Emily Singer on emergence:
Scientists have been studying the social behavior of ants and other insects for decades, searching for chemical cues and other signals that the insects use to coordinate behavior. Much of this work has focused on understanding how ants decide where to forage or build their homes. But new research combining observations of ant behavior with modern imaging techniques and computational modeling is beginning to reveal the secrets of ant construction. It turns out that ants perform these complex tasks by obeying a few simple rules.
“It all results from local interactions between the individuals,” said [Simon] Garnier, a former student of Theraulaz’s who now studies living ant bridges. “The final structure emerges without central coordination.”
Also currently missing is an evolutionary approach to understanding the ant behavior. “If we can understand how rules emerge from other rules and how they change with the environment, that would be extraordinarily fruitful,” said [Chris] Adami, who is planning to work with Garnier on this question.
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