The Smithsonian Institution’s Mark Moffett recently wrote that human societies may have more in common with ants than other primate groups.
“… modern humans have more in common with some ants than we do with our closest relatives the chimpanzees. With a maximum size of about 100, no chimpanzee group has to deal with issues of public health, infrastructure, distribution of goods and services, market economies, mass transit problems, assembly lines and complex teamwork, agriculture and animal domestication, warfare and slavery.”
He studied ant societies, one so large that its trillions of members stretch 621 miles across California, and found that the ability of a “society” (it feels weird to equate ant colonies to such a thing) requires accepting that many members will be anonymous and that recognizing one another doesn’t really matter in the scope of the whole society.
He draws lines to things like nationalism and patriotism, ideas that have popped up fairly recently in human evolution, and right about the time that our populations exploded. So anonymity might be the very thing that lets a society grow to the limits of its environment.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.
I think I have a new favorite blog.