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The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Thin Hardcover – 5 Aug 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 5 Aug 2010
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 283 pages
  • Publisher: Avery Publishing Group (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583333908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583333907
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.1 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,369,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Smart Swarm blends zoology, entertaining anecdotes and conceptual discussion in an approachable and insightful way.’ – New Scientist

‘There have been other recent books about swarm intelligence, and the wisdom of crowds, but Miller's book is the sharpest, most readably intelligent guided tour of current thinking and research about collective intelligence and nature's basic collaborations.’ – Iain Finlayson, The Times

‘Peter Miller gives us a lively account of how studying the collective habits, actions and instincts of animals in the wild means that we can apply these strategies to organising and communicating in our own world. – The Times, Eureka

‘I loved The Smart Swarm. It's been a while since I was this stimulated by a book, or saw so many practical applications. And what a great read' – Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics

There have been other recent books about swarm intelligence, and the wisdom of crowds, but Miller's exploration of the insect hive mind is fascinating enough, but his real interest is in the way humans can harness this phenomenon to structure businesses.’ – BBC Focus

‘It all makes for a fascinating read, not least for the insight Miller provides into the arcane workings of the animal kingdom. The book also raises interesting questions about our own behaviour and what it takes for us to work for a common goal.’ – BA Business Life

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peter Miller has been a writer and senior editor at National Geographic for over twenty-five years. He lives with his wife PJ in Reston, Virginia.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This was a great book. It's basically a comparison between the way that humans and animals work in groups. He shows how various groups of animals, like bees, ants and fish, solve complex problems with solutions that use ingenious teamwork. He distills the principles of how the animals work together and shows how they are being used to solve problems that humans face, like how to route electricity around a country in the most efficient way, or how to solve the postman problem.

The postman problem is when you try to work out the quickest route between all the different houses on a postman's trip. This is easy when you have a small amount of houses, as you can just write an equation that quickly calculates the answer. But when the number of houses becomes very large, the possibilities to choose the right answer from are so great that the equation takes ages to calculate. When there are a large number of houses, it's actually quicker to find the answer through trial and error. Ants solve this problem when trying to find things by leaving a pheromone trail, and as more and more ants start following the ants which make good choices, other ants follow them, until you get a system that exaggerates good answers and minimizes bad ones.

There are other examples of different sorts of business and engineering problems, and the clever ways that the other animals perform similar tasks that use clever voting systems, and methods of measuring and communicating the opinions of ever member of the group.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Millers SMART SWARM gives a good overview of one of the most focal research issues for complex system dynamics, i.e. how decision makers can interact and what kind of the collective behaviour emerges from simple interaction rules.

I'd recommend this book to anyone how may not be familiar with this field, but seeking an entertaining story about it. The references are good enough to pursue the original articles granted that the reader want's further in depth understanding.

For the curious reader thinking "cool - what's this complex stuff all about?" I would recommend this book as an easy read prior to reading Scott Page & John H. Miller's Complex Adaptive Systems, as Peter Miller's book gives a good story to remember, whilst Page & Millers provides a more in-depth explanation of how it works.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the animal kingdom, there are many examples of groups working together for the greater good, and in this book, Peter Miller covers a number of different examples. From bees choosing a new hive to termites repairing their mound, each chapter explains how individuals can come together to form units in a super-organism.

Given that one of the academics in my former research group works in the field of complexity science, with an emphasis on the critical behaviour of ant colonies, I thought it would be interesting to see what this book had to say on the subject. Of course, this is an introductory book rather than a technical or mathematical text, but there is still plenty of good material. It's questionable as to whether the book really fulfils its selling point of teaching cooperative tactics that can be used in the boardroom, but in all honesty, this doesn't matter - it's still filled with interesting facts and observations about how various different species of animals have evolved various systems of cooperation.

Unfortunately, the writing style is not always as coherent as it could be, and there are points where this obscures the point the author is making - for example, during the bee chapter, the explanation of how the hive chooses a new location is not only somewhat confusing, but appears to contradict itself later in the chapter. It's passages like these that make the book less useful than it could have been if it had just had a bit more clarity.

Overall, while not quite as good as it could have been, this is a decent enough introductory book on the subject. You may not want it to keep it on your shelf forever, but if you're interested in the subject, it's worth reading at least once.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed reading this. It's one of those books that makes you feel you've learned something and been thoroughly entertained at the same time. Peter Miller manages to explain complex behaviours simply, entertainingly and clearly.

There are sections on how honeybees choose the best location for a new hive, how termites make trails, how flocks of birds fly seemingly in perfect synchrony and why locusts biting each other's legs can tell us something about human crowds in confined spaces. It's well written, flowing seamlessly from one tale to the next. The author introduces the scientists behind each section and engages you with their work and their discoveries - wonderful.

It's not really going to tell you anything much about board meetings - it's mostly about biology, not business. But it's a lot more interesting.

A good, informative read. Five stars.
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