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Leveraging guided stigmergy

Whenever we learn something new, our first response is often to reciprocate that thing and take it onboard or not reciprocate that thing and disregard it. Something we find that’s helpful or not helpful.

We then want to spread the word to others about that thing we find helpful. But your form of what’s helpful may not match my form or definition of what’s helpful so we have difficulties connecting and operating society in a universally understood manner.

Chance stigmergy

Stigmergy is one proposal that attempts to deal with this problem, it asserts that once a party (or person) follows another party down a path they see is better than another, they will keep going down that road and things will continue to get better even when operating on their own and without assistance of someone there at that moment in time.

Imagine walking down a field and you see someone or a group of people walking quicker than you are. You’re moving slowly through the heavy long grass so your logic is to move closer to the path behind them so that you too can also move through the grass quicker.

Approaching their trail, you find there is a path of trampled-down grass so you keep going down said path. - That’s stigmergy, a reaction to the environment changing your behaviour in the moment toward something that appears more efficient toward completing a goal, in this case, getting to where you need to go.

All sounds good, but what happens when said pathway recovers after a long time of not going down it, with long grass now covering the path and you are unable to see where it was? What happens if different people start going down said field but take a different path, one more treacherous or different than the safer path prior?

Since traditional stigmergy principles reject voting, what communication methods can we use to signal a potentially better and safer path forward?

Enter guided stigmergy

‘Information-based stigmergy’, ‘Informed stigmergy’ or ‘Guided stigmergy’ is a proposed philosophy that asserts that once something new is learned, feedback is presented to all parties directly involved in what is learned by an acting third party or entity where or when appropriate.

Essentially, when the acting principle of a steward of a project or property leans toward teaching or guiding those who are contributing to a project, or toward assisting with the maintenance or living standards of property being carried out or fulfilled, then the desired results, or higher quality results, are more likely to be ascertained toward whatever task needs carrying out, resulting in a stronger sense of connection between all parties involved.

To help with this:

  • A number is assigned by the third party to a log of what happened that took place, whether that be a lesson taught, an item, a piece of knowledge, advice, or a service obtained.
  • That number might be represented in the form of a review or declaration with ratings given for transactions to understand how good something is based on past feedback from others before taking up an offer from them.
  • The third party holding information for a number could be an individual, a group of people, or a computer system displaying feedback information from two parties in a review, declaration, or a transaction. Any of which containing information in the form of log files held on a server if it is held on a computer, or through physical bookkeeping if the form of accounting is not held on a computer but in a physical record.
  • The third party then makes or suggests making changes accordingly to the group or system everyone is involved or participating in, to guide everyone involved in that system based on the data in the feedback obtained. Whatever acts or changes that take place, this either generates net-positive results or net-negative results.
  • Suggestions and information presented may be translated by computer translation to the appropriate language required if requested.

If parties involved are not assisted or guided in their tasks, or in whatever membership or role they’re given, or if their role or membership status isn’t very clearly defined with no or not enough guiding principles, records with information, or policies in place, then lower quality results may occur, whether that be in keeping relationships and team members working well together, or the resulting final quality of a project or task due for completion is lower than desired.


We’ve all heard the saying:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

A teacher in a school assisting a student towards a goal is guided stigmergy in action.

A teacher leaving a book behind of what to do or what happened as something to learn from is freeing the teacher to help and assist others further. As long as the parameters laid out in the book are enough to cover any information requested.

Jobcentres are another example of where guided stigmergy takes place. Work mentors (or coaches) guiding their clients along and giving them advice with appropriate-for-work strategies.

To do this, they may first look at your work history, and from there understand what you are good at for what type of work is suitable for you. If you encounter a problem, your mentor may offer a solution such as a behavioural or communication improvement strategy, a skill to learn, a course to go on, a better piece of equipment to obtain for performing a task more efficiently, and so on.


You can never truly trust in what information is presented, you can only extrapolate from what you know and from historical records to make decisions. Thus your desire to trust in something is a personal decision, but it still either generates a bad record or a good one. (See Leveraging stewardship & education)

When it comes to records, the ledger system of accounting is the easiest for deciphering information. So you can more easily see, search through, and filter information of actions and their results.

Growth problems and reflective strategy

Instead of accounting to help with planning and decision making to reduce the chances of things going wrong, traditional stigmergic philosophy in team management often leaves things up to chance, or with the expectation that the form of communication used is adequate to inspire an opposing agent (or person) with a differing point of view, ability, communication style and background you may or may not be aware of.

Thus it is important to have something external to the individual as an aid to inspire and improve decision-making, such as a record of something that happened. If the details however are inadequate, decision-making becomes more difficult.

Rewards, appreciation, and incentives

Some think that rewards corrupt an individual's sense of doing something and not expecting anything in return. That doing so means they will then always expect the reward and won’t perform the task if it is no longer available, leading to environmental problems, or other social ills.

But if an act is shown appreciation in alternative ways, not always just as a like-for-like trade, and that appreciation is kept on record, it becomes more clear where or when things were going right. And appreciation in at least some form helps keep people happy and still wanting to work together. (See Leveraging trust and reputation for examples)

Improving relationships

Info about something that happened can help people to understand other people, and may help lead to less relationship troubles. An open access economy prioritises that it is within everyone’s right to have access to knowledge before a good or a service is obtained.

If the good or service provider withholds the requested information, then the individual requesting such good or service would have the freedom to think about the provider and how well they provide for others in whatever way they please in either refusing or accepting what is offered.

Understanding others

The important thing to understand is that without the correct assistance, things are more likely to go wrong. Once you get to know people, you are better able to assess how to help them along.

Some people may be smart at putting things together organically, but not in such a way others can coherently or intuitively understand them and what they ultimately want to achieve. So helping them to understand what wants to be achieved in a constructive manner is more likely to go further in keeping everyone working together than without such assistance.


Stigmergy is the result of one’s actions, not a positive-reinforcing behavioural pattern to follow as there is nothing defined in stigmergy to follow that creates a desired result.

Think of an instruction manual. That manual provides instructions for what to do. If you deviate from the instructions provided, you won’t create exactly what the manual is telling you to do.

Thus the need for guided stigmergy, without a guidance system of some form in place, stigmergy creating net positive results to arrive at better decision making or at a better place, especially when on your own or when the environment changes, cannot always happen. Sometimes they can by an indirect action leading to a better outcome than planned, but this is ultimately a course of action that cannot always be taken without some form of loss or repercussion.

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guided_stigmergy.txt · Last modified: 2022/09/16 00:52 by jusr