This is a story of how we survive. It’s another chapter in my personal theory of everything. The basic elements are two hawks (one half-blinded), termites, Belgian lawmakers and flock intelligence. If you find proof for this (or for the contrary) please let me know. As long as we keep moving and changing our ideas, we’re fine.
At times specializing is the best you can do, but in the long term it will kill you.
That’s what I thought when talking about termites with my friend, green marketing strategist and biomimicry enthousiast Stefaan Vandist (link to linkedin-profile).
Stefaan and I wondered about some of the truly amazing accomplishments of nature, termites piles being just one of them. One thing we noticed was that there are flowers that are morphed as such that they appeal to one particular fly only. That fly thinks he’s mating with another one of its kind but instead he’s playing a crucial role in fertilizing other flowers and keeping that particular flower ‘alive’. In its precision, this flower is highly successful.
But what happens when the fly suddenly becomes extinct? Then most likely the flower will disappear as well.
A story of two hawks (which one are you?)
Made me think of another story by Edward De Bono (official website). He tells the story of two hawks. One has a perfect view, the other one sees a blur. Now these species of hawks usually prey on one particular kind of rabbit. The ‘perfect’ hawk is by far the most successful rabithunter. The handicapped hawk is much worse at catching rabbits but he’s forced to a) change his hunting technique and b) take other preys which are much slower.
Suddenly a rabit disease decimates the entire population. Suddenly our ‘perfect’ hawk becomes heavily disadvantaged and is engaged in a huge competition for the few surviving rabbits. The other hawk isn’t as much in trouble as his mate because he has adopted not only different hunting skills but also a taste for different preys.
Machines are already dead (don’t try to be one)
I’m very well aware that I’m using stereotypes which violate certain nuances in nature.
Yet what nature tells you is that specializing can make you highly successful only for as long as it takes. That’s what designing machines used to be all about. Doing one task automatically with an accuracy which humans couldn’t accomplish themselves. But change the environment and you’d have to rebuild the machine. It can’t rebuild itself.
I’m afraid that’s what’s happening to our societies as well. We’ve became so fond of our ideas of democracy, education, jurisdiction, science and reason that we’ve put almost all effort in to perfectioning the systems in order for our ideas to survive. I believe that there’s a tendency to micromanage society in every way possible. If we can predict the outcome, if we just come up with a complete set of rules, then we’ll have everything under control, don’t we.
For a second, we will. In reality we don’t.
Alt CTRL = DEL
We continuously struggle with reality and how it escapes our systems. Our response? Come up with more rules, instead of cutting down rules and come up with better principles that allow us to come up with intelligent solutions for the time being.
In Belgium lawmakers make more and more laws every single day. They fool themselves if they think that this is a good way of ‘governing’ reality and society.
It’s actually making things worse.
It’s keeping society from intelligently responding to change and to evolution. It’s turning society into a victim of it’s own future which we won’t be able to handle if things change drastically.
We’re slowly becoming blinded and unfit for reality because we’ve became self-obsessed by our own success.
In fact, we think we see things so clearly that we can’t even imagine to see the things which are escaping our view.
And in the end, it will get us killed. (Well, it already has. Think of the collective psychosis during WWII, our obsession with oil and the financial crisis, and so on, and so on)
We’re simply the best
Ok, maybe I’m a little exaggerating here.
If one thing will fail in the end, it’s the system through which we believe we can best organize society.
I still believe that humanity can survive systemic crises. I have to, otherwise I could just as well stop living right. (isn’t it Mr Dyson?)
In the end I believe that our flock intelligence is what will make us survive in the end. There are hopeful signs everywhere. There was the EU and there were NATO and the UN after WW II, there is the global movement for a better preservation of our natural resources, there is the collective respons to the financial crisis, there is something like The Red Cross, there is Google, …
In times of need, we flock (more on flocks here). Why? Not because we’re shy, but because we’re smart. Because deep down, we’ve already experienced the tragedies of overrated specialism as well as the overrated power of the masses. We’re a great species because we’ve managed – through all tragedies that both have given us – to keep moving between these two poles.
We’ve managed to adapt.
The question is …
The question is, how long will we still be able to? And at what cost?