In National Geographic this month I read an interesting article about swarm theory and self organising systems. It describes how for example a school of fish is able to make quick decisions by making use of collective intelligence. Basically they apply to three basic rules: 1) avoid crowding nearby fishes, 2) swim in the average direction of nearby fishes, and 3) stay close to nearby fishes. This results in the typical behaviour of a school of fish (or a swarm of birds) that we know from TV. Robots that were operated by the same rules showed similar behaviour, and the logarithm is now being used for animation too.
It would be interesting to see what swarm theory would mean to informal urbanism (slums) as a self organising system. Previously I already concluded that slums show fractal behaviour, and that slum structures, when they connect to an existing urban grid, have more chance to grow into mature city neighbourhoods. We could stimulate the self organising tendency of slums development to impose some basic rules to the dwellers when they build their homes. Connecting to the existing urban street grid could be one of them, as well as connecting to a main street of a certain minimal dimension for easy access of sanitary and emergency services (or police for that matter). Also, maximum dimensions of a city block could be defined as well as a percentage of green or open spaces. This way, swarm theory could provide in a basic framework that can potentially grow into a mature city, without too much policy or pre-investment.