Swarm intelligence

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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.


  • Swarm Intelligence can be defined more precisely as: Any attempt to design algorithms or distributed problem-solving methods inspired by the collective behavior of the social insect colonies or other animal societies. The main properties of such systems are flexibility, robustness, decentralization and self-organization.
    • Ajith Abraham, Crina Grosan, Vitorino Ramos, Springer, editors, Swarm Intelligence in Data Mining (2006), p. 193.
  • when software systems become so intractable that they can no longer be controlled, swarm intelligence offers an alternative way of designing an ‘intelligent’ systems, in which autonomy, emergence, and distributed functioning replace control, preprogramming, and centralization.
    • Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo, Guy Theraulaz, Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems, Oxford University Press, (1999), p. xi
  • These nature-inspired algorithms gradually became more and more attractive and popular among the evolutionary computation research community, and together they were named swarm intelligence, which became the little brother of the major four evolutionary computation algorithms.
    • Yuhui Shi, Emerging Research on Swarm Intelligence and Algorithm Optimization, Information Science Reference, (2014), p. xv.
  • Human beings suffer from a 'centralized mindset'; they would like to assign the coordination of activities to a central command. But the way social insects form highways and other amazing structures such as bridges, chains, nests (by the way, African fungus-growing termites have invented air conditioning) and can perform complex tasks (nest building, defense, cleaning, brood care, foraging, etc) is very different: they self-organize through direct and indirect interactions.
    • Eric Bonabeau, as quoted in “Swarm Intelligence: An Interview with Eric Bonabeau” by Derrick Story (02/21/2003), O'Reilly OpenP2P.com
  • Dumb parts, properly connected into a swarm, yield smart results.
    • Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy (1999), p. 13.
  • The most amazing thing about social insect colonies is that there's no individual in charge. If you look at a single ant, you may have the impression that it is behaving, if not randomly, at least not in synchrony with the rest of the colony. You feel that it is doing its own things without paying too much attention to what the others are doing.
    • Eric Bonabeau, as quoted in “Swarm Intelligence: An Interview with Eric Bonabeau” by Derrick Story (02/21/2003), O'Reilly OpenP2P.com
  • Swarm intelligence illustrates the complex and holistic way in which the world operates. Order is created from chaos; patterns are revealed; and systems are free to work out their errors and problems at their own level. What natural systems can teach humanity is truly amazing.
    • L.K. Samuels In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013), p. 276.

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