E.O. Wilson

Here’s an article in this month’s Atlantic.

Rejecting the views of classic political philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau that primitive humankind started out as a collection of scattered, unorganized individuals, Fukuyama writes: “Human sociability is not a historical or cultural acquisition, but something hardwired into human nature.” Nowhere is Wilson, who pioneered this view, even mentioned.

Wilson is of course famous for his work on stigmergy:

•  Sematectonic stigmergy.

•  Sign-, cue-, or marker-based stigmergy.

Sematectonic stigmergy denotes communication via modification of a physical  environment, an elementary example being the carving out of trails. One needs only to cast an eye around any public space, a park or a college quadrangle for instance, to see the grass being worn away, revealing a dirt pathway that is a well-traveled, unplanned and thus indicates an ‘‘unofficial’’ intimation of a shortcut to some salient destination.

Marker-based stigmergy denotes communication via a signaling mechanism. A standard example is the phenomenon of pheromones laid by social insects. Pheromone imbued trails increase the likelihood of other ants following the aforementioned trails. Unlike sematectonic stigmergy  which is a response to an environmental modification , marker-based stigmergy does not  make any direct contribution to a given task.

Wilson, E. O. (1975/2000). Sociobiology: The new synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.