Altruists Will Always Outperform

6 May

Apart from needing a degree in biology in various sections, The Hive Mind by Benjamin Phelan was fascinating. I knew the insect world was complex, but this is ridiculous – it forms visions of a world in another galaxy. On another level, it was entertaining to read through the academic banter between the traditionalists and the “out there” thinking of E. O. Wilson – what a battle!

The part that jumped out at me most was the statement Wilson made that “groups of altruists will always outperform groups of individualists”. That notion of practicing individual sacrifice for the benefit of the collective – similar to what is believed to be a human condition and something that building networks online require in order to thrive.

This led to other words forming in my head: socialism, communism. Is the reigning queen of the hive running a communist empire? I know they are just insects, but somehow the fact that this model exists in nature, it becomes easy to understand why aspects of this mindset are alive and well in parts of the human world.

Sloan Wilson’s perspective is that “altruism is advantageous at a larger scale, and that is the scale at which natural selection selects it”. In theory, I agree, but it is the rolling out of that theory where there are things that can derail the ideal – things like greed and corruption, for example. I wonder if there is and underworld in the hive?

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4 Responses to “Altruists Will Always Outperform”

  1. teresasturgess May 7, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    “practicing individual sacrifice for the benefit of the collective” for some reason my mind jumped to that scene in the old Star Trek movie where Spock sacrafices himself to save the Enterprise and says “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Ha ha. Trekkie flashback.

  2. Andrea May 8, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    You and I seem to have been on the same wavelength for this reading Marc ~ I really was struck at the differences painted between altruists and individualists. It made me think of how communities are galvanized after a serious disaster (9-11 and the Japanese tsunami come readily to mind). Sometimes a hive mentality isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  3. KateInAlberta May 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    I was fascinated by the idea that evolution selects at the level of the collective, community or society, so that individual behaviour/adaptations are less important than the survivability of the group, hence the selection for altruistic behaviour in the individual. Very interesting indeed!

  4. heathergrayblog May 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I love your last sentence Marc! When everthing seems so perfect you do wonder what is really happening! Those bees must be planning some kind of activist movement!

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