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“Swarm Intelligence” Opens Doors to Understanding Man and Machine Relationships

February 06, 2016

Honey Bees

Last year’s Academy Awards was a breakthrough in artificial intelligence – according to ExtremeTech.com, Microsoft’s Bing artificial intelligence platform successfully predicted 21 out of 24 of the Academy Award winners. This was impressive considering that the New York Time’s panel of experts in film were unable to even come close to this percentage of correct predictions. Although this may seem like it puts machine ahead of man, swarm intelligence may help to even the playing field.

Most forms of artificial intelligence are based on machine algorithms, but swarm intelligence uses a different approach by examining biological-based intelligence and how it can be increased by novel forms of coordination, following the popular idea of “wisdom of the crowds.” The development of swarm intelligence has been pioneered by an unlike source –examination of the honeybee. Honeybees use collective intelligence to locate an ideal location for a hive, which prompted research to be done about how different forms of swarm intelligence may benefit humans in policy making.

When it comes to the all-important task of selecting a new location for a beehive, honeybees have an unbelievable ability to optimize the location by using a number of different variables including size, food storage, and its capabilities for rearing new bees. These types of optimization tasks are often difficult for humans to perform and are often left to machine algorithms. Since honeybees are uniquely skilled at these types of tasks, researchers have been allowed to uncover swarm intelligence as it exists in nature.

In simple terms, swarm intelligence allows for improved decision-making to occur even during an uproar of different and even conflicting opinions. Using the honeybees as an example, hundreds of scout bees individually look for a new hive location, and they are able to pool their individual choices and findings to make a collective decision about where the hive will be. Humans, on the other hand, often take this polling method and instead of coming to a collective decision, groups of people are fractured and polarized by the process.

Should we apply this to the upcoming presidential election, it would lead to the selection of a president that would benefit the majority instead of just select groups. Our current process leads to groups separating from one another and making choices only in their best interests and not that of the majority. Louis Rosenberg of UNU, the group who created the swarm intelligence platform, told Newsweek that “forcing polarized groups into a swarm allows them to find the answer that most people are satisfied with. Our vision is to enable the power of group intelligence for everybody.”

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