It’s alive! – BT looking to artificial life

JustinP @ 07-08-2008

rhizomeQ: What do the Nuer, social insects, and BT have in common?

A: The first two are organised along acephalous (‘headless’) principles, while researchers working for the third have begun to hail the advantages of following suit.

At this week’s Artificial Life XI conference in Winchester, BT researchers explained how ‘[i]nsights from artificial life could soon be helping run [the firm’s] networks’

“If we look at the biological world, there is a huge amount of change, complexity, and adaptation,” said former biologist Paul Marrow who works in BT’s Broadband Applications Research Centre.

“These artificial life ideas are a very useful source of inspiration as the products and services we provide become increasingly complex and demanding in terms of resources.

In stark contrast to the heirarchical structures of traditional network architecture,

BT hopes to tap the secrets of another of life’s defining features called self-organisation

“With self-organisation, you have very simple rules governing individual units that together perform a bigger task – a typical example is ant colonies,” said Fabrice Saffre, principal researcher at BT’s Pervasive ICT Research Centre.

The simplicity of the rules makes for less computation, and therefore is easier on the network. “It’s a very economical solution – especially for problems that are very dynamic. Anything you can do with self-organisation is basically a ‘free lunch’,” said Dr Saffre.

Mmm … rhizomatic! 🙂

[story via the BBC / image by kevindooley, via flickr / for more on the Nuer, see the work of anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard]

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3 Responses to “It’s alive! – BT looking to artificial life”

  1. Paul Raven says:

    Rhizomatic is one of my favourite words… it makes a few appearances in my forthcoming Snow Crash essay.

  2. JustinP says:

    Amusingly enough, I bought a copy of the book in anticipation of said essay. No pressure, dude. 🙂

  3. Paul Raven says:

    Oh, bloody hell… well, it’ll be interesting to see which camp you fall into after reading it. The book, I mean, not the essay.