It’s time to engage with nature through Swarm Intelligence
Vice-President, Head of Machine Intelligence at Atos and member of the Scientific Community
Chief Architect, Distinguished Expert and member of the Scientific Community
Do van Rijn
Bid Executive at Atos
Posted on: 18 February 2020
In In the previous blog article in our series on Swarm Intelligence, we demonstrated how Swarm Intelligence brings advantages to both communities and business organizations. Let’s now see how the best design inspired by Swarm Intelligence capabilities derive from mother nature incredible efficiency.
The Eiffel tower, a building lighter than the air
Did you know the Eiffel tower, 324 meters tall with a ground square of 125 meters’ side, is so incredibly well optimized that all that iron it’s composed of could be melted in a solid ball of only 12 meters in diameter. Equally astonishing is the fact that the air contained in a cylinder completely wrapping around the Eiffel tower would outweigh it.
How was this terrific design conceived? Maurice Koechlin who sketched the first Eiffel tower concept found inspiration in the lightest and strongest bone of the human body, the femur to develop his drawings.
Our future: biomimicry minded designs
There is no better designer than nature. Through billions of years of evolution, life's products, so to speak, have been extensively prototyped, market tested, upgraded and refined. So, it is no wonder then why creative minds increasingly turn to nature to look for innovative design solutions, jumping into the biomimicry era.
Not familiar yet with biomimicry, have a look at Janine Benyus' famous book, “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature”, that popularized this movement in 1990s. It has evolved since then, drawing attention from scientists and developers. Biomimicry involves learning from and emulating biological forms, processes, and ecosystems tested by the environment and refined through evolution. The investigation subject of swarming animals or insects is just an example of this broader movement.
From Biomimicry to Swarm Intelligence
You don’t have to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. Just look down and observe how ants behave. In 2017, scientists at Georgia Tech investigated how ants build themselves into towers to escape confinement or danger. They discovered that the ants climb on top of each other until they find an empty spot. Then they stop. The next one does the same, and so on. As the tower grows, the ants in the middle start sinking and climb out from the bottom. They then restart their journey to the top as they continuously rebuild the tower. This phenomenon inspired researchers to apply the ant’s construction method to program swarm intelligent robots for building purposes.
Swarm Intelligence is about applying the power of many, which is what we see in nature in the form of swarming animals. By applying relatively simple rules together and in mutual alignment, amazing constructions emerge. And the beauty is that there is no one in command, hence no single point of failure.
Reconciliating ourselves with mother nature
Since the beginning of humanity, we have been striving to reduce our dependence on nature, building houses to protect us against rain and cold, or dikes to avoid flooding. But at the same time, we exploit nature to our advantage in an irrecoverable way.
Biomimicry provides a response to this unbalanced relationship and represents so much more than just a new way of looking at nature. It is about finding harmony between our way of living and nature. This sustainable design approach has now become a race and a rescue.
It’s high time for organizations to create man-made swarm intelligence based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her?
Stay tuned with our next blog article, “How to achieve Swarm Intelligence”, to discover some cases in action.
Read the full blog series here:
- The rise of the Swarm Intelligence era
- Swarm intelligence as an innovation booster
- Swarm Intelligence promises to make our life and business easier
- Swarm intelligence, a driving force in our ultra-connected world
- Communities swarming in the virtual world
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