Markov Chains and Emergent Behavior

ACO Student Seminar
Friday, January 19, 2018 - 13:05
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 005
CS, Georgia Tech
Studying random samples drawn from large, complex sets is one way to begin to learn about typical properties and behaviors. However, it is important that the samples examined are random enough: studying samples that are unexpectedly correlated or drawn from the wrong distribution can produce misleading conclusions. Sampling processes using Markov chains have been utilized in physics, chemistry, and computer science, among other fields, but they are often applied without careful analysis of their reliability. Making sure widely-used sampling processes produce reliably representative samples is a main focus of my research, and in this talk I'll touch on two specific applications from statistical physics and combinatorics.I'll also discuss work applying these same  Markov chain processes used for sampling in a novel way to address research questions in programmable matter and swarm robotics, where a main goal is to understand how simple computational elements can accomplish  complicated system-level goals. In a constrained setting, we've answered this question by showing that groups of abstract particles executing our simple processes (which are derived from Markov chains) can provably accomplish remarkable global objectives. In the long run, one goal is to understand the minimum computational abilities elements need in order to exhibit complex global behavior, with an eye towards developing systems where individual components are  as simple as possible.This talk includes joint work with Marta Andrés Arroyo, Joshua J. Daymude, Daniel I. Goldman, David A. Levin, Shengkai Li, Dana Randall, Andréa Richa, William Savoie, Alexandre Stauffer, and Ross Warkentin.