Swarm intelligence  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Swarm intelligence (SI) is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence. The expression was introduced by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989, in the context of cellular robotic systems.

In popular culture

Swarm intelligence-related concepts and references can be found throughout popular culture, frequently as some form of collective intelligence or group mind involving far more agents than used in current applications.

  • Science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon may have been the first to discuss swarm intelligences equal or superior to humanity. In Last and First Men (1931), a swarm intelligence from Mars consists of tiny individual cells that communicate with each other by radio waves; in Star Maker (1937) swarm intelligences founded numerous civilizations.
  • The Invincible (1964), a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem where a human spaceship finds intelligent behavior in a flock of small particles that were able to defend themselves against what they found as a menace.
  • In the dramatic novel and subsequent mini-series The Andromeda Strain (1969) by Michael Crichton, an extraterrestrial virus communicates between individual cells and displays the ability to think and react individually and as a whole, and as such displays a semblance of "swarm intelligence".
  • Ygramul, the Many - an intelligent being consisting of a swarm of many wasp-like insects, a character in the novel The Neverending Story (1979) written by Michael Ende. Ygramul is also mentioned in a scientific paper Flocks, Herds, and Schools written by Knut Hartmann (Computer Graphics and Interactive Systems, Otto-von-Guericke-University of Magdeburg).
  • Swarm (1982), a short story by Bruce Sterling about a mission undertaken by a faction of humans, to understand and exploit a space-faring swarm intelligence.
  • The Borg (1989) in Star Trek
  • The Hacker and the Ants (1994), a book by Rudy Rucker on AI ants within a virtual environment.
  • Hallucination (1995), a posthumous short story by Isaac Asimov about an alien insect-like swarm, capable of organization and provided with a sort of swarm intelligence.
  • The Zerg (1998) of the Starcraft universe demonstrate such concepts when in groups and enhanced by the psychic control of taskmaster breeds.
  • Wyrm (1998), a novel by Mark Fabi, deals with a virus developing emergent intelligence on the Internet.
  • Decipher (2001) by Stel Pavlou deals with the swarm intelligence of nanobots that guard against intruders in Atlantis.
  • In the video game series Halo, the Covenant (2001) species known as the Hunters are made up of thousands of worm-like creatures which are individually non-sentient, but, collectively form a sentient being.
  • Prey (2002), by Michael Crichton deals with the danger of nanobots escaping from human control and developing a swarm intelligence.
  • The science fiction novel The Swarm (2004), by Frank Schätzing, deals with underwater single-celled creatures who act in unison to destroy humanity.
  • In the video game Mass Effect (2007), a galactic race known as the Quarians created a race of humanoid sentient machines known as the Geth.

Notable researchers

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Swarm intelligence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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