jeudi 17 septembre 2009

# SWARM /// Multitude by Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt

Here is the wholeness of the chapter called Swarm intelligence in Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt's wonderful book Multitude published in 2004.

When a distributed network attacks, it swarms its enemy: innumerable independent forces seem to strike from all directions at a particular point and then disappear back into the environment. From an external perspective, the network attack is described as a swarm because it appears formless. Since the network has no center that dictates order, those who can only think in terms of traditional models may assume it has no organization whatsoever-they see mere spontaneity and anarchy. The network attack appears as something like a swarm of birds or insects in a horror film, a multitude of mindless assailants, unknown, uncertain, unseen and unexpected. If one looks inside a network, however, one can see that it is indeed organized, rational, and creative. It has swarm intelligence.

Recent researches in artificial intelligence and computational methods use the term swarm intelligence to name collective and distributed techniques of problem solving without centralized control or the provision of a global mode. Part of the problem with much of the previous artificial intelligence research, they claim, is that it assumes intelligence to be based in an individual mind, whereas they assert that intelligence is fundamentally social. These researches thus derive the notion of the swarm from the collective behavior of social animals, such as ants, bees, and termites, to investigate multi-agent-distributed systems of intelligence. Common animal behavior can give an initial approximation of this idea. Consider, for example, how tropical termites build magnificent, elaborated domed structures by communicating with each other; researchers hypothesize that each termite follows the pheromone concentration left by other termites in the swarm. Although none of the individual termites has a high intelligence, the swarm of termites forms an intelligent system with no central control. The intelligence of the swarm is based fundamentally on communication. For researchers in artificial intelligence and computational methods, understanding this swarm behavior helps in writing algorithms to optimize problem-solving computations. Computers too can be designed to process information faster using swarm architecture rather than a conventional centralized processing model.

The swarm model suggested by animal societies and developed by these researchers assumes that each of the agents or particles in the swarm is effectively the same and on its own not very creative. The swarms that we see emerging in the new network political organizations, in contrast, are composed of a multitude of different creative agents. This adds several more layers of complexity to the model. The members of the multitude do not have to become the same or renounce their creativity in order to communicate and cooperate with each other. They remain different in terms of race, sex, sexuality, and so forth. What we need to understand, then, is the collective intelligence that can emerge from the communication and cooperation of such a varied multiplicity. Perhaps when we grasp the enormous potential of this swarm intelligence we can finally understand why the poet Arthur Rimbaud in his beautiful hymns to the Paris Commune in 1871 continually imagined the revolutionary Communards as insects. It is not uncommon, of course, to imagine enemy troops as insects. Recounting the events of the previous year, in fact, Emile Zola in his historical novel La Debacle describes the “black swarms” of Prussians overrunning the French positions at Sedan like invading ants, “un si noir fourmillement de troupes allemandes.” Such insect metaphors for enemy swarms emphasize the inevitable defeat while maintaining the inferiority of the enemy-they are merely mindless insects. Rimbaud, however, takes this wartime cliché and inverts it, singing the praises of the swarm. The Communards defending their revolutionary Paris against the government forces attacking from Versailles roam about the city like ants (fourmiller) in Rimbaud’s poetry and their barricades bustle with activity like anthill (fourmilieres). Why would Rimbaud describe the Communards whom he loves and admires as swarming ants? When we look more closely we can see that all of Rimbaud’s poetry is full of insects, particularly the sounds of insects, buzzing, swarming, teeming (bourdonner, grouiller). “Insect-verse” is how one reader describes Rimbaud’s poetry, “music of the swarm”. The reawakening and reinvention of the senses in the youthful body-the centerpiece of Rimbaud’s poetic world- takes place in the buzzing and swarming of the flesh. This is a new kind of intelligence, a collective intelligence, a swarm intelligence, that Rimbaud and the Communards anticipated.

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