(Firstly, I have nothing new to say about the attacks than you have probably been reading around, except that the Spirit of Mumbai is not about how indifferent we are to the attacks; rather it is about how sensitive and responsive we are to the need of the hour)
Swarm Intelligence, Collective Memory. These two ideas.. what do we know about them? I keep hearing about Swarm Intelligence quite often in the context of robotics, mostly; and quite frankly I was unaware of the idea of Collective Memory until I saw the movie Waking Life.
Yet the two have a very natural and deep connection that escaped me for a long time, until only very recently, when my research problem came down to actually closely observing the behaviour of a swarm of “pseudo-intelligent” beings.
Pseudo-intelligent, because they are only as good as the C code that Created them. (And just like the ‘real’ God, the same code will also have to responsibly Destroy them; thanks to the no garbage collection in C :D) But other than that, these particles actually have pseudo-life; for as long as they live, they literally swim around in space, talk to each other, and split into more of themselves; looking all the time for something.. let’s call it cake, for the sake of discussion.
But the most important aspect of this method (called Particle Swarm Optimization(PSO)) is this: the advantages of PSO start appearing only when the swarm collaborates, exchanges data and puts together all information it has about the cake. In other words, the particles must start making use of their Collective Memory; as opposed to their individual, independent thought.
So, in short: A swarm’s intelligence is as good as their collective memory
Simple as these ideas are, we see manifestations of them all around us. For example, the concepts of Cloud Computing and Grid Computing seem to be conflicting, since one of them is about centralization and the other is about decentralization. Yet, they not only co-exist, but also influence each other’s prowess. (Because after all, the ‘cloud’ IS a grid). Another related and interesting concept is the emerging digital currency called Bitcoin, which is backed not by any Bank or Government, but actually by the network of the many Bitcoin users collectively performing many computations even as you read this.
To conclude, I suspect that the thing I said about swarm intelligence being as good as collective memory, is as relevant to us as those software particles; but not all of us consciously act accordingly.