Scientific Controversies
No. 16: Swarm Intelligence

Scientific Controversies (Sci Con) is a series of conversations between scientists on unsolved quandaries, hosted by Director of Sciences Janna Levin.

Ant colonies are super organisms. A swarm intelligence emerges from the collective, as though an individual ant is a single brain cell unable to perceive the whole. Each ant is a piece in an intricate, problem-solving machine built out of disconnected parts. Ants build bridges, sacrifice themselves for sex, and wage war. Petite siblings put food in the mouths of soldiers, each relying on the colony to survive. Swarm Intelligence also guides single-celled slime molds with no brain, no nervous system as they solve network problems that challenge the output of supercomputers. Roboticists leverage Swarm Intelligence as a model of artificial intelligence and of consciousness.

Director of Sciences Janna Levin asks guests Professor Simon Garnier and Dr. Corrie Moreau: Are we an unwitting example of a swarm intelligence that has evolved an illusion of a coherent self?

Join us after the conversation for star gazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York in the garden and DJ Black Helmet’s set of rare grooves in the North Hall.

This project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

 

Image: Bruno Levy, Untitled, digital photograph 2014. From the series VITAMIN C :: series II created at Pioneer Works with a Nanotronics microscope.