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Intelligent Communities

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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

My name is Ozymandias king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

(Percy B. Shelley)

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-10603-4_4
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Fig. 4.1

Source USDA, photo taken by Scott Bauer, public domain; c Passive cooling of a termite mound., reprinted with permission

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  1. 1.

    Brain of an Ant

  2. 2.

    Empire state building 484 m/1.6 m = 302; tall termite next 3 m/1 cm = 300.

  3. 3.

    YouTube (2013) Videos on Ants and other animals .

  4. 4.

    Stanford University News Service (1993) Collective Intelligence : ants and brain ’s neurons. News Release.

  5. 5.

    Invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euarthropoda, which includes insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans.

  6. 6.

    Blombos Cave Rock Art. Encyclopedia of stone age art.

  7. 7.

    In response to changing climatic conditions over Earth’s history , biological innovations have been developed to enhance photosynthetic efficacy across a wide range of environments. The photosynthetic process of converting carbon dioxide and water into complex organic molecules has persisted for at least 2.5 billion years. The antiquity of the chemical reactions that convert inorganic carbon to simple organic molecules has originated during a time when the atmosphere was characterized by very high CO2 levels and much lower O2 concentrations relative to modern values. Under high CO2/O2 conditions the efficacy the enzyme used to fix CO2 (Rubisco—ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) is enhanced

  8. 8.

    NASA (2018) Global Climate Change. Carbon Dioxide, Latest Measurement 408 ppm

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  10. 10.

    Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (2018) The Mystery of the Pit of Bones, Atapuerca, SpainThe Mystery (

  11. 11.

    Bowerbird nests


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Correspondence to Andrew Y. Glikson .

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Glikson, A.Y. (2019). Intelligent Communities. In: From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence. Springer, Cham.

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