by Mario Rizzo
Today on CBS Sunday Morning there was a very interesting program about ants. In the aggregate inept creatures create amazing structures. And what’s more they do it without central direction. However, they are extremely specialized. They follow, in effect, fairly rigid rules, involving imitating the actions of other ants of like kind. They do complicated things with simple rules. Arguably, one of the scientists interviewed said, humans are too smart. From the point of view of society, it pays to have mostly ignorant individuals making “stupid” choices but leaving the overall order unplanned.
There are fairly obvious connections between this story and the discussions about economists of zero-information traders that produce efficient social outcomes.
I have two main reactions.
- What is human intelligence for? The story of the ants gives the impression (through the program’s discussion about certain human parallels) that intelligence gets in the way. Why has evolution produced the conscious deliberately choosing mind?
- I hate the ants and their society. This was a visceral reaction in part but also in part a reflective society. I would not like to live in a society in which people did not reflect on themselves and on the social order.
While I think we can learn much from studying ants and their societies, I think we need to think more deeply about what is relevant to human societies. And why.