The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life

The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life

by Len Fisher

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One of the greatest discoveries of recent times is that the complex patterns we find in life are often produced when all of the individuals in a group follow the same simple rule. This process of “self-organization” reveals itself in the inanimate worlds of crystals and seashells, but as Len Fisher shows, it is also evident in living organisms, from fish to ants to human beings. The coordinated movements of fish in shoals, for example, arise from the simple rule: “Follow the fish in front.” Traffic flow arises from simple rules: “Keep your distance” and “Keep to the right.”

Now, in his new book, Fisher shows how we can manage our complex social lives in an ever more chaotic world. His investigation encompasses topics ranging from “swarm intelligence” to the science of parties and the best ways to start a fad. Finally, Fisher sheds light on the beauty and utility of complexity theory. An entertaining journey into the science of everyday life, The Perfect Swarm will delight anyone who wants to understand the complex situations in which we so often find ourselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465020850
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/17/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 665,850
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Len Fisher, PhD, is author of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Weighing the Soul, and How to Dunk a Doughnut, which was named Best Popular Science Book by the American Institute of Physics. He has been featured in Newsweek, the Washington Post, and Scientific American. He lives in Wiltshire, England, and Blackheath, Australia.

Table of Contents

Patterns of the Perfect Swarm: Visions of Complexity in Nature ix

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

1 The Emergence of Swarm Intelligence 9

2 The Locusts and the Bees 23

3 Ant Logic 37

4 A Force in a Crowd 49

5 Group Intelligence: The Majority or the Average? 67

6 Consensus: A Foolish Consistency? 83

7 Crazes, Contagion, and Communication: The Science of Networks 105

8 Decision Rules OK? 133

9 Searching for Patterns: Imagination and Reality 155

10 Simple Rules for Complex Situations 167

Notes 173

Index 247

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The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
As its title suggests, this lively book often makes its points with humor and wit. Physicist and author Len Fisher draws on laboratory experiments, observations of the natural world, well-known historical events, contemporary cases and examples from his own life, making a complex subject accessible. His book covers some ground that will be familiar from other books on group intelligence, collaboration and the wisdom of crowds, but the material on "swarm intelligence" is new. Fisher's numerous examples from all facets of nature provide highly fascinating case studies of group behavior. getAbstract recommends this book to professionals in marketing and strategy, and to trainers and readers who are interested in new ways of thinking.
Steve55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Perfect Swarm is one of a crop of books that explore the emerging scientific thinking of complexity and order. The subtitle `The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life' and the somewhat playful book title hint that this is one of the more populist books on the subject. Fisher covers a broad spectrum of subjects and around 30% of the book is devoted to an extensive list of notes which provide further avenues to explore for further information. Our natural instinct may be to believe that order is the product of control, after all it tends to be the way in which we engineer it. Seeing a flock of birds or shoal of fish, we might imagine that their synchronised behaviour results from a leader issuing commands to be observed by the followers. Fisher begins by describing how the seemingly complex behaviours we observe can be simulated by systems with remarkably simple rules followed by all participants, with no leadership role existing. For example shoals of fish can be simulated using only three criteria, avoidance, alignment and attraction. Fisher describes similar criteria to explain the behaviour of swarming bees, locusts and ants. In each case complex patterns emerge from simple rules with no need for the leadership structures we might expect to see. Particle swarm optimisation is a technique that combines the attributes found in nature and forms the basis for novel decision making techniques with surprisingly good performance. Fisher then examines how democracy has, perhaps through a process of unwitting evolution, adopted many of the techniques that we are now observing in nature. Though not as robust in its arguments as some of the books on the subject, it's an entertaining read and contains a number of valuable insights. The comprehensive notes and references make this an easy read that might provide pointers to a more rigourous exploration if the ideas take hold.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago