July 11, 2012

In a recent TED Talk, Don Tapscott, who along with Anthony Williams is author of the Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics books, delivered an inspiring talk about the Four Principles for the Open World” and closed it with a presentation of “Murmurations”.

The images of Murmurations were so mesmerizing, that Tapscott’s voice got lost in the background, while we witnessed what is clear evidence of a profound operating principle of the Universe:

“The emergence of complex behaviour in leaderless environments”

In this particular case, Starlings joins in groups composed of hundreds-of-thousands of individuals, and in the absence of centralized control and devoid of a social hierarchical structure, display behaviours can easily be interpreted as those of a macro-organism whose cells are the individual birds.

See in particular, at [0:55] of the video above, how the macro-group evolves protrusions that attack a predator bird, which is much larger than any of the individual Starlings, but that becomes minuscule compared to the macro-group.

Attempts at modelling and understanding this type of group behaviour have been made, for example in this article:

“Scale-Free Correlations in Starling Flocks”

It is available, as all other Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, as an Open Access paper.

This last video below could easily be entitled:
“Murmuration versus Predator”
and should lead us to question everything we think we know about organizations,
and the effectiveness of command and control structures.

There is something in a Murmuration that is reminiscent of the behavioural power of Open Source communities.

Something that reminds us that:
“More is Different!”

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