Myanmar demonstrators urge military junta to allow democracy

Myanmar demonstrators urge

military junta to allow democracy

International Herald Tribune

Read more _ 

About two dozen people held a rare protest in Myanmar’s largest city Tuesday to demand that the military junta listen to U.N. calls for the restoration of democracy.

The protesters – members of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy – gathered outside the party’s headquarters in Yangoon carrying banners reading, “Follow the U.N. resolution. Where are the 1990 election results?”

The protest, held as Myanmar celebrated Union Day, the anniversary of an agreement among ethnic groups paving the way for independence from British colonial rule, was watched by about 50 plainclothes police who photographed and videotaped participants.

The government announced last week that general elections will be held in 2010 following a referendum this May on a new constitution being written under the junta’s guidance that will ensure a major future role for the military.

– – – – –

Human rights groups have denounced the referendum and election, saying they will prolong and institutionalize the military’s role as the country’s key power broker.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the junta on Monday to hold substantive talks with Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, without delay to ensure that the constitution represents all citizens.

He also urged the government to grant a visa to U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to allow him to visit Myanmar again in the very near future.

– – – – –

Ban made clear that the United Nations is highly critical of the constitution-drafting process.

Critics denounced the national convention because most delegates were hand-picked by the military and Suu Kyi was excluded.

Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, some of which have been seeking greater autonomy for decades, say the new constitution will give the central government greater powers.

The guidelines guarantee the military 25 percent of the seats in the country’s parliament, to be nominated by the commander in chief. They also prohibit presidential candidates who are “entitled to the rights and privileges of a … foreign country,” thereby barring Suu Kyi, whose late husband was British.

Dissidents line up to fight

Myanmar constitution referendum

 Tuesday, February 12, 2008
By Ed Cropley, Reuters

MAE SOT, Thailand — A referendum on an army-made constitution in Myanmar will be a “major battlefield” between the junta and a people wanting to be rid of military rule, the country’s biggest dissident group said on Monday.

In a statement given to Reuters in the Myanmar-Thai border town of Mae Sot, the “88 Generation Students” — named after a brutally suppressed 1988 uprising — called on the former Burma’s 53 million people to reject the charter in the May vote.

“The regime is attempting to legalize the military dictatorship with a sham constitution,” said the group, whose leaders were jailed in last year’s protests.

“This is a declaration of war by the military regime against the people of Burma.”

The NLD has called the junta’s proposal — part of a seven-step “roadmap to democracy” unveiled in 2003 — “erratic” and highlighted the irony of announcing an election even before the result of the referendum.

Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner now living in Thailand, said that having been denied any chance of contributing to its creation, the NLD would be forced to reject a charter that appears to yield little ground to civilian rule.

Although not yet completed — let alone published — snippets in state-controlled media suggest the army commander-in-chief will be the most powerful figure in the country, able to appoint key ministers and assume power “in times of emergency.”

Bo Kyi said the 88 Generation and, in all probability, the NLD would campaign for a no vote to tell the generals they could not get away with introducing reform on their terms only, to the exclusion of all other points of view.

India asks Myanmar

to expedite reconciliation

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: India has reiterated its request to the Myanmar Government to accelerate moves towards a more inclusive democracy.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, during his two-day visit to Myanmar which ended on Sunday, conveyed New Delhi’s concern over the detained political activists including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the need to involve her more intimately in promoting political reconciliation.

The Myanmar Government has unveiled plans to hold a referendum on a new Constitution, which it has assured will form the basis for elections. But the political stalemate continues as Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has slammed the move to hold a referendum without holding consultations.

Mr. Menon pointed to the need for broad-based political reforms. In a departure from the position taken by the West, India opposes sanctions as it believes they would hit most the marginal and the destitute.

“The desire for sanctions is directly proportional to their distance from Myanmar,” a top Foreign Office recently observed about western demands for further isolating the country. India shares over 1,400 km of porous border with Myanmar that is still the staging post for insurgencies. It is also negotiating an access route through the country to its north-eastern States.

India has noted the movement towards reconciliation by Myanmar including four rounds of talks between a Government representative and Ms. Suu Kyi since the thaw in the military regime’s attitude about four months ago. Around the same time, Myanmar signalled its readiness for a discourse with multilateral institutions by permitting United Nations official Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to assess the human rights situation. Four years earlier his entry had been barred following a disagreement with the regime. Since then, the military regime led by Senior General Than Shwe has entered into sporadic contacts with U.N. officials.

