Posted by on September 30, 2014

RevolutionWant to revolutionize society, the economic system or politics, you’d best learn about stigmergy.

Social revolution is not going to happen through the old ways. The old ways mastered through previous generations are impotent. New ways are needed, ones impervious to infiltration and disruption.

Technology and the internet create the new normal for revolution. They allow people to operate in independent yet coordinated ways. Doing so they are creating momentum faster, more potent than ever before. Any revolution not based on stigmergy is going to take too long, get corrupted too fast, or not succeed.

What is stigmergy? From Wikipedia

 

Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination between agents or actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent. In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.

 

Stigmergy is a form of self-organization. It produces complex, seemingly intelligent structures, without need for any planning, control, or even direct communication between the agents. As such it supports efficient collaboration between extremely simple agents [or complex ones like humans]….

 

Some common examples of stigmergy in action: A city will build a park. Planners will plan sidewalks allowing people to cross open spaces. These pathways tend to be inefficient. Users carve better, more efficient pathways.

Do the users hold a meeting, analyze the problem, come up with alternative design solutions, rank them, then pick the

A well-worn stigmergic creation.

A well-worn stigmergic creation.

best one? Of course not. Users individually choose the most efficient path. One person blazes a trail. In time, others do the same. Eventually, a clear, well-worn path is created. It’s more efficient, and therefore more frequently used by those who follow.

A new path is created, a new way, an innovation. Revolution in the making.

Ant colonies operate on stigmergic principles. As do bees. Swarms of birds and schools of fish exhibit fast-moving stigmergic behavior. Even swarm drone technology is beginning to exhibit such behavior: autonomous entities, operating independently, yet connected and as a whole creating more value in sum than the parts themselves are collecting data, dancing in orchestrated displays and more.

 

Stigmergy in Copiosis

Stigmergy is how I’ve chosen to organize Copiosis the organization. Seems to be working. The core element of our solution — the Net Benefit Formula —  is emerging in the same way a path is created through a field. I threw down an admittedly crappy version. Then, one by one, people gave input, making the formula more and more fit. We’re still refining it, but I’m amazed how quickly – just a matter of weeks, we went from nothing, to a nearly-workable formula.

The more tangible results we produce, the more team members are becoming active, wanting to participate in the manifestation. No single person could have created the formula we now have.

More innovations are emerging from the team as more team members feel empowered through the acts of others. This is stigmergy in action.

 

Violence is so 19th Century

A field criss-crossed with stigmergic paths

A field criss-crossed with stigmergic paths

Direct and often violent revolution is what our forefathers used to create social change. Revolutions start well-meaning. A few or even a single leading actor can start them. As such movements grow, adopting traditional structures, strategies and tactics, they weaken. Those who would dismantle such movements can do so easily: removing the leader, infiltrate the organization and create chaos or indecision — these subversive tactics easily destroy movements from the inside out, when the movement relies on the old ways.

Violence is a non-starter if the opposition has more guns than you.

Stigmergy benefits from passion, interest and individual focus requiring no cooperation, no direct action. You want to create an event to raise money? Go for it. Interested in joining that guy organizing that fundraiser? Have at it! You think you can create a better way to raise funds? Try it out and let’s see. No one will stop you.

 

A downside of stigmergy: the 80-20 rule.

Initially, 20 percent of the team often ends up doing most of the early work. However, as those actors achieve more and more tangible manifestations, manifestations gain more and more attention while generating more momentum. Other team members see the successes. They get excited as they are drawn to the pull success creates: everyone wants to be part of something that’s winning. In short order, you have a fully-engaged, active team, rallying around well-worn pathways that began as the small acts of one or two or five people.

In the end, the 80-20 rule works in the organization’s favor.

If you’re looking to achieve social revolution, especially if you’re up against the appearance of overwhelming resistance, stigmergy could be your secret weapon.

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Comments

  1. Gao Fengzi
    January 21, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    I am a stigmergy guy @ Pui o Beach, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

    • Copiosis
      January 21, 2015

      Leave a Reply

      Glad to hear it. Obviously, we are too. I do believe it is the future, the way we as a species will leap ahead.

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