Collective decision-making in living and artificial systems: editorial

Special issue on “Collective decision-making in living and artificial systems”
Swarm Intelligence, volume 15, issue 1–2 (2021)
Edited by A. Reina, E. Ferrante & G. Valentini

Collective decision-making is a fundamental cognitive process required for group coordination. Typically, this process requires individuals in a group to either reach a consensus on one of several available options or to distribute their workforce over different tasks. Similar collective decision-making processes can be found in a large number of systems, motivating a vast modeling effort across scientific disciplines. It can be observed across scales in a variety of animal groups, from unicellular organisms, to social insects, fish schools, and groups of mammals. In the social sciences, scientific domains such as econophysics and sociophysics emerged to investigate collective decisions in humans, deepening our understanding of the dynamics of economies and social policies. Neuroscientists also look at brains as a collection of neurons that, through numerous interactions, lead to rational decisions. Studies of collective decision-making in nature inspired the engineering of decentralized cyber-physical systems such as robot swarms and wireless sensor networks with the potential to create new emerging and disruptive technologies. Collective decision-making, ubiquitous across living and artificial collectives, can benefit from an interdisciplinary approach as apparently different systems may share similar mechanisms. With this special issue, we aim to push forward such an interdisciplinary approach by providing perspectives and insights from biology, information science, and engineering.

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