The Noblest And The Awfullest

Donald Rust (Rast)Unlike Superman or super-sized Big Mac, SUPERORGANISM is a scientific term.

superorganism is an organism consisting of many organisms. This is usually meant to be a social unit of eusocial animals… The technical definition of a superorganism is “a collection of agents which can act in concert to produce phenomena governed by the collective. (Wikipedia. Superorganism).

 The ants may go marching one by one, but they end up forming a superstructure of thousands — and together they can form a raft that stretches the boundaries of the laws of physics, according to new research released today.

Cute little grasshoppers (short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae) —  a few billions of them gathered into a swarm — cover hundreds of square miles, creating a Biblical proportions plagues of locusts.

The Superorganism, a recent book by E. O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, is about insects, forming  random superorganisms.   But it is yet another idea-catalyst to get a more accurate view of human naturealtruism and human potential.

For over 40 years, on the coattails George Williams’ book “Adaptation and natural selection”, biologists and social scientists largely succeeded in creating image of society that completely denies altruism. Any act of a person or animal that seems altruistic is explained as hidden selfishness, paired with a selection of kin or the expectation of reciprocal altruism.

Humans — we, the people,  the crown achievement of Nature — are willing to join forces and create “random superorganism”.   People are constantly forming functional units where everyone is willing to work, live and die for the good of the group. We do it largely to overcome the adversities, difficulties or threats, usually caused by another superorganisms.

marching soldiersThis is people helping each other when the Mother Nature turns against them. This is the secret of successful organizations, working on the principle of the hive, from hierarchical corporations of the 1950s to 1990s dot-coms to mega-corporation of today. This is the goal of basic military training. This is the dream of fascism. This is the most noble and the most terrible human ability.

Are we programmed by our genetic code to behave this way? If not only self-serving selfishness, then what else drives us to form superorganisms?

It is increasingly recognized that  natural selection operates on many levels at the same time. The inclusion of the term “random superorganism” in to our cognitive arsenal may explain our love to the confluence in which all the other consideration but the “good of the group” are temporarily suspended and, like ants, we are on the march toward something awesomely greater — or  horribly lower — than our individual selves.

 

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