All pictures are taken from open sources and belong to their authors
As it is easy to see, social insects thrive, and superorganisms
are formed not only by multi-legged bugs. Social mammals – naked mole-rats –
are known also. If not only insects, but also vertebrates can be social (and
the brain of any of the mole-like diggers exceeds the ganglia of all the inhabitants
of a large anthill in volume), then the mind of ants does not seem to be something
fantastic. Especially considering that such mode contributes to an increase
According to formal signs, Homo Sapiens is a much more representative example of a social species than any of the insects. We live in huge communities, sharing responsibilities between individuals. It is not for nothing that the terminology for the designation of “castes” in social arthropods (and the very idea of caste division) is borrowed by us from our own everyday life. Another question is that in human society the division of labor is deeper and more diverse.
It would seem that everything is simple. The reactions of an anthill, as a whole, cannot be more complicated than the reactions of an individual ant, because the ant is not controlled from the outside and makes all the decisions itself. The pheromones secreted by other individuals provide it with food for thought only. Ergo, it is quite possible to get rational reactions from an anthill. You just need to populate it with intelligent beings. This method works – we are the evidence of that. But what does the collective mind have to do with it?
The answer is – nothing to do with it. The hive mind is something different. The mind of the “hive” is represented as the sum of the minds of individual beings, each of which is unreasonable in itself. Otherwise a super anthill gets a central brain that remotely controls a multitude of bodies.
By the way, from a technical point of view, all this is quite feasible even without telepathy. Biological radio communication will be enough, in which, in turn, nothing is impossible. From an evolutionary point of view, the improvement of communication between individuals in the hive, and even the transformation of intelligence into a “caste” specialization and the appearance of “philosophers” along with “queens”, “soldiers” and “ergates” also look quite natural. But does it make any sense – that’s the question.
Obviously, a “distributed” superbrain consisting of small, interconnected cells is not effective. He just can't work. Each individual gathers information, it cannot analyze it and, let’s say, just broadcasts it to everyone else. And what about the others? They are no smarter and cannot analyze even the information they gather themselves, let alone someone else’s one. And even if one ant will learn and understand something that will be useful for others to know, how will it determine who exactly to report it to? If everyone informs everyone about everything, it will be impossible to select a useful component from this stream.
A coordinating center, a central processor that accumulates,
analyzes and redistributes information is necessary. By the way, it is for this
reason on the evolutionary path, primitive organisms with multiple neural ganglions
evenly distributed throughout the body were quickly followed by more advanced
ones with the central nervous system.
Thus, the anthill will need a brain. Let’s suppose, it is a philosopher ant, bloated like a uterus, but with a superiority complex, and producing not eggs, but guidelines. But will the brain of one “philosopher” cope with managing thousands of soldiers and ergates? Probably not, if it needs to analyze everything that each of them sees, and then explain to everyone where to put its foot. This idea won’t work because it’s just bad. Ideally, ergates should make do with instructions of a strategic nature, independently choosing the best ways to accomplish their tasks. And in this case, telepathy or biological radio communication become unnecessary. Paper circulars have proven to be a fairly effective way of transmitting orders.
Theoretically, a collective mind built according to a network scheme is also possible. Each of the individuals has sufficient intelligence to perform its instinctively understood duties. In addition, there is a certain second brain, which is part of the general brain of the family and is connected with other parts by wi-fi of a certain nature. Let’s assume that the main, distributed brain responsible for abstract thinking receives from the individuals only the information that it wants and gives orders to the life units if it deems it necessary... It can work, but it works bad. For example, because in the event of the death of individual insects, the information that they store in their part of the main brain will also be lost…
Is it a reason to reinvent the wheel?
Translated by Pavel Volkov, 2021
The original Russian article is here