As you can see from the 'Technical notes' and 'History' links in the menubar, the work of applying biological system theory to the Internet has advanced considerably over the past few years. We now have a pretty solid theoretical base to work from and software has been developed to put several biological strategies into practice.
This Web site is the start and came into full operation at the end of June (2003). We are now ready to go forward to explore the possibilities of using biological strategies on the Web. This will be based upon three main structures that have been developed and refined over the past two years: a Web site prototyping program; a kempelen box and a self-organizing hierarchical navigation system. These have been designed specifically to create stigmergic systems where visitors to a site play an active part.
Web site prototyper
The key to the success of biologically inspired systems is to arrange for a Web site that can evolve as a continuous series of new generations. Content, navigation and hierarchical structuring must be easily re-configurable. This has been achieved by creating a program that constantly reconfigures and rebuilds a Web site in response to the way it is used by visitors.
This technique, which is copied from the way biological organisms evolve, has three important advantages. Firstly, it ensures a Web site proceeds relentlessly towards a state of greater efficiency. Secondly, it prevents a Web site from becoming unmanageable by quickly identifying and removing unproductive sections. Thirdly, the costs usually associated with frequent change and maintenance are largely eliminated.
A Kempelen Box is the metaphor used to describe a system that allows people to be represented by agents in a peer cluster. The agents in these clusters carry details about their owners and have memories that can be used to express their owners' views or knowledge relating to a particular subject area.
The unique feature of these Kempelen Boxes is that they are entities in their own right and exist as part of a Web site. They have the potential to provide self-organizing focal points that accumulate information relating to specific subject areas.
Kempelen Boxes are the antithesis of search engines, they do not search for and regulate information. Information comes to them and is categorized and filtered in the process.
Although the technical programming side is in place, Kempelen Boxes take time to develop to maturity. A subject area has to be chosen and a Web site developed to attract people who are specifically interested in the subject.
Stigmergic systems are designed to self-organize. But, this is not the kind of self-organization that occurs mechanically, as a result of computer programming. It is the emergent organization that occurs when people interact with a system. Stigmergy and evolutionary strategies are built into the system so that self-ogranization becomes progressively more purposeful and efficient.
The current projects will be aiming to develop and refine the system to optimize the way people interact with a Web site in particular areas of commerce.
User defined Kempelen boxes
One of the advantages of having Kempelen boxes and the agents they contain existing as separate entities on the Web is that people can create their own Kempelen boxes made up of agents taken from a variety of other Kempelen boxes irrespective of where they were created. In other words, users can construct a personal "box of agents", selected by them as being most appropriate for their individual needs, without being reliant upon any single proprietary service.
This feature will be developed as an ongoing part of the current projects.
Note: You'll find more detailed descriptions of these features in the 'Technical notes' and 'References' links in the main menubar.