Optimal network topology for responsive collective behavior

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Science Advances  03 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaau0999
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau0999


Animals, humans, and multi-robot systems operate in dynamic environments, where the ability to respond to changing circumstances is paramount. An effective collective response requires suitable information transfer among agents and thus critically depends on the interaction network. To investigate the influence of the network topology on collective response, we consider an archetypal model of distributed decision-making and study the capacity of the system to follow a driving signal for varying topologies and system sizes. Experiments with a swarm of robots reveal a nontrivial relationship between frequency of the driving signal and optimal network topology. The emergent collective response to slow-changing perturbations increases with the degree of the interaction network, but the opposite is true for the response to fast-changing ones. These results have far-reaching implications for the design and understanding of distributed systems: a dynamic rewiring of the interaction network is essential to effective collective operations at different time scales.

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