Ant Colonies: Social Organization without a Director

Exploring Emergence

Ant Colonies:
Social Organization Without a Director?


Conclusions and Extensions



Several conclusions follow from this discussion...
  • Reasonably complex social organization can occur in the absence of directors, i.e. without anyone or anything "thinking about" or "intending" a particular outcome (see also Thinking About Segregation and Integration).
  • Reasonably complex social organization, in which individuals play different roles, can occur even when all individuals are the same, i.e. when they have the same internal organizations.
  • In such cases, the observed social organization results from interactions among the individuals and so is an "emergent" property.
  • The behavior of interacting groups of identical elements may change over time without either changes in the elements or any persistant record of the past, simply because of changes in the number of interacting elements.

Given that models show what might be rather than what is, these conclusions do not preclude the possibility that particular cases of social organization may require directors, differences in individuals, or persistant changes over time in order to be understood. They do, however, provide a baseline and direction for inquiries of this kind...

  • Do not presume the existence of a director, of differences in individuals, or of persistant changes. Entertain the possibility that none are present, and look for observations that would challenge this baseline set of assumptions.
  • Emergent phenomena are likely to be present even in cases where directors, differences in individuals, and/or persistant changes are ALSO present. It is useful to recognize that just as most social organization cannot be ENTIRELY accounted for in terms of emergence they can probably also not be ENTIRELY accounted for without such terms.

For more on modeling and its uses in educational contexts, see:


Go to a complete model along with code descriptions & downloadable NetLogo file >>

                                                                                                                                                       


Introduction
Organization and Interactions: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Changing Group Behavior: Part 1 Part 2
Conclusions and Extensions
Complete Model and Model Details

Exhibit by Laura Cyckowski and Paul Grobstein, in association with the Serendip/SciSoc Group, Summer 2006.
Applets created by Laura Cyckowski, using NetLogo, the availability of which is gratefully acknowledged.



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