Harnessing the Power of Swarming to Outperform Predictions

Category Artificial Intelligence

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Swarming is essential for the survival of many animal collectives and has potential to change things for humans too. It is already being used for crowd control, traffic management and to understand the spread of infectious diseases and is being shaped how we use data for healthcare operations. Research into swarming is helping us understand swarming and harness its power, and consequentially this technology is being applied to many industries and sectors, and could be contributive to the fight against poverty.

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The word swarm often carries negative connotations—think biblical plagues of locusts or high streets full of last-minute shoppers during the Christmas rush. However, swarming is essential for the survival of many animal collectives. And now research into swarming has the potential to change things for humans too.

Bees swarm to make their search for new colonies more effective. Flocks of starlings use dazzling murmurations to evade and confuse predators. These are just two examples from nature, but swarming can be seen in almost every corner of the animal kingdom.

Swarm intelligence is used by many social and insect species in nature as a survival strategy.

Research from mathematicians, biologists, and social scientists is helping us understand swarming and harness its power. It’s already being used for crowd control, traffic management, and to understand the spread of infectious diseases. More recently, it’s starting to shape how we use data for healthcare, operate drones in military conflicts, and has been used to beat near-insurmountable betting odds in sporting events.

The principles of the Boids model, which is the basis of Unanimous AI's simulations, have been applied to robotic vision in the development of autonomous vehicles

A swarm is a system that is greater than the sum of its parts. Just as many neurons form a brain capable of thought, memory, and emotion, groups of animals can act in unison to form a "super brain," displaying highly complex behavior not seen in individual animals.

The Boids (bird-oids) in the simulation, like avatars or characters in a video game, are instructed to move in the same direction as their neighbors, move towards the average position of their neighbors, and avoid collisions with other boids.

Swarm intelligence is being used in a wide range of industries such as traffic management, crowd control, data analysis, and healthcare.

Boids simulations are strikingly accurate when compared with real swarms.

The Boids model suggests that swarming does not need leaders to coordinate behavior, like pedestrians in a town center rather than a guided museum tour. The complex behavior we see in swarms arises from interactions between individuals following the same simple rules in parallel. In the language of physics, this phenomenon is known as emergence.

Swarm technology has been used to coordinate battles and assaults in military operations.

The Hive Mind .

In 2016, US technology company Unanimous AI used the power of swarm intelligence to win the Kentucky Derby "superfecta" bet, successfully predicting the first, second, third, and fourth-placed riders in the famous US horse race.

Industry experts and conventional machine learning algorithms made swathes of incorrect predictions. However, amateur racing enthusiasts recruited by Unanimous AI pooled their knowledge to beat the 541/1 odds.

Swarm intelligence provides benefits that surpass those of AI technology.

The volunteers’ success lay in the way in which their predictions were generated. Instead of voting on riders and aggregating their choices, the volunteers used Unanimous AI’s swarm intelligence platform to participate in a real-time digital tug of war, inspired by swarms of birds and bees.

All volunteers simultaneously pulled a dial towards their respective choices. This allowed people to change their preferences in response to the actions of others (for example, a person may have switched to pulling towards their second choice, B, rather than their first choice, C, if they saw A and B were the clear favorites).

The flock behavior of starlings is often used to demonstrate the power of swarm intelligence.

Responding to one another in real time allowed Unanimous AI’s volunteers to collectively outperform highly-informed individuals.

What’s more, had the most frequent choice been the winning option, the volunteers would have scored the lowest possible score for the superfecta bet. It could be argued then, that by responding to one another’s choices, the volunteers were able to use swarm intelligence to identify the most optimal combination of predictions.

The Future of Swarm Intelligence .

Swarm intelligence has been around for many years, but never before had such a strong and efficient application for it been found. With its successful use for predicting sporting outcomes, more and more researchers are now looking for other ways to apply this emergent technology.

In particular, swarm technology may be used to make profit-driven decisions in the stock exchange. By utilizing the power of swarm intelligence, traders could create and analyze prediction models with greater accuracy about the market's future movements.

Swarm intelligence may also be useful in the fight against poverty. By helping individuals strategize more efficiently, swarm intelligence-driven models could generate novel solutions to the economic challenges faced by low-income countries, helping inhabitants to rise above the constraints of poverty and inequality.

The potential uses for swarm intelligence are broad and diverse. In time, we will see more emergent applications of this technology to become part of our everyday lives. And as research drives developments in the area, we will understand its power not just on the sports arena but across a multitude of sectors and industries.

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