Swarm Intelligence

February 28, 2023      |      3 Min Read

The Birds and the Bees as You Haven’t Thought About Them

Can looking up and looking down give us insight into the future of human collaboration?

Our recent JOLTY guests,  Louis Rosenberg and David Baltaxe, founders of Unanimous AI,  believe so.

Looking upwards at the birds organize themselves to fly in a gorgeous pattern – how bees organize themselves to create honey – and down at the way ants beautifully and effectively cooperate, is called “swarm intelligence” or the hive mind.

Think about it.  No single bird or ant got a memo telling them what they need to do to fly south to Florida, or build a tunnel, but they accomplish those miraculous tasks by working together towards a common goal.

“This idea of the lone genius is a myth in terms of its impact on society.” Louis Rosenberg, CEO and Chief Scientist, Unanimous AI

As a swarm they display greater intelligence than any one individual possesses.

Both of us have been fascinated by this phenomenon for a while, which is why we included the term in our book “Dictionary of the Future” more than twenty years ago.  Here’s an excerpt of what we wrote:

“Swarm Intelligence describes the behavior of ants and how their collaboration yields problem-solving strategies that can be systemized to improve many human tasks. Assessing the way ants collectively figure out the shortest path to a food source, or move a heavy object, gives researchers valuable information.” Faith Popcorn and Adam Hanft “Dictionary of the Future” (2001)

On our JOLTY podcast, Louis and David explained how they harness and apply this power to corporate settings – and others – to use our inborn desire for collaboration to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of arriving at more productive, valuable, and actually more predictive conclusions.

They share evidence of how this capability – which is also described as the wisdom of crowds – has been validated empirically.

The examples of what Unanimous AI has done in the workplace are compelling.   It’s wonderful when a concept that you want to believe is true – that human beings don’t have to inexorably be at odds with each other – is true.

At first we were a bit skeptical, you can hear that for yourselves (and please listen), largely because we thought that what Louis and David were arguing for the evil homogenization of groupthink.  In fact, they aren’t, and swarm intelligence isn’t about conformity, but about creating a daisy chain of individual brains to find a truth that is already out there, somewhere.

In fact, what the Unanimous AI platform eliminates, through its swarm-based software, is what happens when one person dominates to the detriment of the process.

Community computing – which we also wrote about in “Dictionary of the Future” – describes the way that thousands of individual computers can be linked to solve massive problems, is another example of how this operates.

ChatGPT, which is this year’s unavoidable phenomenon, is another example of the swarm at work, as its large language model draws up the hive content that is out there.

This is truly exciting stuff, as so many decisions across business and politics and diplomacy are bad choices made by smart people, because the process is flawed.   As Louis and David shared with us, human beings evolved to work in groups, so why not allow our ancient brains the opportunity to work at their highest and best level.

As Futurists, we are enchanted by the process by which tomorrow is identified.    While we have thought about it -and cherished it – as an individual activity, this podcast enlightened us about another method for looking ahead.

The power of people cannot be diminished.

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Can looking up and looking down give us insight into the future of human collaboration? Our recent JOLTY guests,  Louis Rosenberg and David Baltaxe, founders...