How does a scouting ant tell the rest of her colony that there's food here? She will secrete more pheromones - some kind of ant perfume - along the path that she found the food. When her colony mates passes by and picks up the pheromones, they will follow the trail, find the food, giving more pheromones and attract more ant mates and so on. Over time, you find that the chemical trail will get reinforced and becomes stronger and stronger.
So how does Ant Colony Optimization works? It works on exactly that principle - that which is useful will be ranked higher than those that are less useful, subsequently reinforced through repeated trials and eventually, the more useful 'path' will be discovered simply by the usage frequency. I'll give a few examples of how this can work in your everyday life:
1. Sorting files
We tend to sort files alphabetically or chronologically. We don't have to. Take for example one file filled with notes arranged chronologically. Every time we take out something from that file, we place it right in front of the rest, ignoring the order. After several iterations, what we use most often will be placed right in front of the file, making it more optimized for your usage instead of arranging in other common order (like chronological or alphabetical or subject matter) but ultimately useless arrangement.
This is exactly what the Noguchi Filing system works. When I read that, I was mindblown. It wasn't until I read and watched a lot of ants video on Youtube before I realized that it's derived from nature.
2. Sorting apps in your smart phone
Same theory. Arrange your apps according to the usage. Every time you use the app, arrange it in the forefront. Upon subsequent iterations, you'll find that the most useful apps will be right in front and the least useful app are right behind. Go ahead and delete that once it crosses a certain time threshold.
3. Internet bookmarks
If you're like me, you'll have so many 'useful' bookmarks in my internet browser that it's not always possible to find the stuff you need anymore. Yet you can't bare to delete them in the event that you might need it one day.
Here's where ant colony optimisation comes in too. You just sort the bookmark by arranging the one that you use right in front. Over time, the most useful bookmarks will be ranked right at the top while the least useful one will be at the bottom of the least. Again, you can delete those at the bottom with the knowledge that you seldom use it anyway, so there's no need to miss them.
These are just 3 examples that you can use to simplify your life. Besides micro things like these, ant colony optimisation can also be used to decide the best route for transportation networks like where to build a highway, bus routes etc. Basically when there's so many choices leading from point A to point B with multiple variables involved, ant colony optimisation will be useful.
Think about it.