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Working Like an Ant (2)
AI systems inspired by studies of the natural systems of social insects.

By Denis Susac


Although this is a quite original approach, it is not the first one in its category. Back in 1998 I described programs modeled after ant chemical systems for communicating information. Paul Kantor, the Rutgers University professor of information sciences, noticed that like ants looking for food, each day millions of people search for information on the Internet. However, unlike the ants, which leave a chemical trail to lead the rest of their colony to lunch, human searchers are on their own, even though others may have already looked for the same information. Each person's decisions made in the course of getting to the right information are essentially lost to the next researcher trying to find the same information. AntWorld, the result of this research, is a software system designed to allow users better manage their Web searching, and to share their findings with other people. The main concept of AntWorld is that of Quest: an information-searching process which is determined by its goals, itinerary (the list of pages you visited) and the user's judgments (your opinions about usefulness of the visited pages to your quest goals). AntWorld tries to match the goals and findings of your current quest and those of other AntWorld quests - both run by you and by other AntWorld users. It creates a suggestion list for you, consisting of the pages that were judged as useful in your current quest and other quests similar to it.

Another interesting resource for exploring emergent phenomena, along with fractals, chaos, complex systems and adaptation, is Gary Flake's The Computational Beauty of Nature. Its basic premise is that the most interesting computational topics today are deeply interrelated. It can serve as a great starting point for serious research in this area, and offers a great fun at the same time.

You can talk about emergent behavior or any other AI-related topic at


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