Structural transition in the collective behavior of cognitive agents

Living organisms process information to interact and adapt to their surroundings with the goal of finding food, mating, or averting hazards. The structure of their environment has profound repercussions through both selecting their internal architecture and also inducing adaptive responses to environmental cues and stimuli. Adaptive collective behavior underpinned by specialized optimization strategies is ubiquitous in the natural world. We develop a minimal model of agents that explore their environment by means of sampling trajectories. The spatial information stored in the sampling trajectories is our minimal definition of a cognitive map. We find that, as cognitive agents build and update their internal, cognitive representation of the causal structure of their environment, complex patterns emerge in the system, where the onset of pattern formation relates to the spatial overlap of cognitive maps. Exchange of information among the agents leads to an order-disorder transition. As a result of the spontaneous breaking of translational symmetry, a Goldstone mode emerges, which points at a collective mechanism of information transfer among cognitive organisms. These findings may be generally applicable to the design of decentralized, artificial-intelligence swarm systems.