Social Science


” I won’t compare ants and people, but ants give us a useful model of how single members of a community can become so organized that they end up resembling, in effect, one big collective brain. Our own exploding population and communication technology are leading us that way. ”

Lewis Thomas

The Ant-Bridge  (altruism among ants)

When I was in school, Lewis Thomas fascinated me with stories of how individual organisms work together to create what can only be called “social life”. His 1974 book, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher seemed almost prescient by the way he anticipated the importance of Swarm Intelligence, which means  that social life is not about individual intelligence or strategy, its a lot of individuals doing their bit to make the whole thing work.

Anthills of the Savannah

I haven’t been there, but I am told if you take a walk through the grasslands of Africa you come across large arches, almost like what  one would expect at the Arches National Park, Utah made as the Colarado River flows through the soft rock. But there is one problem, There is no rock in the Savannah, neither hard or soft. What made these arches? Closer inspection reveals that these arches are termite mounds! In order to build a 3 dimensional arch, engineers understand its important to have three dimensional geometry, a third perspective. Ethologists were not able to find any evidence of a third perspective. What they did find was a tunnel under the arch connecting both pillars. It is as if, the ants using their communication systems were able to pass on three dimensional coordinates to their counter parts in the other pillar.

What does all this mean?

Swarm Behaviour is based  on collective intelligence. Individual intelligence is not what is relevant here. Its a topic that is being explored with lots of excitement in Artificial Intelligence. The basics of a successful swarm are. They are the same for human societies too.

  1. Understanding the directions you want to go (what constitutes a win or lose)
  2. Good communication between units
  3. A way of learning fast (the learning algorithm)

What if thats all you need to be successful?

  1. To understand yourself and where you are going
  2. To be able to communicate well
  3. Be a good and fast learner

Dr Fenn offers short courses and programs that aims to build skills in each of these three areas. To know more, ask for an appointment.