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The topic of social psychology is itself less interesting than the questions it begs of socio-/population biology at large. To my mind, we take for granted such concepts as central planning and specialized knowledge, and our estimation of the world suffers when we're not careful to account for our indelible inclination to weigh our observations against our familiarity with other presocial mammals. By this habit we are, perhaps occasionally, amiss in our measure of value. It's by our instinctive desire for leadership by committee and class stratification that man has achieved valuable goals, such as planning cities and tricking staple crops with genetic feints.


Antwork.jpgNevertheless, consider that leafcutter ants---possessed of brains smaller than chickpeas and devoid of personalities---build vast structures to complex engineering requirements. Their lairs stretch widely underground and in hillocks above, incorporating intricate ductwork to evacuate the deep reaches of spent air, and dedicated architecture for sanitation processes. Special chambers for fungiculture are expertly maintained; colonies will test different substrates for optimal growth, and forego thereafter any found to be fungicidal. Accounting for the disparity in size between the species, if any ant superstructure was approximated to human scale, it would be hundreds of miles in diameter, with towers a dozen miles high. Yet there is not to be found an ant spreading blueprints over the hood of a pickup, delegating tasks to other ants in hard hats.

They attend to their success with only the most straightforward and uninspired social cues, complex though wholly uncomplicated. Presume that behavior is an emergent phenomena (it is), and consider that leafcutters have hardly fixed a system that is hardly broken for about twenty million years. Although man's evolutionary trend severely outpaces the leafcutter's---2.5 million years between orangutan-esque tools and elaborate cave paintings; only 35,000 years between cave paintings and The Matrix---man has not perfected a uniform social hierarchy. Consider that all ant species probably comprise one of the largest chunks of animal biomass on the planet. If you were an objective observer, i.e. a synthesized sapient thing from a distant star, which would you classify as the most successful animal on Earth?

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This page contains a single entry by liefs003 published on December 4, 2011 11:24 PM.

Psychology Behind "Rain Man" was the previous entry in this blog.

Conform or not conform.. That is the question is the next entry in this blog.

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