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共通の目標に向けた集団行動は、たとえ集団の構成員一人一人の興味が一致していても協調問題(個々の構成員にとっての最適解が必ずしも集団全体にとっての最適解とはならないという問題)に直面する。今回、白土寛和(しらど・ひろかず)とNicholas Christakisは、複数の集団の人々にネットワーク化カラーコーディネート問題を解決させることによって、この状況をモデル化した。この場合、被験者には20個のノードからなるネットワークと3つの色候補を示して、それぞれのノードの色が隣接するノードの色と異なるように全てのノードの色を決めることを集団全体の目標としたが、被験者一人一人は自分に割り当てられたノードとそれに隣接するノードの色しか見ることができなかった。この実験で、低レベルのランダムノイズを示すようにプログラムされたボットをこのゲームの中心的位置に加えたところ、各集団の集団としての成績が上がり、被験者が問題解決に要する時間が短くなった。


Autonomous ‘bots’ programmed to generate random ‘noise’ can help groups of people achieve a common goal, a Nature paper reveals. The study suggests that adding noisy bots to strategic positions within human networks could help to address a diverse range of problems, such as solving quantum problems and cataloguing archaeological or astronomical images.

Collective action towards a common goal, even if everyone’s interests are aligned, faces a coordination problem: an individual’s attempt to reach a solution that is best for them may not be optimal for the group as a whole. Hirokazu Shirado and Nicholas Christakis modelled this situation by inviting groups of people to solve a networked colour coordination problem. Presented with a network of 20 nodes and three potential colours, the collective goal was to make every node a different colour from its neighbours, but participants could see the colour of only their node and its immediate neighbours. When bots, programmed to exhibit small levels of random noise, were introduced to central locations in the game, collective performance of the groups increased and people took less time to solve the problem.

Noise, or meaningless information in a process, is often regarded as a cause of trouble. Here, however, the effect of behavioural noise was like seeding the network with actors who already knew how to solve the problem. Intriguingly, the bots worked not only by making the task of humans to whom they were connected easier, but also by influencing the way that humans interacted with each other. Cascades of benefit were created and the effect occurred even when people knew they were interacting with bots.

doi: 10.1038/nature22332

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