New Delhi’s stand operates within the parameters defined by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee: “We want political reforms and the process of reconciliation to start immediately and it has to be inclusive.As far as possible, important political prisoners should be rele ased.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party calls for

‘fair political climate’ in Myanmar

YANGON (AFP) — Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy on Tuesday urged the military government to create a “fair political climate,” after the regime announced a constitutional referendum for May.

The party did not directly mention the junta’s plans for a referendum, which is meant to clear the way for elections in 2010, but

  1. repeated its long-standing call for a dialogue with the junta on national reconciliation.
  2. “The (junta) has the main responsibility to realise national reconciliation, which is essential for the country,” the party said in a statement, read out by senior member Than Tun.
  3. “Moreover, it also has the responsibility to create a fair political climate and environment,” the statement added.
  4. The party also repeated its call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, as well as her deputy Tin Oo and 1,800 other political prisoners believed held in the country.

Tin Oo is also under house arrest, and the military is expected to announce an extension of his confinement this week.

A statement from Than Shwe was read out during the nationally televised ceremony, accusing western countries of using sanctions to derail the military’s “road map” to democracy.

The United States,  denounced the junta’s election time table as a “sham” vote that makes a mockery of global calls for democratic reforms.

If held, the proposed elections would be the first since 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta.

The regime announced its timetable for elections amid mounting international pressure over its crackdown on peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September, when the United Nations says at least 31 were killed.

But the generals have ignored calls to free Aung San Suu Kyi and open a political dialogue, instead sticking to their own “road map” plan, which critics say will enshrine the military’s rule.

 

ASEAN CHIEF TALKING BULL-SHIT

ASEAN CHIEF TALKING BULL-SHIT

Myanmar charter vote a first step – ASEAN

By Nopporn Wong-Anan in Stars

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling generals should be given the benefit of the doubt if they are serious about moving the country toward democracy, Surin Pitsuwan, chief of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said on Tuesday.

Incoming Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in Singapore November 22, 2007. (REUTERS/Tim Chong)

“It has to begin somewhere and now it has a clear, definite beginning,” Surin said of the junta’s planned May referendum on an army-written constitution, followed by elections in 2010.

“I think it is a development in the right direction,” the former Thai foreign minister told Reuters on the sidelines of a business seminar in Bangkok.

The announcement by the military, which has ruled the former Burma in various guises since 1962, has been derided as a “sham” by the United States and pro-democracy activists who say the vote will be held in a “climate of fear”.

Surin said the international community’s growing frustration at Myanmar’s intransigent generals was understandable, but he said they should be given a chance to fulfil their pledges.

“Everybody has their own agenda on the issue,” said Surin, who leads one of the few international groupings that allow Myanmar into the club.

“We have to wait and see how things are going to develop and unfold. Whether these steps are going to lead to true national reconciliation which is what people inside have been asking for and the international community has been waiting for,” he said.

The army held elections in 1990, but refused to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which boycotted the constitution-drafting process while its leader remained under house arrest.

Although not yet completed, snippets of the charter revealed in state-controlled media suggest the army commander-in-chief will be the most powerful figure in the country, able to appoint key ministers and assume power “in times of emergency”.

Surin said Myanmar’s announcement would be discussed by ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Singapore later this month.

“I am sure they will be very keen to ask some questions and to consult among themselves how they can contribute or help,” said Surin, who was critical of Myanmar when he served as Thailand’s foreign minister from 1997-2000.

Western governments have called on Myanmar’s neighbours – ASEAN, India and China – to put pressure on the generals after they ordered the army to crush the biggest pro-democracy protests in 20 years last September.

Despite rare expressions of discomfort at last September’s crackdown, in which at least 31 people were killed, Myanmar’s neighbours refuse to contemplate sanctions, saying words are more effective tools.

ASEAN is just trying a Birth Certificate for the BASTARD. Please read my article in full.

