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Swarm intelligence is the idea of coordinating massive numbers of individual technology entities to work together. It is a fundamental concept in IT that has been useful and interesting, as well as a bit threatening, throughout the development of modern technological progress.
One early application of swarm intelligence, at least theoretically, was in the idea of large numbers of nanobots acting together, as popularly chronicled in Michael Crichton's 2002 novel “Prey.” The idea was that nanobots would “swarm” together as free agents for specific purposes. The threat was that they could get out of control and “infect” the physical environment in ways that their makers never intended.
The Michael Crichton swarm is an example of the underlying idea of swarm intelligence as mimicking natural science. Experts give examples like the flocking of birds, the colony behavior of ants, schools of fish and the proliferation of bacteria as natural systems that provide models that swarm intelligence could emulate. Others talk about stochastic processes that may model swarm intelligence for the purposes of better understanding how concrete applications of swarm intelligence IT would work.
Today scientists are thinking about general-purpose uses of swarm intelligence, as well as more specific applications to defense systems and other uses in other industries. For example, some theorize that a smart troupe of swarm technologies could be able to help with the devastating problem of seeded land mines in previously war-torn areas. In general, the idea of swarm intelligence dovetails with the idea of vast networks of loosely coupled technologies, such as in the internet of things model that is becoming so prominent in the development of consumer technologies.