Life is a lot faster than it used to be. We can talk to people across the world in a moment, I can get fifty opinions on what would have happened if Hannibal had attacked Rome within a few minutes, hell thanks to video recording, you can see through other people’s eyes. As technology progresses, and our cities expand, we grow more and more interconnected and clustered. So my question is… are we becoming more like insects than mammals?
Disclaimer, my knowledge of other cultures is not enough for me to make wide generalizations of the kind I will make, so I will mainly be focusing on Western Culture, and the United States in particular.
The focus of this discussion will be to compare the current path of social evolution with the behaviors of Ants. Ants are estimated to take up 15%-25% of the Terrestrial Animal Biomass. They live almost everywhere in the world, and are often regarded as a “superorganism” for their ability to act and think as a group.
Ant society is typically made up of one to a handful of “Queens” at the top, who do all the breeding as serve as the vital organ of this superorganism. Below them are the Drones, warrior males capable of reproduction and in charge of the defense or the colony. And finally you have your Workers, the largest group, they serve as the muscles for the superorganism, doing just about everything needed to survive.
How does this compare to human society? We can look at things like internet memes, architecture, talk about how advertisements are like pheremones, or maybe make some commentary on nationalism. But I feel that would be even more all over the place than I usually am. So then, how do we compare to the colony system itself?
Well, we have a select few at the very top who rule us, and though they don’t take part directly in our reproduction, who’s to say this can’t change? In Huxley’s Brave New World, people are no longer born, they are specially grown, and their “attributes” are carefully managed, but we’ll get back to that.
As Genetic Engineering progresses, will a time come when we do away with the dangers, pains, and inaccuracies of a natural birth? Before long, we will be able to choose exactly the child we want, before it is ever conceived. And you don’t think you’ll get free reign over these decisions, do you?
The drones are quite aptly named. Our military obviously serves this role very well, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. However the nature of the military will change, as men and women are no longer needed on the frontlines, replaced by machines controlled from faraway locations. You can already see this happening with Unmanned Drones.
Finally we come to the worker, the one we can relate to. Our lives may be progressing towards that of the worker ant, who is kept happy by means of pointless indulgences. This is where Brave New World is strikingly prophetic. As entertainment becomes better and cheaper, it becomes a means of control.
I’m not saying some evil council is plotting this all out, they don’t need to. The way the human brain is wired does it for us. We seek out entertainment, shut out the misery of the world, and are conditioned to not have opinions on things we aren’t “experts” in.
Of course this may only be temporary, as automation progresses (if allowed to progress) and resources like solar energy develop (if allowed to develop), there may not be much need for the worker anymore. So where will we earn our money? Well that assumes we will still use currency, but if nature is allowed to take its course, I think we will become a sort of Collectivist Superorganism, even more so than today. Don’t think of it as welfare, as people will no longer work for money. They will work because of a passion in the field, which may very well produce much better results.
Imagine for a moment if you didn’t have to work. Not in the sense that you are rich, assume your standard of living was the same as it is now. What would you do? It’s easy to say “Everyone would watch tv all day”, and hey, plenty would. But that gets old. People like to do things, and if you remove the hassle of career and seeking promotion, imagine how fun doing what you love could be. There is also the social aspect that in a society where you don’t have to work, working would be quite respectable.
The last thing to discuss is the distant horizon in which organic bodies are no longer necessary. There may be a time when we aren’t mammals anymore, we are just sentient beings that evolved from mammals. Or perhaps our children, the A.I. spring from out gut and overthrow us to take control of Mount Olympus. Only time will tell.
Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough. Do you think we are becoming more like insects? If so, how so? Tell me what you think.