Illegitimate SPDC government

trying to legalize the bastard

 I hope Burma Digest leaders could forgive me for using some rough words that may cross the red line in normal polite literature but then only the truth could be seen easily. But as even our dear Bogyoke Aung San had also used in his brilliant speeches, to hit point blank, we may need some times to refrain from the wavering diplomatic jargons (Speech or writing having unusual or pretentious vocabulary, convoluted phrasing, and vague meaning) and utilize some direct hit words that could be seen as a little bit rough, uncouth or vulgar. (bastard=son born out of wedlock)

The bogeyman’s to blame

The bogeyman’s to blame

By MARINA MAHATHIR

The Star

We see the constant blaming of foreign workers for all our ills, but none of it can really stand up to scrutiny. 

IT’S a tried and true political strategy that when things aren’t quite rosy, one should distract the people by focusing on something else or coming up with a bogeyman.  

The former diverts attention from what is really on peoples’ minds, while the latter seeks someone or something else to blame. Sometimes politicians even attempt a combination of both. 

A recent survey by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research polled people on several issues, including what they deemed most currently important. At the top of the list was price increases and inflation.  

Second, they are concerned about ethnic inequalities; and third, about crime and public safety. Everything else, including politics, corruption, drug abuse and illegal immigrants rank much further down the list. 

What we think people should be concerned with, and what they actually are, can sometimes be very different. But anyone with a modicum of insight will already know that the issues highlighted in the survey are what people talk about all the time.  

People are concerned about how they may go about their daily lives at a reasonable level of comfort and safety.  

Can their lives carry on as before, or even improve? And can they and their families walk about without fear for their personal safety? 

They obviously also see ethnic inequalities as a contributing threat to the peaceful environment in which they can earn a living, work and play securely. 

But are these what matters to those up there? Instead, we have old stories regurgitated to distract from what is new.  

For instance, the old story that in an opposition-held state supermarket lines are gender-segregated came immediately after an uproar over similarly-segregated schools in government-held states.  

At least, in the first instance, this was a policy that was announced by the government in power, but in the second it was happening in defiance of regulations.  

Both cases are of course “Band-Aid policies”, where male bad behaviour is accepted as normal while females are inconvenienced, rather than (shock, horror) empowered to deal with it. 

The bogeyman tactic is rather like Margaret Thatcher starting a war over some distant islands in order to distract the populace from local economic issues.  

Here, we see the constant blaming of foreign workers for everything, from lack of jobs, to crime and violence, and to the spread of diseases. None of it can really stand up to scrutiny.  

It may be politically correct to complain about foreign workers taking jobs from locals, but these are not jobs that locals want.  

Who exactly wants to work in plantations, clean toilets or care for other people’s babies?  

If it were true that locals want these jobs, then we should set up job agencies specialising in filling up these vacancies with only locals. 

It is disingenuous to say that foreigners keep “pouring in” to take up employment here when we know that many of these foreigners are being duped into selling everything they have to pay unscrupulous agents, and then finding that no jobs await them here.  

If these jobs do not exist for them, then obviously they don’t exist for locals either. 

Neither is it honest to say that foreigners are contributing to the rise in crime in this country. The police statistics themselves dispute these.  

According to a fascinating paper by the Royal Malaysian Police, in 2004, the proportion of crimes committed by foreigners was only 2% of the total crime index, and on a per capita basis Malaysians commit more crimes than foreigners.  

Incidentally, the police statistics do not really support the perception that there is a huge rise in violent crime. Most crimes in the country are in fact property crimes such as car theft. 

But it serves political purposes to fuel this negative perception of foreigners with racist and stereotyped “facts”. For instance, it is not true that foreigners are running around full of disease and infecting locals.  

Malaysians still make up the vast majority of people infected with HIV, and they are certainly infecting each other and not foreigners.  

To imply that we should bar foreigners from coming in because of their alleged criminal intent and diseases is actually not going to contribute much to any sustainable solution.  

Incidentally, the same police paper puts the blame on economic inequalities and unemployment as the reasons for crime, a situation not unlike many countries in the world. 

Ahead of elections, we need to keep focused on the real issues, even while politicians try to distract us with fairytales.

Kudos to honest foreign worker at food court

JOANNE CHONG RODRIGUES,  Kuala Lumpur.  

I AGREE with Marina Mahathir’s “The bogeyman’s to blame,” (The Star, Jan 30). She provided examples and statistics to clear the misconception that the influx of foreign workers is the reason behind the increasing crime rate. 

