Technology is morphing previously rigid power relationships all around the world. And as Peter Cochrane explains, that's no bad thing... Solutions to many complex problems - including those that will probably always defy conventional mathematics - have emerged from the most unlikely combination of artificial life and intelligence through emergent behaviour. What really appeals to me is the way in which very simple organisms and systems are able to realise highly effective outcomes to complex problems. Ant colonies and wasp nests are good examples of simple systems exhibiting complex behaviour. With minimal communication, limited rule sets, simple software, minimal computational power and rudimentary sensory capability, these creatures create amazing outcomes. Unexpectedly, bio-based technologies have had an impact on telecoms networks, control and logistics systems, organisational science and crowd behaviour studies in a spectacular manner. Standing on the shoulders of Mother Nature and picking her brains has given us an incredible short cut to success and solutions. In many respects it has also given us a precursor to some of the recently emerging behaviour in our own society. The years 2000 and 2001 saw a number of spectacularly well-organised events across Europe that exhibited simple organic behaviour within human networks, epitomising the advantage of evolution over hierarchy. A principle cause was rapidly raising petroleum prices through excessive taxation. First was a spontaneous revolt in France with the blocking of roads and ports by farmers and truck and cab drivers. This was not unionised. There was no identifiable central organisation. It was a distributed reaction using mobile phones and email to great effect. Soon other European nations joined the rebellion. Governments didn
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.