in the states of minds that hold ideas, not changes in the ideas themselves; it is a search - by minds - through the universe of ideas, to find the fitter ones.”
Thinking of cultural evolution in this way allows for additional commentary on what may or may not occur due to the new “wikinomics” coming into prevalence. One side effect that is already being witnessed is the change in business practices. As Tapscott and Williams write, “Publishers of music, literature, movies, software, and television are like proverbial canaries in a coal mine - the first casualties of a revolution that is sweeping across all industries.” The benefits of collaboration also represent another exciting avenue for discovery. “Swarm Intelligence” provides an excellent method for interacting, mentally, with this complex world.
Recommended reading:
Kennedy, James and Russell C. Eberhart, with Yuhui Shi. Swarm Intelligence. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. 2001.

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