I attest to the fact that foreigners cannot be blamed for the rising crime rates.  

We are expatriates from Singapore living in KL for the past year. On Jan 19, my family and I were dining at the MidValley Food Junction. Due to my carelessness, I left my wallet there. 

I lodged a police report with the hope of retrieving the wallet with important documents intact.  

The next day, my bank contacted me to say that someone had found my wallet and called them as the telephone number was on my bankcard.  

When I went to collect my wallet, I was amazed to note that it was a staff of the Food Junction who found my wallet on the table.  

The money was still in it and no documents were missing. 

I would like to thank Omar Faruk who took the effort to report the matter to his branch manager Kassim Lakana. 

It was the latter that took the initiative to contact my bank. 

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Omar for his integrity. 

Your actions have definitely changed our perception of foreign workers in KL. 

Swarm Behavior and Starling Theory

  Swarm Behavior

Starling Theory

Excerpts from National Geographic

A single ant or bee isn’t smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems.

Harmonious Flight

The ability of animal groups-such as this flock of starlings-to shift shape as one, even when they have no leader, reflects the genius of collective behavior-something scientists are now tapping to solve human problems.

Social and political groups have already adopted crude swarm tactics.

During mass protests eight years ago in Seattle, anti-globalization activists used mobile communications devices to spread news quickly about police movements, turning an otherwise unruly crowd into a “smart mob” that was able to disperse and re-form like a school of fish.

The biggest changes may be on the Internet. Consider the way Google uses group smarts to find what you’re looking for. When you type in a search query, Google surveys billions of Web pages on its index servers to identify the most relevant ones. It then ranks them by the number of pages that link to them, counting links as votes (the most popular sites get weighted votes, since they’re more likely to be reliable). The pages that receive the most votes are listed first in the search results. In this way, Google says, it “uses the collective intelligence of the Web to determine a page’s importance.”

Wikipedia, a free collaborative encyclopedia, has also proved to be a big success, with millions of articles in more than 200 languages about everything under the sun, each of which can be contributed by anyone or edited by anyone. “It’s now possible for huge numbers of people to think together in ways we never imagined a few decades ago,” says Thomas Malone of MIT’s new Center for Collective Intelligence. “No single person knows everything that’s needed to deal with problems we face as a society, such as health care or climate change, but collectively we know far more than we’ve been able to tap so far.”

Such thoughts underline an important truth about collective intelligence:

Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions.

  • A group won’t be smart if its members_
    • imitate one another,
    • slavishly follow fads,
    • or wait for someone to tell them what to do.
  • When a group is being intelligent,
    • whether it’s made up of ants
    • or attorneys,
    • it relies on its members to do their own part.
  • For those of us who sometimes wonder_
    • if it’s really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet,
    • the bottom line is that our actions matter,
    • even if we don’t see how.

Think about a honeybee as she walks around inside the hive.

  • If a cold wind hits the hive, she’ll shiver to generate heat and, in the process, help to warm the nearby brood.
  • She has no idea that hundreds of workers in other parts of the hive are doing the same thing at the same time to the benefit of the next generation.

    “A honeybee never sees the big picture any more than you or I do,” says Thomas Seeley, the bee expert.

  • “None of us knows what society as a whole needs,
    • but we look around and say, oh,
    • they need someone to volunteer at school,
    • or mow the church lawn,
    • or help in a political campaign.”

I used to think ants knew what they were doing. The ones marching across my kitchen counter looked so confident, I just figured they had a plan, knew where they were going and what needed to be done. How else could ants organize highways, build elaborate nests, stage epic raids, and do all the other things ants do?

Turns out I was wrong.

  • Ants aren’t clever little engineers,
  • architects,
  • or warriors after all-at least not as individuals.
  • When it comes to deciding what to do next, most ants don’t have a clue.

“If you watch an ant try to accomplish something, you’ll be impressed by how inept it is,” says Deborah M. Gordon, a biologist at Stanford University.

How do we explain, then, the success of Earth’s 12,000 or so known ant species? They must have learned something in 140 million years.

“Ants aren’t smart,” Gordon says. “Ant colonies are.” A colony can solve problems unthinkable for individual ants, such as_

  • finding the shortest path to the best food source,
  • allocating workers to different tasks,
  • or defending a territory from neighbors.

