Communities, swarming in the virtual world

Eric Monchalin

Vice-President, Head of Machine Intelligence at Atos and member of the Scientific Community

Purshottam Purswani

Chief Architect, Distinguished Expert and member of the Scientific Community

Do van Rijn

Bid Executive at Atos

Posted on: 12 February 2020

In our previous blog article in our series on Swarm Intelligence, we demonstrated how Swarm Intelligence can help people take advantage of this new paradigm, e.g. by applying it to societal or industrial purposes. Early adopters can definitely create top value and stand out from the competition.

Nevertheless, the tangible value of Swarm Intelligence is not only driven by algorithms as already explored. Let’s see how it brings advantages to both communities and businesses.

From tribes to swarms

Applying Swarm Intelligence in the human domain is not only about applying it to technology. People themselves tend to swarm as well!

In ancient history humans grouped into tribes to enhance their chance of survival in a hostile environment. This grouping of people evolved from the development of the first villages into today’s megacities. Nowadays, people tend to group for economic purposes, either in companies or trade associations, or socially, creating a sense of identity and belonging among like-minded people.

Originally these groupings of people relied on direct face-to-face contacts, hence local proximity of the individuals. In this type of situation, it is clear who you are dealing with. These personal relationships built upon trust are supplementary to any formal participation agreement (e.g. job contracts, membership registration of a club).

The self-organizational capabilities of a group assure its perpetual orientation toward a common goal. Without central authority, the members divide the work among themselves, depending on progress and availability of team members. The obtained result is a form of memory, also called “stigmergy”, that is directly visible to everyone and thereby supports the decision-making process and the coordination of next steps. This applies very well in particular when dealing with a high degree of uncertainty or turbulent environment that may affect the goal attainment.

Self-organization makes the difference between a crowd and a Swarm

From physical to virtual swarm

The rise of the internet has opened new ways for people to group. Anyone can be connected any time / any place, at a global scale and, in most cases, for free. IP-based communication has rapidly substituted traditional telephony and is also used to reduce expensive, time-consuming and eco-unfriendly travels.

What we have seen over the last two decades is an explosion of internet-based groupings, the virtual communities, in the C2C (social networks), B2C (commercial platforms) and B2B (trade associations) areas. The success of these communities relies on two key factors:

1.       A tangible individual benefit that a participant obtains from joining the community.

2.       A certain degree of trust among the participants to obtain active participation in reaching the community’s overall objective.

Communities can range from fairly loose gatherings of participants, sharing information or just socializing, to groupings with a formalized membership and the ambition of achieving a particular task together. The more ambitious the task, the more dependent this will be on the active (and lasting) contributions from their members, and consequently the higher the return of such investment for each of the participants will need to be.

The internet provided a fertile breeding ground where just anyone could start a community with little investment. The successful communities provide the basis for people and companies to meet globally, to conduct business (electronic marketplaces), find likeminded people (social networks), exchange knowledge (like Wikipedia). These communities managed to strike a balance between what the participants need to invest and what they get in return.

In spite of today’s risks, like undesirable, if not criminal behavior that still occur due to lack of maturity, the internet offers a tremendous platform for people and companies to shape virtual communities in pursuit of some mutual interest. But we should not forget that what we do in the virtual world is connected to the real world where this interest resides.

What future organizations will look like

As the digital world matures, we can expect that communities professionalize as well, for instance through adopting Swarm Intelligence principles. These communities will also develop their own economic models and incentivization mechanisms, leading to new types of social contracts.

The need for an organization to be more responsive to an increasingly uncertain and volatile environment, the shift toward knowledge-based economies, almost everyone and everything being connected in the digital world, growing flexibility and commoditization of technology, are just a few trends that put classical organization models under pressure. Specialized companies will shape up by bringing workers virtually together to collaborate for a certain period toward specific goals or to perform tasks in a swarm-like manner. Such companies will need to liaise with other companies, each covering a particular part of a business chain. Like with workers, these liaisons may be of temporary nature, thereby forming swarms (or “ecosystems”) of companies.

In our next blog, we’ll explore why it’s time to engage with nature through Swarm Intelligence and the concept of the Biomimicry era.

Read the full blog series here:

  1. The rise of the Swarm Intelligence era
  2. Swarm intelligence as an innovation booster
  3. Swarm Intelligence promises to make our life and business easier
  4. Swarm intelligence, a driving force in our ultra-connected world

Anxious and excited to hear more? Read our white paper to get all you wish to know and even more.

Download the Swarm intelligence – White Paper

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About Eric Monchalin

Vice-President, Head of Machine Intelligence at Atos and member of the Scientific Community
Eric Monchalin is Vice-President, Head of Machine Intelligence at Atos. He’s responsible for solidifying new technological and business directions for the Big Data and Security Global Business Line. Eric’s career has been mainly built on numerous R&D positions in several companies, with experience in leading 100+ people organizations and managing multi tens millions Euros projects in international environments. He is a technology-minded person who values wide range of skills and technological knowledge focused on customer wishes to turn them into reality.

About Purshottam Purswani

Chief Architect, Distinguished Expert and member of the Scientific Community
Purshottam is a chief architect with more than 20 years cross-industry IT experience in the Telecom, Manufacturing and financial sectors. In his 20 year experience, he has fulfilled a variety of roles including Enterprise architecture, IT management, and program management. Purshottam is now responsible for the strategy and driving innovation for customers. In his role, he displays thought leadership with regard to using business technology to address the current and future challenges faced by organizations. A member of the Atos Scientific Community and part of Atos Distinguished expert, Purshottam is very passionate and works on digital technologies around IoT, Cloud, Machine Learning, Blockchain and AI. He is married with 1 child, based out of Mumbai, India.

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About Do van Rijn

Bid Executive at Atos
As a Bid Executive at the Strategic Sales Engagements team of Atos in BTN, Do van Rijn is responsible for managing bid teams with the aim to acquire new profitable business. Together with the bid team, the challenge is how to differentiate Atos positively from the rest of the pack. This requires, apart from understanding the drivers and issues of the client deeply, thinking out of the box and seeing how new paradigms, like Swarm Intelligence, can be utilized for this purpose. In other words, it is about looking for opportunities which are truly transformational to the client.