Description: Your brain is comprised of a bunch of neurons — a BIG bunch but a bunch of simple cells none-the-less. Yet, from the complex interplay of the billions of neurons in your brain complex thinking and decision making arises. How does that work? Well it would be nice if we had a model to organize our thinking as we try to conceptualize the emergence of complex decisions from relatively simple, interconnected components. Hmmmm … what to use? How about bees? Individual bees just do what they do (build the hive, defend, find pollen, tend offspring…) and yet at some point the whole hive has to decide that it is time to move and to decide which location from the several workers have scouted to choose, move to and construct a new hive. As a collective they “make a decision” and then act on that decision, sort of like how the neurons in your brain work to produce decisions. Got a feel for the analogy? Or perhaps it is a bit more than an analogy. Read the article linked below to see how researchers are talking about this.
Source: Bee Colonies Draw an Uncanny Parallel to the Neurons of the Brain, Sarah Sloat, Inverse.com.
Date: March 27, 2018
Photo Credit: Madhava.com (http://madhavasweeteners.com/u-s-government-announces-new-strategy-and-investment-to-reverse-honey-bee-decline/ )
How complexity arises out of systems of simple components is a challenging question. How something like “rational” decision making, or perhaps even consciousness, arises out of a system of simple components is hard to conceptualize even as a possibility. We tend to think reductionisticly which leads us to thoughts like “How could a bunch of bees do anything intelligent? Except they DO. They find possible new hive locations and, together, they decide which one to move to and then they do that, move there and build a new hive. Perhaps studying bees (which we have to get working on saving from extinction anyway given our need for pollination to stay alive) might help us gets our heads (brains) around the questions of how complex thinking arises from simple components (be they bees or neurons)!
Questions for Discussion:
- So how DO bees decide where to move their hives to?
- Can you explain the similarities between bee decisions and human decisions?
- Are there other possible models out there for thinking about this complexity out of networked simplicity model?
References (Read Further):
Reina, A., Bose, T., Trianni, V., & Marshall, J. A. (2018). Psychophysical Laws and the Superorganism. Scientific reports, 8(1), 4387. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22616-y
McGonigal, J. (2008). Why I love bees: A case study in collective intelligence gaming. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning, 199-228. http://faculty.tamucc.edu/ethompson/courses/newmedia/McGonigal_WhyILoveBees_Feb2007.pdf
Haggard, P. (2017). Sense of agency in the human brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18(4), 196. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1545235/6/Haggard_Sense_agency_human_brain_Suppl.pdf