As individuals, ants might be tiny dummies,

but as colonies

  • they respond quickly
  • and effectively to their environment.
  • They do it with something called swarm intelligence.

Where this intelligence comes from raises a fundamental question in nature:

How do the simple actions of individuals add up to the complex behavior of a group?

  • How do hundreds of honeybees make a critical decision about their hive if many of them disagree?
  •  What enables a school of herring to coordinate its movements so precisely it can change direction in a flash, like a single, silvery organism?

The collective abilities of such animals-

  • none of which grasps the big picture,
  • but each of which contributes to the group’s success-
  • seem miraculous even to the biologists who know them best. Yet during the past few decades, researchers have come up with intriguing insights.

One key to an ant colony, for example, is that_

  • No one’s in charge.
  • No generals command ant warriors.
  • No managers boss ant workers.
  • The queen plays no role except to lay eggs.
  • Even with half a million ants, a colony functions just fine with no management at all-at least none that we would recognize.

It relies instead upon countless interactions between individual ants, each of which is following simple rules of thumb. Scientists describe such a system as self-organizing.

Consider the problem of job allocation. In the Arizona desert where Deborah Gordon studies red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus), a colony calculates each morning how many workers to send out foraging for food.

  • The number can change, depending on conditions.
  • Have foragers recently discovered a bonanza of tasty seeds?
  • More ants may be needed to haul the bounty home.
  •  Was the nest damaged by a storm last night?
  • Additional maintenance workers may be held back to make repairs.
  • An ant might be a nest worker one day, a trash collector the next.

But how does a colony make such adjustments if no one’s in charge? Gordon has a theory.

Ants communicate by touch and smell. When one ant bumps into another, it sniffs with its antennae to find out if the other belongs to the same nest and where it has been working. (Ants that work outside the nest smell different from those that stay inside.) Before they leave the nest each day, foragers normally wait for early morning patrollers to return. As patrollers enter the nest, they touch antennae briefly with foragers.

“When a forager has contact with a patroller, it’s a stimulus for the forager to go out,” Gordon says. “But the forager needs several contacts

WHEN IT COMES TO SWARM intelligence, ants aren’t the only insects with something useful to teach us. On a small, breezy island off the southern coast of Maine, Thomas Seeley, a biologist at Cornell University, has been looking into the uncanny ability of honeybees to make good decisions.

  • With as many as 50,000 workers in a single hive,
  • honeybees have evolved ways to work through individual differences of opinion to do what’s best for the colony.

If only people could be as effective in_

  • boardrooms,
  • church committees,
  • and town meetings,
  • Seeley says, we could avoid problems making decisions in our own lives.

The bees’ rules for decision-making-

  • seek a diversity of options,
  • encourage a free competition among ideas,
  • and use an effective mechanism to narrow choices-
  • so impressed Seeley that he now uses them at Cornell as chairman of his department.

“I’ve applied what I’ve learned from the bees to run faculty meetings,” he says. To avoid going into a meeting with his mind made up, hearing only what he wants to hear, and pressuring people to conform, Seeley asks his group to identify all the possibilities, kick their ideas around for a while, then vote by secret ballot. “It’s exactly what the swarm bees do, which gives a group time to let the best ideas emerge and win. People are usually quite amenable to that.”

In fact, almost any group that follows the bees’ rules will make itself smarter, says James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. “The analogy is really quite powerful. The bees are predicting which nest site will be best, and humans can do the same thing, even in the face of exceptionally complex decisions.” Investors in the stock market, scientists on a research project, even kids at a county fair guessing the number of beans in a jar can be smart groups, he says, if their members are diverse, independent minded, and use a mechanism such as voting, auctioning, or averaging to reach a collective decision.

THERE’S A SMALL PARK near the White House in Washington, D.C., where I like to watch flocks of pigeons swirl over the traffic and trees. Sooner or later, the birds come to rest on ledges of buildings surrounding the park. Then something disrupts them, and they’re off again in synchronized flight.

The birds don’t have a leader.

No pigeon is telling the others what to do.

Instead, they’re each paying close attention to the pigeons next to them, each bird following simple rules as they wheel across the sky. These rules add up to another kind of swarm intelligence-one that has less to do with making decisions than with precisely coordinating movement.

