Swarm Intelligence

There is a need to educate masses from the grass root level, to bring the people back to basics!

A few days back, I was driving my car and was crossing a bridge which had three narrow lanes. I was in the middle lane. It was a jam packed, bumper to bumper traffic. Suddenly the ambulance siren was heard which had just entered the bridge and was about seven eight vehicles behind me, but on the lane which was on my right. I got worried as to how the ambulance would get a fast and free passage. I started slowing down, creating a gap between me and the car in front of me (of course, at the cost of listening to the honking of horn by the car driver following me). The cars from my right lane started shifting in front of me, one car at a time and the ambulance was moving a little faster. I felt quite relieved when finally ambulance got free passage.

I thought over this incidence and further contemplated on the density of vehicles traffic on multilane roads. I compared the flow of this traffic with that of birds, bees and fish while they move in large numbers. I am sure all of us have seen very large groups of birds, bees and fish and even animals moving as one unit, in the form of waves, if not physically may be on wildlife videos. There seems to be no problem at all of any collisions or disturbance in the smooth flight of hundreds of birds, bees or fishes. The group intelligence needed for such maneuvers is generally known as swarm intelligence. In case of birds, bees and fishes etc., apart from the miracle of fast instinctive communication, the scene of such flights offers a beautiful sight. For example watch, for bird called starling, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOGCSBh3kmM and of fish, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIgHEhziUxU ( (Thanks to people who have posted these videos on youtube/ internet).

One can find many more videos on the net about fishes, birds, bees and very large group of running animals in forests of Africa. Even in our own villages such scenes are specifically observed in the wheat harvesting seasons when hundreds of sparrows and other small birds fly in the form of waves in and around wheat fields. These birds do not collide even while moving with tremendous speeds.

Many projects have been done by robotics students where they use artificial intelligence in applying swarm intelligence in micro robots. Dozens of micro robots are put on the move on a large board or in a room. These move with high speeds avoiding collisions.

We now have two examples, first; the natural flight of birds, bees, fishes etc., with instinctive swarm intelligence, and second; the random motion of a group of micro robots programmed, applying swarm intelligence. No collisions are faced in both the cases.

But when it comes to human beings moving in very large groups, like when performing Hajj by Muslims, and many other such examples, there have been many cases of stampede. Also, while considering road traffic on multilane roads, the traffic blocks are an everyday phenomenon (of course primarily due to breaking of traffic rules by individuals or due to less courtesy).

The point to be highlighted here is not the application of externally applied traffic laws, but trying to give a thought on the concept of swarm intelligence. Karen Armstrong in one of her books says, “telepathy; communication by the transfer of thoughts should have been the primary mode of communication of human beings”. But probably it was of higher science which human brains did not accept. However, considering the Ambulance example mentioned above if all the drivers of the vehicles, while moving in large group of cars, intelligently think of the requirements and intentions of other drivers while following fundamental human attributes, I guess all kinds of blockade and problems in the traffic can be solved. Problem is encountered only, when the humanity based rules are broken, when drivers are rude, arrogant, angry, not selfless, not caring etc., thus resulting into traffic blocks. Otherwise the swarm intelligence in human beings is also possible like that of birds and bees etc. Even in micro-robots case when some bug in the programming code is faced, the movement of the robots cannot be collision free and thus the code is to be debugged. Same is true for human beings. When the society seems to be derailed and polluted from fundamental social norms the reading of minds of people (which can only be done on the platform of honesty and morality) while working or moving in a group is IMPOSSIBLE. There is thus the requirement of carrying out thorough debugging. This can only be achieved through excessive efforts of educating the masses from the grass root level. Bringing the people back to basics. When we will repeatedly and consciously do these acts of reading (guessing) others minds and reacting (proactively) accordingly for a better collective outcome, It will become our habit and go into our unconscious. We will then act or move unconsciously like the birds of the video clip. In case of human beings, this will then not stop here but will (can) stretch further to knowing and reacting (pro-actively) to the needs of other people among society, that is; our relatives, neighbors, friends or even passing by strangers without them asking from us; that is what was one of the purposes of creation of human beings. Please give it a thought.

Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Malik