RSS is a wonderful thing that’s transformed my early morning train journeys into a time of discovery. I’m reading things I wouldn't otherwise have come across - like an article last week by Robert Krulwich about group decision-making and why bee’s are better politicians than humans.
During the spring months, hives get so packed that they spill over and the old Queen takes a group of bees with her in search of a new home. But the Queen doesn’t do the choosing - that’s left to the group, based on the recommendations of the older, wiser ‘scout’ bees who dance like crazy when they find a place they like. The more they like their potential new home, the more they dance, attracting the rest of the bees to come to them. In the competition to select the best location, it’s always the most frenetic dancers who win - even other bees who think they’ve found the best spot will eventually defer to the crazy dancers.
Apparently, you’ll never find a stubborn bee dancing alone, convinced that the place it found is so much better than where the majority is having their disco. Seemingly, bees believe in a bottom-up democracy where the minority go along with the consensus view.
Strangely, the minority don’t actually see themselves as such. According to Professor Thomas Seeley, the Cornell biologist who wrote Honeybee Democracy, they don’t moan about being on the wrong side of the decision. In fact, he thinks they simply cease to care about their favoured place and go along with the rest: “They coalesce into a single collective intelligence”.
This may work for bees but I’m not sure it’s the sort of consensus we want. Once in a while the bees are sure to end up in a sub-optimal place - simply because the bee that found the better place doesn’t manage to do the best dance.
There’s often great wisdom in the views of the minority - it’s just that they can’t dance very well.
This server is currently a target of a Distributed Denial of Service attack. Our administrators are taking the appropriate measures to fix the problem but due to the nature of such an attack, it is not uncommon to have some connectivity issues until the attack stops.
Sod’s Law in the Internet Age… Since I started this occasional blog, I’ve been forever capturing thoughts in simplenote, hoping that eventually they’d mould together into a single article. Then - finding myself without the time to write - I’ve watched them dribble away into the nothingness… And then today, just as I thought I had something worth writing about, I discovered that Bluehost (my website host) was in the midst of a Distributed Denial of Service attack… By bees?