Connectivism as Swarm Intelligence

We have now reached a level of sophistication in our signalling and communications that we can compare our networks, our trails forming abilities, with those of ants. The traceries, the scent trails laid down that enable a colony’s survival, providing way-finding pathways to sources of sustenance, demarcating territory, identifying threats, are much like the recorded electronic linkage we have developed as a means to connect and map sources or nodes of knowledge, to set boundaries and to protect our networks. In ants, “simple osmotropotaxic scent following is not only sufficient to allow for trail following behaviour…, but is sufficient to produce evolution of a complex pattern of organized flow of social insect traffic.” (Erik M. Rauch, Mark M. Millonas, Dante R. Chialvo. 1995. Pattern formation and functionality in swarm models. Physics Letters A. Elsevier Science. p. 189.).

In the information age, knowledge is our daily bread, and the discovery of a rich source of information is similar to a communal feast. As word spreads, as node access levels increase and are documented across network connections and displayed on more interfaces, the strength or importance of the source of knowledge increases. Like ant trails, these pathways can also, decay. Browsing the Internet, bookmarking media, linking and embedding content, and sharing this knowledge collectively, pinpoints and heightens the activity around nodes of interest. I see considerable similarity between these activities, whether for the purposes of learning and education or otherwise, as swarm intelligence and the behaviour of colony insects. It is the “emergent collective intelligence of groups of simple autonomous agents” (Yang Liu and Kevin M. Passino. 2000. Swarm Intelligence: Literature Overview. p. 1.) where the agent is a subsystem that interacts, relatively independently, with its environment and probably other agents in a stigmergic relationship. According to Gerardo Beni, “swarms can undergo a transition from non convergence to convergence as their degree of partial synchronicity diminishes, i.e. as they get more disordered.” (Gerardo Beni. 2005. Order by Disordered Action in Swarms. p. 153. Swarm Robotics.).

There are a number of applications where swarm intelligence is being used, including optimization problems in combinatorial mathematics and network routing (B.D. Shirodkar, S.S. Manvi, A.J. Umbarkar. May, 2009. Multicast Routing for Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks using Swarm Intelligence. International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol. 1, No. 1.), construction algorithms using self-organization and stigmergy and in cooperative transport tasks. Currently, principles in swarm intelligence are being used to develop social networking environments, such as PittCult, a swarm events calendar (Deb Smit. November 19, 2009. Pop City.


Wolfram | Alpha: Prequel

A New Kind of Science (NKS)

An hour and a half with Stephen. Wolfram, that is, not Downes. SD’s Web site is down as I write and has been for a couple of days. Ouch! Maybe tomorrow.

I thought this video would be a great segue into Connectivism and Connective Knowledge and also, Swarm Intelligence, which I am reading about when time permits. I think there are similarities between the behaviour and activities of CCK09 agents and that of ants. Hyperlinks. Scent trails. Emergent phenomena. Systems of interacting agents. Self-organization. Hmmm…

Wolfram’s presentation from April, 2003, highlights the stuff in his book, A New Kind of Science. He uses Cellular Automata to model many types of complex dynamic systems. The book (or tome, rather) took ten years to write. He retreated from the world again, to create Wolfram | Alpha, so this may have been one of his last speaking engagements before entering the cloister of chaos for another five years.

Well worth the hour and a half. Cheers!

Wolfram | Alpha

Approaching 100,000,000 queries.

Wolfram | Alpha

Wolfram | Alpha Preview

A few thousand people around the world, following the introduction of Wolfram | Alpha by way of the developer’s mailing list and blog, were treated to a pre-launch test drive. A reviewer’s ID and password crossed my screen, late Friday afternoon. I have been running queries, since.

On Monday, May 18th (Victoria Day, a civic holiday here in Canada), the computational knowledge engine goes live. For curiousity’s sake, I queried “May 18″ and discovered that it was International Museum Day. W|A also, returned these results…

Date formats:
day-month-year | 18-05-2009
year-month-day | 2009-05-18
day/month/year | 18/05/2009
month/day/year | 05/18/2009
year-month-day | 2009-May-18
Julian day number | 2454970
Julian day | 138 2009
Jewish calendar | 24 Iyar, 5769 (until sunset)
Islamic calendar | 23 Jumada I, 1430 (until sunset)
Chinese lunar calendar | 24 siyue, 4706
zodiac sign | Taurus (The Bull)

Time difference from today (Saturday, May 9, 2009):
9 days from now
1 week 2 days from now
6 weekdays from now

Time in 2009:
138th day
98th weekday of 2009
21st week
2nd quarter
37.53% of 2009 elapsed, 62.47% remaining

Observances for May 18 (Canada):
Victoria Day
International Museum Day

Anniversaries for May 18, 2009:
(no major anniversaries)

Daylight information for May 18 in Winnipeg, Canada:
sunrise | 5:40 am CDT
sunset | 9:13 pm CDT
duration of daylight | 15 hours 33 minutes

Phase of the Moon:
waning crescent moon

Initial impressions…
– Under light load, it is fast. I will be very interested to learn how it performs post-launch.
– It works on the iPhone’s browser, mobile Safari. I am very pleased with that.
– There are assumptions and drill-down functions to re-direct or expand the content to enrichen the experience.
– The “Source information” link provides valuable reference and bibliographic material. I have been struck by the amount of content that is being drawn from Wolfram Research’s own archival repository. Decades worth of research, the full history, is contained in this library. Impressive. Very, very impressive.

A global reference library? Expert answers for anyone, anywhere? Scalable? I think so. Yes. We may be witnessing the emergence of the twenty-first century’s “Killer App”.

Google and IBM attempt to answer the challenge of Wolfram’s “computational knowledge engine”.

Google Crashes Wolfram Alpha Debut Party

Boom! Question Answering Engines Take Off. IBM Sets Sights On Jeopardy, Wolfram Alpha

This could get interesting.

Wolfram | Alpha Webinar

I took part in Stephen Wolfram’s Webinar and was blown away by the technology. Textbook publishers, especially in the sciences arena, are going to freaking out. Ask it question, get an answer. A good answer. His demonstration was recorded, so expect it to be embedded in one of their Web sites, soon. Launching in May, I want to see how it performs under load. Serious load. The proof is in the puddin’.

Here is a link to ReadWriteWeb’s synopsis of the Wolfram | Alpha webinar –

Follow-up video and screen shots from the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University, in which Stephen Wolfram gives his first public demonstration of Wolfram | Alpha.

Webcast recorded live – – Stephen Wolfram discusses Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine

Screenshots – A Sneak Preview of Wolfram|Alpha