An interview with Eric Bonabeau on emergent swarm technologies:
“In social insects, errors and randomness are not “bugs”; rather, they contribute very strongly to their success by enabling them to discover and explore in addition to exploiting. Self-organization feeds itself upon errors to provide the colony with flexibility (the colony can adapt to a changing environment) and robustness (even when one or more individuals fail, the group can still perform its tasks).
With self-organization, the behavior of the group is often unpredictable, emerging from the collective interactions of all of the individuals. The simple rules by which individuals interact can generate complex group behavior. Indeed, the emergence of such collective behavior out of simple rules is one the great lessons of swarm intelligence.
This is obviously a very different mindset from the prevailing approach to software development and to managing vast amounts of information: no central control, errors are good, flexibility, robustness (or self-repair). The big issue is this: if I am letting a decentralized, self-organizing system take over, say, my computer network, how should I program the individual virtual ants so that the network behaves appropriately at the system-wide level?”
As usual social and economic theory are way behind science and technology. But then, they don’t have the DC monolith getting in their way…