Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.

According to the Wikipedia article on swarm intelligence

Swarm intelligence (SI) is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence.

The application of swarm principles to robots is called swarm robotics, while 'swarm intelligence' refers to the more general set of algorithms.

SI systems consist typically of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment. The inspiration often comes from nature, especially biological systems.

These two terms seem to be related, especially in their application in computer science and software engineering. Is one a subset of another? Is one tool (SI) is used to build a system for the other(AI)? What are their differences and why are they significant?


Well, one of the simpler definitions for SI sounds like this:

The emergent collective intelligence of groups of simple agents.” (Bonabeau et al, 1999)

So, in order to get to the SI you have to use some kind of algorithms/AI to get simple intelligent agents. It's just cooperative intelligence, or cooperative AI if you wish. SI just uses today's AI/ML techniques to build the swarm, in same manners as reinforcement learning uses AI/ML techniques to make agents that can behave reasonably in large spaces by approximating value functions V(S) and policies pi(S). I hope this helps a little.

So AI/ML is kinda of a tool plugged in SI, as SI is field with it's own algorithm definitions and theory.

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Artificial Intelligence, as its name suggests, is intelligence made by humans. It's usually thought of as having human-like behaviors and characteristics. However, it doesn't have to resemble humans to be AI. It just has to be made by humans. Many common AI algorithms aren't even made to resemble humans, they may just have similarities. Reinforcement learning is present in humans, but also in the many creatures with intelligence.

Swarm Intelligence is basically a lot of small stupid things working together to do something complex. Take for example ants. Each individual ant only follows a few very simple "instructions" like if has this chemical: follow. Like Evolutionary AI, it's part of nature. We humans just take a feature made by nature (Evolution/Swarming) and try to replicate some behaviors. Much like Evolutionary AI, Swarm Intelligence is a type of AI.


  • AI: intelligence made by humans
  • SI: feature made by nature that humans are trying to copy
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