Video – Thousands of starlings birds gathering in flocks, flying in formations while emerging complex patterns on S.W. Scotland (more photos & video by/at Fresh Pics, 2007). Here for an artificial version with different purposes. They are not birds, instead an entirely different new animal.

[…] In contrast to negative feedback, positive feedback (PF) generally promotes changes in the system (the majority of self-organizing SO systems use them). The explosive growth of the human population provides a familiar example of the effect of positive feedback. The snowballing autocatalytic effect of PF takes an initial change in a system (due to amplification of fluctuations; a minimal and natural local cluster of objects could be a starting point) and reinforces that change in the same direction as the initial deviation. Self-enhancement, amplification, facilitation, and autocatalysis are all terms used to describe positive feedback [9]. Another example could be provided by the clustering or aggregation of individuals. Many birds, such as seagulls nest in large colonies. Group nesting evidently provides individuals with certain benefits, such as better detection of predators or greater ease in finding food. The mechanism in this case is imitation (1): birds preparing to nest are attracted to sites where other birds are already nesting, while the behavioral rule could be synthesized as “I nest close where you nest”. The key point is that aggregation of nesting birds at a particular site is not purely a consequence of each bird being attracted to the site per se. Rather, the aggregation evidently arises primarily because each bird is attracted to others (check for further references on [7,9]). On social insect societies, PF could be illustrated by the pheromone reinforcement on trails, allowing the entire colony to exploit some past and present solutions. Generally, as in the above cases, positive feedback is imposed implicitly on the system and locally by each one of the constituent units. Fireflies flashing in synchrony [49] follow the rule, “I signal when you signal”, fish traveling in schools abide by the rule, “I go where you go”, and so forth. In humans, the “infectious” quality of a yawn of laughter is a familiar example of positive feedback of the form, “I do what you do”. Seeing a person yawning (2), or even just thinking of yawning, can trigger a yawn [9]. There is however one associated risk, generally if PF acts alone without the presence of negative feedbacks, which per si can play a critical role keeping under control this snowballing effect, providing inhibition to offset the amplification and helping to shape it into a particular pattern. Indeed, the amplifying nature of PF means that it has the potential to produce destructive explosions or implosions in any process where it plays a role. Thus the behavioral rule may be more complicated than initially suggested, possessing both an autocatalytic as well as an antagonistic aspect. In the case of fish [9], the minimal behavioral rule could be “I nest where others nest, unless the area is overcrowded” (HEY !! here we go again to the El Farol Bar problem!). In this case both positive and negative feedback may be coded into the behavioral rules of the fish. Finally, in other cases one finds that the inhibition arises automatically, often simply from physical constraints. […]

in, V. Ramos et al., “Social Cognitive Maps, Swarm Collective Perception and Distributed Search on Dynamic Landscapes“.

(1) See also on this subject the seminal sociological work of Gabriel Tarde; Tarde, G., Les Lois de l’Imitation, Eds. du Seuil (2001), 1st Edition, Eds. Alcan, Paris, 1890.

(2) Similarly, Milgram et al (Milgram, Bickerman and Berkowitz, “Note on the Drawing Power of Crowds of Different Size”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 1969) found that if one person stood in a Manhattan street gazing at a sixth floor window, 20% of pedestrians looked up; if five people stood gazing, then 80% of people looked up.

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