- Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination, through the environment, between agents or actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an individual action stimulates the performance of a succeeding action by the same or different agent. Agents that respond to traces in the environment receive positive fitness benefits, reinforcing the likelihood of these behaviors becoming fixed within a population over time. Stigmergy is a form of self-organization. It produces complex, seemingly intelligent structures, without need for any planning, control, or even direct communication between the agents. As such it supports efficient collaboration between extremely simple agents, who may lack memory or individual awareness of each other.
Applied to humans
- On the Internet there are many collective projects where users interact only by modifying local parts of their shared virtual environment. Wikipedia is an example of this. The massive structure of information available in a wiki, or an open source software project such as the FreeBSD kernel could be compared to a termite nest; one initial user leaves a seed of an idea (a mudball) which attracts other users who then build upon and modify this initial concept, eventually constructing an elaborate structure of connected thoughts. In addition the concept of stigmergy has also been used to describe how cooperative work such as building design may be integrated. Designing a large contemporary building involves a large and diverse network of actors (e.g. architects, building engineers, static engineers, building services engineers). Their distributed activities may be partly integrated through practices of stigmergy.
- "The rise of open source software in the 21st century has disrupted the business models of some proprietary software providers, and open content projects like Wikipedia have threatened the business models of companies like Britannica. Researchers have studied collaborative open source projects, arguing they provide insights into the emergence of large-scale peer production and the growth of gift economy."
- "Heather Marsh, associated with the Occupy Movement, Wikileaks, and Anonymous, has proposed a new social system where competition as a driving force would be replaced with a more collaborative society. This proposed society would not use representative democracy but new forms of idea and action based governance and collaborative methods including stigmergy. "With stigmergy, an initial idea is freely given, and the project is driven by the idea, not by a personality or group of personalities. No individual needs permission (competitive) or consensus (cooperative) to propose an idea or initiate a project." Some at the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement in 2014 were quoted recommending stigmergy as a way forward."
As organizational form, OVNs are self-organized through stigmergy. In the context of Sensorica, the digital environment where agents or affiliates collaborate is designed to enhance stigmergic behavior. For example, a shared online document can represent a free form collaborative environment. Sensoricans have created templates of such documents that contain a list of digital pheromones, called signalization tools, that agents can use to signal to others agents what has been done, where things are and what can be done to get wherever they want to get. See example of template for collaboration on technical development.
Some technical aspects
Quantitative vs qualitative stigmergy
Develop... see paper for definition
Stigmergy builds on information on the past. Anticipatory stigmergy is about agents anticipation of near future action. open paper