About EasyBuild HUDs

EasyBuild HUDs allow you to create a variety of different builds by selecting from a choice of different components.

However, these are more than just building applications. They are the outcome of a wider project to explore the evolutionary capabilities of stigmergy.

What is Stigmergy?

Stigmergy is the name given to the remarkable process which allows ants to build vastly complex structures - without any plans and without any central control.

Discovered in 1955, stigmergy has since proved to be the underlying process which enables highly complex systems to emerge out of next to nothing - not only to emerge, but also to evolve, becoming self organizing - and increasingly more complex and efficient.

It is the phenomenon of stigmergy, which explains the emergence of all kinds of complex human organizations. In particular: stigmergy explains how the World Wide Web and Second Life came to evolve and progress so successfully - with ever increasing complexity, self organization and efficiency.

But how does stigmergy work its magic?.

The basic principle is extremely simple to grasp and, once understood, is readily self-apparent.

The best way to understand stigmergy is to go back to its original discovery - with ants. Ants have genes, which cause them to react to structures they see in their environment. They react by making changes or additions to what they see.

The changes they make cause them to react again, but in a slightly different way. This process is continually repeated with constant changes triggering new and different building responses.

The end result is the seemingly, mystical emergence of vastly complex building structures. There has been no plan - just a series of instinctive genetic responses to what ants see in their environment.

How does this apply to humans?

Many people have genes that cause them to emotionally react to what they see in their world - in a way that causes them to want to change or improve it. If they do make changes, others, with the same inclination, will want to change or improve on those changes.

If this process is continuous, involving many different people reacting in a common environment, the environment as a whole will rapidly increase in complexity. The World Wide Web and Second Life are prime examples of such rapidly evolving stigmergic systems - not to mention civilization itself.

This EasyBuild HUD project has been designed to encourage the participation of talented builders and sculptors. They will see components in the HUD and observe the different ways in which they can be mixed and matched. This will inspire new ideas and improvements. In this way, it is anticipated that new HUDs will continuously evolve - gaining in complexity.

Understanding complexity.

Stigmergic systems very quickly become highly complex - way beyond any human ability to fully comprehend or control. The reason for this is that continual changes, and the changing reactions to the changing environment, act as a positive feedback loop. Change feeds upon itself.

Natural evolution has found a way of dealing with the unrestrained, chaotic growth of complexity - and of keeping it under control. The evolutionary process controls rapidly changing, complex systems: by allowing only the fittest and most efficient parts of the system to survive - the inefficencies are gradually killed off. In this way, biological systems continuously improve - becoming increasingly more organized and efficient.

It is just such an evolutionary process that controls the development of both the World Wide Web and Second Life. The selection process is determined by success and, most often, economic survival. Only the best are able to compete effectively and survive. Without achieving success or emotional rewards, even charitable ventures are dropped.

Those that cannot compete, eventually give up - leaving only the best sites on the web or the best projects in Second Life. This results in both the World Wide Web and Second Life environment becoming increasingly filled with successful projects. Successful survivors gradually providing the bulk of the Web and Second Life content.

Stigmergy as an aid to creativity

Stigmergy can also be an aid to personal creativity - allowing designers to design beyond their imagination.

Designing beyond your imagination may seem to be an oxymoron - an apparent contradiction. However, this is a well known design strategy, more commonly called a 'bottom up strategy'.

The general idea is that you make a start on a project - any project - without anything other than a vague idea as to what you are setting out to do. In the act of creating something, ideas will emerge.

You will be emotionally motivated to make changes and improvements to what you have created. Problems and challenges will arise - making you seek out answers and solutions, which expose you to further new ideas and inspirations.

This is stigmergy at work: causing you to react to your own work by making changes and improvements -leading to creative directions, which were beyond your imagination when you first started out.

This effect is magnified in any cooperative or competitive situation - where a variety of ideas and interactions are introduced as a result of stigmergic reactions.

This is the essence of the EasyBuild HUD project: to exploit the creative power of stigmergy. It uses a specially designed building program that enables builders and sculptors to mix, match and change any number of component parts. Reacting to both their own changes and contributions - and those of others.

Peter Small (SL name: Eliver Rang)

July 2009