The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done

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Overview

What ants, bees, fish, and smart swarms can teach about communication, organization, and decision-making.

The modern world may be obsessed with speed and productivity, but twenty-first-century humans actually have much to learn from the ancient instincts of swarmers. A fascinating new take on collective intelligence and its colorful manifestations in some of our most complex problems, The Smart Swarm introduces a compelling new understanding on...

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The Smart Swarm: How to Work Efficiently, Communicate Effectively, and Make Better Decisions Using the Secrets of Flocks, Schools, and Colonies

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Overview

What ants, bees, fish, and smart swarms can teach about communication, organization, and decision-making.

The modern world may be obsessed with speed and productivity, but twenty-first-century humans actually have much to learn from the ancient instincts of swarmers. A fascinating new take on collective intelligence and its colorful manifestations in some of our most complex problems, The Smart Swarm introduces a compelling new understanding on solving our own problems relating to such topics as business, politics, and technology.

This lively tour from National Geographic reporter Peter Miller introduces ant colonies that have been the inspiration for streamlining factory processes, telephone networks, and truck routes; termites, used in studies for climate-control solutions; schools of fish, on which the U.S. military modeled a team of robots; and many other examples of the wisdom to be gleaned about the behavior of crowds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Insects are social creatures, perhaps even more social—in the strict scientific sense—than humans since they lack such socially obstructing attributes as ego, personality, and opinion. Miller, senior editor at National Geographic, examines hives, mounds, colonies, and swarms, whose complex systems of engagement and collective decision making have catalyzed innovations in engineering and can suggest solutions to such problems as climate change. The sophisticated system of decentralized interdependence exhibited by termites invites a lesson on how to respond to emergencies, while the chemical-based communications among African ants helped officials at Southwest Airlines define their seating policy. Insects, birds, and fish variously demonstrate the plausibility and success of disorganization leading to self-organization and leaderless processes. Adding understanding to the dark side of group dynamics and, inevitably, mob behavior is the study of locusts, innocuous until they become part of a crowd. Miller informs, engages, entertains, and even surprises in this thought-provoking study of problem making and problem solving, and through the comparison of human and insect scenarios, shows how social cues and signals can either bring about social cooperation or destruction. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583334287
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 794,719
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Miller is a senior editor at National Geographic and has served as a writer and editor at the magazine for more than twenty-five years. He lives in Reston, Virginia, with his wife.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Don Tapscott ix

Introduction: When in Doubt, Turn to the Experts xiii

1 Ants: Who's in Charge Here? 1

2 Honeybees: Making Smart Decisions 33

3 Termites: One Thing Leads to Another 105

4 Birds of a Feather: Secrets of Flocks, Schools, and Herds 159

5 Locusts: The Dark Sides of Crowds 227

Conclusion: Doing the Right Thing 259

Acknowledgments 270

Notes 274

Index 279

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    I learned so much from reading this book. I'm always interested in finding out the why behind actions, whether it's humans or animals who are responsible. I really liked how Peter worded everything in an easy to understand way that was anything but textbook-like. I really enjoyed it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Hunting grounds

    Hunt for your clan

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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