October 14, 2006

From Tony Wren:

Re: For ants, one playbook fits many situations (Oct. 9): The ants thus “tune the param­e­ters of a sin­gle de­ci­sion al­go­rithm to re­spond adap­tive­ly to two dis­tinct prob­lem­s.” How easy is that? Do the ants feel a sense of urgency? What is the mechanism for converting that into “In a cri­sis, scouts simp­ly searched more, be­gan ad­ver­tis­ing sites soon­er, and waited for few­er nest­mates to agree with them be­fore start­ing to move”?

Obviously the two activities are similar (in fact the same) and it is precisely the link between the urgency of the situation and the degree of response which is interesting. If you paper over the cracks so blatantly you can probably describe human behavious in similar terms.

So maybe this work will indeed “help bi­o­lo­gists un­der­stand the de­sign of sys­tems as di­verse as bac­te­ri­al col­o­nies and hu­man brains”. . . if they feel they have “understood” the ants!


Post a Comment

<< Home