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Tech for Autonomous Systems – Autonomous Decision Taking Capabilities III

Rendering of a mathematical model of neurones decision making process in the brain. The decision making is an emergent properties, it cannot be pinpointed in any single neurone. Image credit: Seung Lab

Emergent PropertiesTechnologies

The relations among the various components (physical and behavioural) of a Symbiotic Autonomous System are perceived by the context as its emergent properties. Interaction with other systems and with the environment takes place through these emergent properties, since they are characterising the SAS.

An emergent property is a property that the system has as a whole, but none of its component possess. Hence the decision making happens at the whole system level and there is no specific component in the system in charge for it.

This happens normally in (insects) swarms where decisions emerge out of the collective behaviour of the swarm and there is no individual component in charge.

A set of autonomous flying drones can in principle be programmed with a central “intelligence/command”, creating a hierarchy, or it can be programmed with a set of rules that results in emergent decisions. This latter approach has more resiliency, since there is no  “commander” whose loss would hamper the swarm activities.  Internet is an example of a massive distributed control for packets routing leading to an extremely resilient system from the point of view of end to end connectivity. At the very beginning of the Internet routing strategies like the “hot potato routing” where studied and implemented to ensure a high reliability of networks connectivity. This has evolved in other variant, like the “cold” and “mash” potato routing, specifically designed for autonomous systems.

5G at the edges may also be engineered as a swarm like infrastructure where the connectivity (at the logical level – data transfer) is managed in a collective way with no single entity in charge for routing.

Massively distributed IoT may be engineered to form a “swarm” and to have the swarm as a whole in charge for taking decisions.

Autonomous systems operating in a symbiotic relation (like micro-bots embedded in a living being) will need to make decisions in absence of a coordinator, using a completely flat hierarchy, and the decision making process will be an emergent property of the symbioses.

Studies of Nature where these emergent properties are usual, like in bees swarms, starlings flocks, and even brain decision making processes are leading to an understanding of basic rules that can be coded into single autonomous systems and their components to give rise to “intelligent” decision making processes.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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