“Go to the Ant”: Engineering Principles from Natural Agent Systems

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H. Van Dyke Parunak
Annals of Operation Research 75(0), pages 69-101
January 1997

Agent architectures need to organize themselves and adapt dynamically to changing circumstances without top-down control from a system operator. Some researchers provide this capability with complex agents that emulate human intelligence and reason explicitly about their coordination, reintroducing many of the problems of complex system design and implementation that motivated increasing software localization in the first place. Naturally occurring systems of simple agents (such as populations of insects or other animals) suggest that this retreat is not necessary. This paper summarizes several studies of such systems, and derives from them a set of general principles that artificial multi-agent systems can use to support overall system behavior significantly more complex than the behavior of the individuals agents.