Ant Urbanism

Ant FarmFuture Australians perplexed by the design of their cities might have ants to blame: "The movement of ants could help solve traffic jams and crowd congestion, Australian scientists say, and the findings could be used in future town planning systems."
Indeed, we're told, "Humans could learn from ants about how to deal with... exiting large venues after concerts or sporting events." Eat grass, for instance, and dig lots of orderly holes.
Apparently, whilst being studied, "ants moved in an orderly fashion, and never seemed to panic, even when there was danger or congestion."
In any case: do ants offer interesting analogies and parallels for fields such as robotics? I'm sure they do.
But I have to admit I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to using ant behavior as a model for urban design; something tells me ants act like ants because they're ants, and that to rebuild our cities and streets so that the built environment responds best to those of us who might act like ants might be artistically fascinating – but perhaps a little foolish.

(Thanks, Steve! Previously on BLDGBLOG: Tracking Ants and Nest-casting. See also inhuman urbanism, animal urbanism, and simian urbanism).

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Douglas said...

hilarious. We should totally model our cities on ants, they are so utilitarian.

Us pesky humans are prone to such a high degree of dysfunctional activity. For example, In Vancouver, there tends to be a stabbing whenever large groups of humans gather to watch explosions in the sky.

Ants never stab each other nor do they riot if their favourite rock group fails to show up at a concert.

August 02, 2007 7:19 PM  
Blogger Y.E. Vulva said...

lest we forget the lessons of "Phase IV"...

the prophecy is true!?

August 02, 2007 9:28 PM  
Anonymous travelina said...

National Geographic's recent story on swarm theory shows how the behavior of ants and bees is already being used to schedule airlines, route delivery trucks, and guide military robots: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0707/feature5/

And I for one welcome our new insect overlords...

August 02, 2007 10:22 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

how the behavior of ants and bees is already being used to schedule airlines, route delivery trucks...

That's awesomely interesting, actually. Thanks for that.

And... what's "Phase IV," again?

August 03, 2007 3:24 PM  
Blogger Will said...

"Phase IV" is an excellent and sorely under-rated piece of science fiction cinema - research station is menaced by intelligent ants. It's Brilliant.

It sounds to me like the urban planners quoted here want humans to act like ants because they would be easier to design for, which strikes me as being rather lazy. It's depressing to see these attitudes persisting today - I thought that the y were at long last dead, and planners had belatedly realised that they should plan for real people, not the people they wish would inhabit their plans.

August 06, 2007 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

In one of my favorite videogames (Sid Meier's ALPHA CENTAURI), one of the available factions you can play is the Hive. Basically a totalitarian dystopia founded on the premise that the ideal society would be based on insectoid behavior. The results aren't pretty.

August 06, 2007 8:54 PM  
Anonymous orhan said...

http://www.primitivism.com/ant-gardens.htm

August 09, 2007 11:28 PM  
Anonymous Garrett Sawyer said...

If you think about it, modern cities are already modeled after how ants live. Accept...we over did it with shopping malls and event buildings. First, imagine yourself as a giant compared to a human. As big as a large building preferably. Think of an arial view over a freeway/highway...think of skyscrapers but underground with lots of halls (passage ways) and rooms(chambers) with litte tiny people going up and down on stairs and elevators and escalators. We're already like them. I was just talking to my mom about this earlier. I came to her house early in the morning and I asked why did she put cat food out instead of inside for the cats if the ants will start eating it? She said "arent they sleeping now?" (at 5:30am) I told her I'm not sure if they ever sleep but if they do I'm sure they don't all do at once. After that I told her imagine how theres always people on the freeway...even in the early morning, we're just like the ants! as their little pathways over the pavement of her yard were not bussling with ants, they were pretty thinned out at the time.

This study of ants is not new nor is the comparison to humans...I think even common people have done it...lol. For centuries.

It wasn't long after she put it out that the ants started eating it. If left there, the food will be COVERED in ants...They're just as resourceful as us so it doesn't hurt to claim we should be more like them as we already are in a way.

August 24, 2007 9:19 AM  

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