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That's pretty interesting. She doesn't start getting in to the meat of Emergent Behavior until about the 10 minute mark.

The significant things I got from it were:

* Ant task allocation is a result of what the ants smell on other ants. If an ant doesn't encounter a forager on returning to the nest, it will tend to go forage. Thus, if there's a lot of foraging work to be done and the foragers aren't coming back to the nest frequently, you get more foragers.

* It's purely a mechanical process, because you can change what tasks the ants perform by placing beads that smell like ants doing particular tasks near the nest.

* It's not very efficient. In only mostly gets the job done, with a lot of fumbling and errors along the way.

The last point is significant, because it's in line with things like junk DNA vs. coding DNA. The end result gets the job done, but there are a lot of false starts, dead ends, and cruft along the way, because the process is undirected.


Did you ever read "Ant Fugue" by Douglas Hofstadter? You can find it in both "The Mind's I" and "Godel Escher Bach."

Pure fantasy, of course -- Hofstadter envisions ants as coming together to form a "brain" at a higher level of functionality which is composed of ants does not communicate or have awareness of the ants. But still, one of the coolest analogies for the mind that I've ever seen.
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