Engineering Human Stigmergy


  • Ioan Susnea University "Dunarea de Jos" of Galati


Human stigmergy, virtual pheromones, pheromone maps, intelligent transportation systems, stigmergic shopping, stigmergic learning


Discovered in the context of a research about insects, stigmergy — the indirect coordination mechanism that allows ant colonies to achieve intelligent behavior — has been extensively studied with the aim to create artificial, ant-like agents. Although stigmergic behavior has been also identified in human collectivities, there are relatively few reports about technological solutions that facilitate the emergence of such interactions between people.

This paper proposes the concept of virtual pheromones, defined as engrams created by the agents not  in the environment, but in a representation thereof — a map, and outlines several use cases, wherein pheromones embedded in maps are the key element for inducing stigmergic behavior in human multi-agent systems.

Without proposing a theoretic generalization, this paper aims to emphasize the broad range of possible technological applications of human stigmergy, and, maybe, to mark a new starting point for a more in-depth study of this topic.

Author Biography

Ioan Susnea, University "Dunarea de Jos" of Galati

Lecturer at the Department of Computers and Information Technology


Abraham, A., & Ramos, V. (2003). Web usage mining using artificial ant colony clustering and linear genetic programming. In Evolutionary Computation, 2003. CEC'03. The 2003 Congress on (Vol. 2, pp. 1384-1391). IEEE.

Chialvo, D. R., Millonas, M. M. (1995). How swarms build cognitive maps. In The biology and technology of intelligent autonomous agents, 439-450.

Conradt, J. A. (2008). A distributed cognitive map for spatial navigation based on graphically organized place agents Doctoral dissertation, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

Dorigo, M., Maniezzo, V., & Colorni, A. (1996). Ant system: optimization by a colony of cooperating agents. Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on, 26(1): 29-41.

Doyle, M. J., Marsh, L. (2013). Stigmergy 3.0: From ants to economies. Cognitive Systems Research, 21: 1-6.

Grasse, P. P. (1959) La Reconstruction du nid et les Coordinations Inter-Individuelles chez Bellicositermes Natalensis et Cubitermes sp: La theorie de la Stigmergie: Essai d'interpretation du Comportement des Termites Constructeurs. Insectes Sociaux, 6: 41-82.

Howard, A., Matarić, M. J., & Sukhatme, G. S. (2002). An incremental self-deployment algorithm for mobile sensor networks. Autonomous Robots, 13(2): 113-126.

Karlson, P., Luscher, M. (1959); Pheromones: a new term for a class of biologically active substances. Nature, 183: 55-56

Marsh, L., & Onof, C. (2008). Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 9(1):136-149.

Negulescu, S. C., Dzitac, I., Lascu, A. E. (2010). Synthetic genes for artificial ants. Diversity in ant colony optimization algorithms. International Journal of Computers Communications & Control, 5(2): 216-223.

Parunak, H. V. D., Brueckner, S., Sauter, J., & Posdamer, J. (2001). Mechanisms and military applications for synthetic pheromones. Ann Arbor, 1001: 48113-4001.

Parunak, H. V. D. (2006). A survey of environments and mechanisms for human-human stigmergy. In Environments for Multi-Agent Systems II, Springer Berlin Heidelberg

Patent application US2006/0094443

Payton, D. W., Daily, M. J., Hoff, B., Howard, M. D., & Lee, C. L. (2001, March). Pheromone robotics. In Intelligent Systems and Smart Manufacturing, International Society for Optics and Photonics, 67-75.

Purnamadjaja, A. H., & Russell, R. A. (2007). Guiding robots' behaviors using pheromone communication. Autonomous Robots, 23(2): 113-130.

Rao, A. S., Georgeff, M. P. (1995). BDI agents: From theory to practice. ICMAS, 95: 312-319.

Sim, K. M., & Sun, W. H. (2003); Ant colony optimization for routing and load-balancing: survey and new directions. Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans, IEEE Transactions on, 33(5):560-572.

Susnea, I., Vasiliu, G., Filipescu, A., & Radaschin, A. (2009). Virtual pheromones for realtime control of autonomous mobile robots. Studies in Informatics and Control, 18(3): 233-240.

Susnea I. Vasiliu G (2011); A framework for creating mixed robot formations with physical and virtual agents Proc. of the International Conference of the Air Force Academy "Henri Coanda", AFASES2011

Susnea I. (2012). Applications of the Emergence in Cognitive MAS, The Annals of the University Dunarea de Jos of Galati, Fascicle III, 2012, 35(2): 41-48.

Susnea, I., Vasiliu, G., & Mitu, D. E. (2013). Enabling Self-Organization of the Educational Content in Ad Hoc Learning Networks, Studies in Informatics and Control, 22(2): 143-152.

Tolman, E.C. (1948). Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men, The Psychological Review, 55(4): 189-208.



Most read articles by the same author(s)

Obs.: This plugin requires at least one statistics/report plugin to be enabled. If your statistics plugins provide more than one metric then please also select a main metric on the admin's site settings page and/or on the journal manager's settings pages.