Quorum sensing

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Dwight spotted this great post on quorum sensing. It looks at the process by which for example, ants decide where to move a nest to. Essentially, they don’t gather round a big ant-table, review an ant-powerpoint, make ant-speeches. There isn’t any show-of-antennae decision point.

Instead, the ants wander off and gradually build up patterns of attraction and lay down pheromone trails, until a quorum is somehow sensed… and off they go.

There are some good reflections on how this might provide wisdom for human decision-making. As a keen critic of action theatre, I found this very engaging. The ants don’t do action planning, a ritual that often has very little do with real action.

Forgiving a little bit of romanticism about the life of an ant, this tickled me:

Truth to tell, I was struck speechless by the realization that these ants are freer than us humans. (Ants?! Ouch.) They are free to go out and act as they see fit, free to explore any option they find interesting, and to tell about it to the group. And they are free to wait until a deep sense of rightness emerges that propels the entire nest to action. Unlike humans, they are never faced with a contrived decision to obey.

The comments are interesting too, including one from Antonio Dias linking it to what David Bohm says about the potential of dialogue. There’s something here about there not being a decision that is separate from the action; it’s more satisfyingly emergent and interconnected.

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