Exactly this painful truth is marinating the open mind.
Helena Sophia Exel

“ Not a single Ant is not part of the whole. Each Ant is essential to the collective.”

When comparing humans and ants, it is well to keep in mind that we humans belong to a single species and that there are many species of ants with many different characteristics.

The only ant that I have spent a little time learning about is the red harvester ant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_harvester_ant). Deborah Gordon is leading authority on this ant.

For this ant species, exactly one ant is essential to the collective (the colony), i.e., the “queen” ant. The colony ceases to exist relatively soon after the death of the queen because the normal lifespan of a colony is much longer than the lifespan of a typical ant. (Similarly, your lifespan is much longer than lifespan of most individual cells in your body, some of which can have a lifespan of a few weeks.)

Therefore, for the red harvester ant, the typical ant is NOT essential to the collective, although most of them do contribute to the colony. Moreover, in a mature colony, there are typically a few thousand ants that essentially do nothing. We assume that they constitute an “inactive reserve” to become useful in the rare event of a massive loss of working ants.

There is a question that I am hardly closer to answering than when I first posed it explicitly 48 years ago. How does a human collective manage a problem when the complexity of the problem makes it incomprehensible to an individual human? (You undoubtedly see how this relates to how an red harvester ant colony solves problems that no ant can understand.)

Another way to state my question metaphorically is: “How should Blind Men behave so as to successfully cope with the Elephant?” I keep in mind that, roughly speaking, 90% of my behavior is simply habitual, 9% is imitative, and only 1% is rational.

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