What the octopus can teach Chicago about security

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If Chicago’s proliferating police surveillance cameras are so great, the question goes, why don’t they seem to be stopping crime?

Chicago’s network of 10,000 public and private cameras is the most extensive in the nation. But all those cameras aren’t necessarily making people feel safer.

Maybe it’s time to consider the lowly octopus.

In the May 20 issue of Nature, University of Arizona scientists say the design of security systems might improve if experts looked to the natural world. The octopus’ defensive camouflaging, for example, isn’t run strictly from a central command center, but by networks of pigment cells distributed throughout its body.

Researchers concluded the most successful defenses in the natural world are those that avoid centralization and instead distribute the responsibility for security to decentralized groups of cells or, in a large group, to individuals.

It raises the question of whether Chicago’s surveillance camera network is as useful as it can be.

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