Intelligent Communities

  • Andrew Y. GliksonEmail author


Insect colonies of bees, wasps, ants and termites constitute superorganisms controlled by central minds thought to be mostly centered on a queen, as well as individual traits, possessing close analogies with human civilization. The colony super-organism possesses cognitive powers allowing it to respond adaptively to environmental contexts and problems beyond the ability of individuals within the swarm. The collective intelligence of the colony is as real as human intelligence, with the swarm’s cognitive abilities arising from both, interaction amongst the individual agents within a swarm as well as interaction of the swarm with the environment. Whereas the brain of a termite or an ant is smaller by orders of magnitude compared to the human brain, their collective intelligence allows insects to undertake the most elaborate reproductive strategies, construct elaborate nests, undertake foraging expeditions, cultivate plants and other life forms such as aphids. Where the ant Cataglyphis bombycinus conducts solar scans for navigation, who can say it operates solely by instinct devoid of a thought process? Examples of sophisticated language among animals include the bee dance, bird songs and the echo sounds of whales and dolphins, possibly not less complex than the languages of original prehistoric humans. The birds, distant descendants of the famed dinosaurs, excel in global migratory and navigational skills, based on geographic knowledge, star and magnetic orientation, such as by the albatross. The birds art of navigation, home making, offspring rearing, communications, and fire foraging/hunting culture, burning bush areas in order to expose their prey, are as sophisticated as those experienced by early human civilizations. A major double standard is directed by humans toward intelligent animals, birds and insects. Thus it can hardly be claimed that while human sailors operate by experience and thought, birds navigate the globe are driven by “instinct”. The appearance of a species which has learnt how to kindle fire meant that, for the first time, the flammable carbon-rich biosphere could be extensively ignited by a living organism, giving it major control over the environment and the future of the biosphere.


Collective Intelligence Superorganism Colony Arthropods 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Earth ScienceAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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