Fable of the Bees

Now it is becoming clear that group decisions are also extremely valuable for the success of social animals, such as ants, bees, birds and dolphins. And those animals may have a thing or two to teach people about collective decision-making.

There’s an article in the Economist entitledDecisions, decisions: What people can learn from how social animals make collective decisions.” The article highlights work done by the very talented Christian List (an EPISTEME Associate Editor) and colleagues on collective intentionality and decision theory. It’s nice to see the rich possibilities of computational intelligence, a growth area in A.I, finally be taken seriously by the social theorist. Social theory in its attempt to make sense of the individual-group equation has often taken inspiration from natural history. Though biological inspired political theory has long since been discredited, evolutionary biology and entomology has inspired a lively multidisciplinary field of research termed biomimetics (Grosan & Abraham,  Stigmergic optimization: technologies and perspectives. In A. Abraham, C. Grosan, & V. Ramos Eds., Stigmergic optimization. Berlin: Springer.2006, p. 16). Biomimetic inspired computational modeling has epistemology and adaptive intelligence as a central interest.

My inclination is to approach these issues through the lens of stigmergy, something I began to sketch out in a co-authored paper entitled “Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition” downloadable here,  here, here or here.

Much of this is of course not new – hence the title of this post – which refers to  Bernard de Mandeville’s metaphorical The Fable of The Bees – refracted though Adam Smith and Hayek.