PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Robert Andrew
 
Comments: 0
Article views: 138
 
 
Latest Badges:


 
View all Robert Andrew's badges.
 

The self-renewing properties of flocks of birds could vitalise SA

17 January 2014, 07:38

One of the most beautiful sights of nature is a flock of birds in flight. To the observer on the ground, the flock seems to be in perfect harmony with itself. It twists and turns gracefully before soaring upwards and out of sight. One is left to wonder at what majestic management and leadership skills are embedded in the flock to make its flight seem so effortless and efficient.

 Contained within the flock, individual birds have no overview of themselves; they have no idea of their collective shape, size or direction. Their only contact with the group is through their closest neighbours and yet all the birds seem to be connected to each other, such is their uniformity of movement.

 It is believed that the main purpose of the flock is for protection against predators. It is exceedingly difficult to pick individuals out of the swirling mass.

Researchers, using high-speed film, have shown that when the flock encounters predators, the necessary turning motion is achieved in the form of an extraordinarily fast wave that flows through the flock, passing from bird to bird. The speed of this wave (estimated at one-seventieth of a second) is far faster than any individual bird's reaction time. The flock is indeed more than the sum of the birds.

 When these researchers combine their studies of innovation in birds (using myna birds) with bird flocking behaviour,  they counter cases of innovative behaviour (‘the fast learners’) as well as innovative behaviour performed by individual birds who individually are not innovative, but in the flock, copy the behaviour of the innovative birds (‘the slow, flexible learners’)[1].

 Surprisingly, computer simulation of the behaviour of flocks is not complicated. Three basic computer algorithmic factors are required: don't crash into another bird, keep up with the birds next to you and don't stray too far away. These can be summarised as 'separation', 'alignment' and 'cohesion'. If any predators are around, two more instructions are required: steer away from the predators' heading ('evasion') and steer to move away from the position of the predator ('avoidance'). These five simple rules appear to be all that is needed to manage and lead the flock very successfully.

 Although it may sometimes appear so, a flock of birds is not just 'a big bird', using the combined talents of its individuals to give it extra power and strength.  Nor is it a 'machine', although it seems to have some internal laws that operate mechanistically. To use current scientific jargon, a flock of birds is a complex adaptive system.

 Complex adaptive systems take on a 'life of their own' and have the traits of complexity, which include multiplicity and diversity; spontaneity, adaptiveness, accommodation, transcendence and the capacity for total metamorphosis. These artificial life forms are not bounded in any way: they can be as big or as small as they need to be. Have you noticed that flocks do not become full or overloaded as new birds join the flock?

 Many organisational behaviour scientists like Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and The New Science) are beginning to view modern corporations as complex adaptive systems. They see the growth in electronic networks, the development of interrelationships and the increasing commitment to mutual responsibilities as evidence for this.  To them, the 'self-renewing' properties of natural systems, like flocks of birds, are the secrets that will contribute to the vitality and growth of business in the future. Although a business begins its life as a legal construct, it lives its life as a dynamic ensemble of people, places and things. A flock of birds in flight can reveal the beauty and majesty of the different shapes that this very real ensemble can take.

The business-related complex adaptive system provides an analogy for the structure, economy and governance of a country like South Africa, albeit that many might criticise it for being too simplistic in nature and lacking in attention being paid to the myriad of other factors, like cultural differences, languages, political orientation and power bases. It is seemingly true that one does not see different species of birds flocking together as the well-known proverb predicts. But, different bird species and many insects, like bees, display flocking.

I don’t think the idea of a country, like South Africa, where all the citizens move towards flocking behaviour and, in so doing, the country approaches becoming a complex adaptive system should be viewed as being too farfetched. In a flock, each individual retains its own personality and individuality. Each individual has its own strengths and contributes to the success of the population as a whole. As shown previously, the behaviour required to form and be part of a successful flock is very simple and straightforward: ‘separation’ (of cultures, say), ‘alignment’ (as South Africans) and ‘cohesion’ (Ubuntu).



1 Wired: Zoologic: 15 Jan 2014: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/01/innovative-birds-are-also-less-flexible-learners/?cid=17121744

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Louis Wolmarans
Proving the Catchphrase “Time = M...

The catchphrase “Time = Money” is used by various business people, movies, and smart arses. However, the truth of the matter is that “Money= Time” Read more...

3 comments 303 views
Submitted by
Adriaan Engelbrecht
To those that hate God...

To those that hate God and everything else that goes with it. Read more...

68 comments 574 views
Submitted by
Mark Peach
To my mother, in anticipation of ...

There is a growing distance between us and my mother-in-law. You can see it in her eyes.  Read more...

7 comments 892 views
Submitted by
Mpho Sindane
Irregular spending a regular fail...

Service delivery protests will continue unabated for as long as our elected representatives fail to manage public finance properly.  Read more...

5 comments 541 views
Submitted by
Joban Roberts
Saffas in the City

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of going to watch the World Rugby Sevens tournament at Twickenham Stadium.  Read more...

6 comments 1259 views
Submitted by
Susan Venter
Thank Goodness for God!

A while ago, I nearly "turned Atheist". THANK GOODNESS I came to my senses! I have found that most atheists are egotistical, irrational and close-minded. Read more...

209 comments 1162 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 30% off top fragrances

Get mind blowing savings on selected fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.