Thursday, April 07, 2005

Emergent Intelligence

I have long regarded intelligence as an emergent property of a whole system rather than an attribute of a single component.

Two items crossed my screen this week. Firstly a debate between David Kennedy (Eurescom) and Martin Geddes (Telepocalypse). In a piece entitled It might be big but it will never be dumb, Kennedy argues that telecoms networks must contain a lot of intelligence. "A critical step for the immediate introduction of NGN services will be an open discussion on how much intelligence will actually be in the network – a big clever network – and where it should be located." In his response, entitled Welcome to Planet Zog, Geddes sarcastically points out the flaw in this argument - what if everyone will be using Skype instead?

Meanwhile, a number of bloggers (Bill, Sean, Stephen) have pointed at a good piece called Insects and Entropy. (Actually, I think entropy is the wrong word, but never mind.) This is an Aesop fable for our time, involving a complex hare and a simple tortoise - or is it the other way around? Complex and powerful behaviours can be produced by composing simple behaviours.

So the big clever network needs a big load of intelligence does it? Fine, but don't assume you can locate a big clever component that is providing the intelligence.

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