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Community patterns and thinking of analogies

All these posts about communities and vibrancy inspired me to look at the problem from a different angle. Suddenly I came up with idea about investigation of social insects communities.

It’s amazing how man can learn from nature because nature is much smarter then we are (few examples from Jane Fulton-Suri). And here are some results I’ve achieved so far.

Insights and lessons are learned from ant communities:

  • Communication is a social glue.
  • There is no hierarchy.Every job is done without supervision or direction, and some members even switch jobs to meet the ever-changing needs of the community.
  • Everyone knows his place and role. There are specialization and personal responsibility for any community member.
  • Simple behavior and simple rules which are observed by every member of a community lead to the complicated dynamics and swarm intelligence.
  • If you don’t work and don’t bring food for the community you gonna be killed. On the other hand if you’re wounded or crippled other members feed you anytime you ask.
  • It’s largely a female communities. Males are not participate in community life. They have one job only and they do it then they die.
  • When number of members become too big community splits into several groups. Each group is independent and has its own part of an anthill. Members of different groups communicate to each other only within their ‘professional’ role. It means that ‘workers’ from one group communicate largely with ‘workers’ of other group but not with ‘solders’.
  • The larger group the faster its members move. Speed, communications’ frequency, vibrancy — all of that are stronger in huge communities.
  • People are not ants. People able to think — that’s the problem!

Also I discovered why these communities could actually be destroyed from inside.

  • War and terrorism among ants is not the worst scenario. It’s much more dangerous when Lomechusa beetle gets into community. It’s a drug dealer beetle which makes ants kind of drunk. One by one ants conceive a liking for Lomechusa’s juice.
  • All community is going down because more and more members start to think about their own pleasure. They stop working for community. Soon there is no enough food for everyone but still more and more ants become Lomechusa addicted. Community splits into individuals and die.

That’s a lot to think about because obviously ant communities show us some models which could be useful for human. And it’s so much easier to find these models looking at ants’ behavior rather than at human’s.

Few links:

Mission #5 Surprise Us


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Stiven Kerestegian

December 03, 2011, 14:53PM
"Social Biomimicry", I believe can develop into a whole new field, an area of focus for sustainable development.

An interesting project would be to organize all the social collaboration lessons learned from the diverse creatures in our planet in a wiki... a place were we can literally "go ask nature" for social management advice.

Vladimir Melnikov

December 03, 2011, 14:59PM
That's great idea, Stiven! It could be one of OpenIDEO projects.

Stiven Kerestegian

December 03, 2011, 15:50PM
Thanks, I think so too... let's evolve it a bit more and propose it.

We can probably get a bulk of the material from the Biomimicry Institute ( ).

I also have a simple platform that I think can work as a beta.

Vladimir Melnikov

December 03, 2011, 15:59PM
We can try!

Paul Reader

December 05, 2011, 12:28PM
Lots of food for thought here both positive and negative. Will follow the discussion and participate when I can.

Marché Montrose

December 02, 2011, 23:18PM
very interesting thinking and inspiration!
actually there is so much to think about it
it looks like a huge cicle of life
just one thought here:
the animals are just doing what they have to,
maybe this could be the thing, the answer to the question:
just be good in what you are doing - this is life and a vibrant life...

Vladimir Melnikov

December 03, 2011, 02:27AM
Yes, I like this thought. Thank you.

Preetum Shenoy

November 30, 2011, 06:55AM
Hi Vladimir,
Yes, I agree that we have much to learn from ants, bees, and Mother Nature in general! Love the concept of biomimicry.

Here are some other links for added inspiration, courtesy of TED:
1) Video from TED2009: Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action

2) Video from TEDxConcordia - Michelle Holliday - The Pattern of Living Systems

3) TED discussion: How can principles of biomimicry be used to inform a human-centered design strategy?


Vladimir Melnikov

November 30, 2011, 08:23AM
Preetum, thanks a lot for those!

Adriana Olmos

December 01, 2011, 15:23PM
Interesting post Vladimir... it reminded me as well when I visited a robotics lab in the UK and they had a colony of ants to learn about their small tasks and collaborative behaviour... I like the fact that humans are able to think, but certainly we can learn a lot about collaboration! :-) This is an article that describes a bit about robotic-networks and collaboration:

Vladimir Melnikov

December 01, 2011, 18:03PM
It's nice article. Thanks, Adriana!

Meena Kadri

November 29, 2011, 20:41PM
Go Vladimir! Great analogous thinking – we're big fans:

Vladimir Melnikov

November 30, 2011, 08:24AM
Sometimes it really helps!

michelle jackson

November 29, 2011, 13:54PM
Vladimir, Your inspiration reminded me of a bee story from earlier this year. Nature's secret: Why Honey Bees are Better Politicians than Humans on NPR. It talks about how bees find a place to live. Scout bees do the "waggle dance" which tells other bees where their new suggested hive location is found. Repetition of the dance communicates to the swarm how enthusiastic she is about the new potential site of the hive. The bees decide on consensus where to place their new home.

Looks like insects have a lot to teach us.

Why Honey Bees are Better Politicians than Humans on NPR

Vladimir Melnikov

November 29, 2011, 17:26PM
Honey bees also are a role model. Thanks, Michelle!

William Hardaway

November 28, 2011, 21:34PM
Man, you have good points with your idea. I wonder what research is out there about Home Owners Associations and the benefits/sacrifices that happen with them.

Some points you suggest remind me of HOA's because they are an "organized" form of community.

Meaghan Orlinski

November 29, 2011, 14:27PM
"•Everyone knows his place and role. There are specialization and personal responsibility for any community member."

That one thought reminds me of the cast system- maybe in the future, we should know our roles but be able to move up/move down based on merit, and that the new rules are that univerdal respect is a manditory part of these roles in society.

Vladimir Melnikov

November 29, 2011, 17:23PM
Meaghan, for ants it could be hard to exchange roles because the role are based on physiology — even size of ants are different within a community ))))
But for people I guess it couldn't be a problem.

Meaghan Orlinski

December 01, 2011, 02:59AM
Yeah, I was just taking it as to how humans interpret things. "Everyone has a role" has also been a way that people have been kept down and not helped up! Interpretation is a tricky thing...
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