By demonstrating the power of self-organizing models to mimic swarm behavior, Reynolds was also blazing the trail for robotics engineers. A team of robots that could coordinate its actions like a flock of birds could offer significant advantages over a solitary robot. Spread out over a large area, a group could function as a powerful mobile sensor net, gathering information about what’s out there. If the group encountered something unexpected, it could adjust and respond quickly, even if the robots in the group weren’t very sophisticated, just as ants are able to come up with various options by trial and error. If one member of the group were to break down, others could take its place. And, most important, control of the group could be decentralized, not dependent on a leader.

“In biology, if you look at groups with large numbers, there are very few examples where you have a central agent,” says Vijay Kumar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everything is very distributed: They don’t all talk to each other. They act on local information. And they’re all anonymous. I don’t care who moves the chair, as long as somebody moves the chair. To go from one robot to multiple robots, you need all three of those ideas.”

The bees’ rules for decision-making-seek a diversity of options, encourage a free competition among ideas, and use an effective mechanism to narrow choices-so impressed Seeley that he now uses them at Cornell as chairman of his department.

“I’ve applied what I’ve learned from the bees to run faculty meetings,” he says.

  • To avoid going into a meeting with his mind made up,
  • hearing only what he wants to hear,
  • and pressuring people to conform,
  • Seeley asks his group to identify all the possibilities,
  • kick their ideas around for a while,
  • then vote by secret ballot.
  • “It’s exactly what the swarm bees do, which gives a group time to let the best ideas emerge and win. People are usually quite amenable to that.”

In fact, almost any group that follows the bees’ rules will make itself smarter, says James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. “The analogy is really quite powerful. The bees are predicting which nest site will be best, and humans can do the same thing, even in the face of exceptionally complex decisions.” Investors in the stock market, scientists on a research project, even kids at a county fair guessing the number of beans in a jar can be smart groups, he says, if their members are diverse, independent minded, and use a mechanism such as voting, auctioning, or averaging to reach a collective decision.
no more than ten seconds apart before it will go out.”

That’s how swarm intelligence works:

simple creatures following simple rules,

  • each one acting on local information.
  • No ant sees the big picture.
  • No ant tells any other ant what to do.

Some ant species may go about this with more sophistication than others. (Temnothorax albipennis, for example, can rate the quality of a potential nest site using multiple criteria.) But the bottom line, says Iain Couzin, a biologist at Oxford and Princeton Universities, is that no leadership is required. “Even complex behavior may be coordinated by relatively simple interactions,” he says.

Inspired by the elegance of this idea, Marco Dorigo, a computer scientist at the Université Libre in Brussels, used his knowledge of ant behavior in 1991 to create mathematical procedures for solving particularly complex human problems, such as routing trucks, scheduling airlines, or guiding military robots.

“As soon as the wolf got within a certain distance of the caribou, the herd’s alertness just skyrocketed,” Karsten says. “Now there was no movement.

  • Every animal just stopped, completely vigilant and watching.”
  • A hundred yards (90 meters) closer, and the wolf crossed another threshold.

“The nearest caribou turned and ran, and that response moved like a wave through the entire herd until they were all running. Reaction times shifted into another realm. Animals closest to the wolf at the back end of the herd looked like a blanket unraveling and tattering, which, from the wolf’s perspective, must have been extremely confusing.”

The wolf chased one caribou after another, losing ground with each change of target. In the end, the herd escaped over the ridge, and the wolf was left panting and gulping snow.

For each caribou, the stakes couldn’t have been higher, yet the herd’s evasive maneuvers displayed not panic but precision. (Imagine the chaos if a hungry wolf were released into a crowd of people.)

Every caribou knew_

  • when it was time to run
  • and in which direction to go,
  • even if it didn’t know exactly why.
  • No leader was responsible for coordinating the rest of the herd.
  • Instead each animal was following simple rules evolved over thousands of years of wolf attacks.

That’s the wonderful appeal of swarm intelligence.

Whether we’re talking about_

  • ants,
  • bees,
  • pigeons,
  • or caribou,

the ingredients of smart group behavior-

  • decentralized control,
  • response to local cues,
  • simple rules of thumb-
  • add up to a shrewd strategy to cope with complexity.