Difference between revisions of "Superorganism"

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====Definition====
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===Definition===
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Superorganisms are hives of organisms that work together to function as a whole. The most notable cases are ants and bees, but other organisms work together as superorganisms as well. Superorganisms are fascinating due to the emergent intelligence that arises from the sum of unintelligent parts. We would not call one ant intelligent, yet a hive functioning together can complete remarkable feats, such as building a bridge or creating a complex social hierarchy.
  
Superorganisms are hives of organisms that work together to function as a whole. The most notable cases are ants and bees, but other organisms work together as superorganisms as well. Superorganisms are fascinating due to the emergent "intelligence" that arises from the sum of unintelligent parts. We would not call one ant intelligent, yet a hive functioning together can complete remarkable feats, such as building a bridge or creating a complex social hierarchy. As Stewart Brand, paraphrasing Tim Flannery, notes:
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The world of humans is moving towards a global superorganism. Telecommunications, cell phones and highway systems allow information to go from one side of the world to the other at the speed of light. Science fiction writer Maureen McHugh asked whether it would be "impossible to tell where humans end and machines begin".<ref>Maureen McHugh, quoted in Gray, Chris Hables, ed. The Cyborg Handbook. New York: Routledge, 1995. Pg. 13.</ref> In a superorganism, individuals connect to a larger network which informs them of the needs of the collective. Humans and their technologies are allowing people to get closer to each other without the friction that geographical distance incurs. Cities are becoming colonies, and plane flights resemble global swarms.<ref>Tráfico Aereo Mundial en 24 horas. Video by User:hangtheguille. Vimeo.com. Published Sep 29, 2008. Accessed Apr 2010. http://vimeo.com/1841049</ref>
 
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<blockquote>The first tightly connected superorganism came 100 million years ago when cockroaches invented agriculture and the division of labor and became termites, building complex skyscrapers with air-conditioning, highways, and garbage dumps. Only 10,000 years ago, humans did the same, inventing agriculture and the division of labor in cities, becoming the most potent superorganism yet.<ref>Brand, Stewart. Analysis of Tim Flannery SALT Lecture (5/3/11), SALT mailing list</ref></blockquote>
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Taking the superorganism as the unit of analysis, rather than the relatively "stupid" individual organisms, allows us to see the importance of connections and protocols in forming knowledge and completing tasks, rather than the isolated minds that function within the network.
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==References==
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Latest revision as of 20:07, 29 October 2011

Definition

Superorganisms are hives of organisms that work together to function as a whole. The most notable cases are ants and bees, but other organisms work together as superorganisms as well. Superorganisms are fascinating due to the emergent intelligence that arises from the sum of unintelligent parts. We would not call one ant intelligent, yet a hive functioning together can complete remarkable feats, such as building a bridge or creating a complex social hierarchy.

The world of humans is moving towards a global superorganism. Telecommunications, cell phones and highway systems allow information to go from one side of the world to the other at the speed of light. Science fiction writer Maureen McHugh asked whether it would be "impossible to tell where humans end and machines begin".[1] In a superorganism, individuals connect to a larger network which informs them of the needs of the collective. Humans and their technologies are allowing people to get closer to each other without the friction that geographical distance incurs. Cities are becoming colonies, and plane flights resemble global swarms.[2]

References

  1. Maureen McHugh, quoted in Gray, Chris Hables, ed. The Cyborg Handbook. New York: Routledge, 1995. Pg. 13.
  2. Tráfico Aereo Mundial en 24 horas. Video by User:hangtheguille. Vimeo.com. Published Sep 29, 2008. Accessed Apr 2010. http://vimeo.com/1841049