How You Are A Hive Mind

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You make decisions. How good you are at doing so is irrelevant, what matters is that you make them. Now, you are smarter than a bee, at least you should be, yet bees make complex decisions in exactly the same way as you do, they use each other to form a literal hive mind. Meanwhile you, human lump of brain and bones, are a hive mind all of your own.

Decision making has been fine-tuned by evolution to the point that anything with a decently large brain uses the same method, it is simple debate. Neurons zip around the brain, collecting information and forming plans, ideas to be considered. Then the neurons gather together, each with their own opinion. What happens next is you ‘thinking’. If you’ve ever felt that you were in two minds about making a decision,you had good reason for believing as such, because that’s exactly what happens.

Neurons find those sharing the same idea and send positive signals to each other, which is nice of them. Then they find those who disagree with them and send inhibiting signals, the equivalent of telling someone to shut up. As time passes the numbers supporting each decision vary, smaller, less considered ideas are removed and slowly the best decisions grow in popularity. Once a large enough percentage of neurons has decided on a course of action the process stops. Congratulations, you’ve made a decision.

As was previously mentioned this is a technique that we use because it works, in fact every creature with a complex brain uses it. Bees do not have complex brains, they are fuzzy little balls that fly into flowers and build hexagons; yet they use the same technique. They form the hive mind.

When a group of bees are ready to leave and build a new colony they need the best location possible. Hundreds of scout bees fly out into the world, collect information and return with their favourite location in mind. The bees then gather and have their equivalent of the neuron debate. Each scout bee performs a dance to indicate the location of its preferred site, but opinion is always split. To stop the spread of what bees consider inferior ideas they need to find the equivalent of a neuron ‘inibiting signal’. Now, it is unlikely that you have tried, but if you had you might know it is rather difficult to inhibit a bee. So instead they headbutt each other — repeatedly.

In the face of being headbutted repeatedly some bees change their decision and dance out the new location. When consensus is reached the headbutting ceases and the scout bees indicate the location with a victorious waggle dance. A decision was made.

The similarity between bee-butting in a hive and decision-making in the brain is alarming as bees and humans, as you may have guessed, have followed rather different evolutionary paths. Humans evolved as individuals whereas bees have evolved as whole hives. So why the similarity? Because, it seems, group discussion and headbutting are the best ways to make decisions. That is why you are a hive mind.

Photograph from infocage.com

Further Reading

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Deployed on by Alexandre Coates in Macro Oddities Leave a message?

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