Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ant Mills and Intelligence

Ant mills are all the rage in the blogosphere the past few days. Ants get locked into a pattern of following each other in a circle, and their little ant nervous systems don't have the plasticity to break the loop. A hymenoptera halting problem?

Like you, I watch this with pride and think "Look at those stupid ants. I'm so glad humans have no cognitive foibles or blind spots which cause us to follow each other into oblivion!" Never mind that these particular ants are milling in the ruins of a once-great civilization. One solution to the Fermi Paradox: because any nervous system will have such failure modes, intelligence is in fact an evolutionary dead end, and only fecundity matters.

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