Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Emergent intelligent behaviour in the hive


This is an interesting article on decision making in the bee hive.

The interesting aspects are both the mechanism and the result.

The mechanism of using inhibition to prevent deadlock is quite useful and I will play with it later.

The result however is even more interesting.  In the article they talk about the two groups of bee scounts returning from scouting and starting to recruit undecided individiuals.

If we assume that both scouting parties found suitable locations ( they were not unsuitable ) the question is if there is any mechanism to select between locations based on the quality of the locations or are they simply randomly deciding between locations that all exceed some minimum specification ( dry, enclosed, no bears?)

I would assume that a bee scout can only report on a single location at a time.  So, I would assume that if a scout is out looking, it will stop looking as soon as it finds a location that meets minimum spec. As there is no point keeping looking as it would then be making the decision of which was the location most worth reporting.

Another factor is distance,  it makes sense that two scouting parties depart at the same time and the one who finds the first viable location would return first. Thus they to recruit other individuals for a time period until the second party returns.  I would guess that this may be a factor and would favor moving the hive a short distance rather than a long distance.

Another bit of information that may play out is the strength of the scouts dance. If the scout is not feeling good about the location... they perhaps will not fully invest in their dance and so may be easier to inhibit.  This may be influenced by the stress levels of the scout. If they find a location and its a bit crappy and some of their fellow scouts get eaten... would they still dance as strongly?

If you think about that, the undecided individual has to make a decision.  Is what the scout tells me a better option than what I already know ( status quo)? Is what this scout tells me better than what another scout has already told me? (They can only get one lot of information at a time) Or is this better than what another scout may tell me in the future?

So there are still lots of aspects of the decision making process that are not clarified by this article. It just describes an anti-deadlock mechanism for group decision making.

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