An ant on its own isn’t too smart. It has a difficult time doing just about anything. But put an ant together with its colony and an advanced intelligence emerges that serves the whole.
Ants and bees alike have impressively fast and efficient modes of communication as a swarm, to make decisions about building, feeding, foraging and travel. Disagreements are resolved swiftly, maintaining a lightning-quick balance.
We have much to learn from ants about collective behavior. For instance, by studying the science of the ants’ foraging, large transit companies are rethinking how they do business. Southwest and Airliquide have been working with Bios Group (now NuTech) to develop computer-based organizational systems that mimic the algorithms used by ants during a colony’s collective foraging efforts. The algorithms help with everything from fuel and cost efficiency to driving and flying routes. Southwest is even considering using the same model to work with overcrowded ticket lines at the terminal.
As we consider how to develop renewable and more efficient technologies, it may be increasingly important to turn our eyes toward the natural world for advice.