This an extremely interesting and thought provoking essay on the complexity of bee and ant colonies.
COMPLEXITY EXPLAINED: 2. Swarm Intelligence
WRITTEN BY VINOD WADHAWAN AUGUST 22, 2009
“In Part 1 of this series of articles, I gave a general and simple-minded definition of a complex system. Before we go into the details of how complexity can be quantified, I shall describe here a couple of interesting and well-investigated examples of how something approaching intelligence arises in a complex system comprising of non-intelligent individuals. I shall explain how honeybees in a beehive, and ants in an ant colony, operate as a single, intelligent, super-organism. I shall also point out how we humans can draw some practical lessons from studies on these complex systems.”
“I end this article by quoting what Doyne Farmer had to say about the importance of investigating complex systems of all types:
So when we ask questions like how life emerges, and why living systems are the way they are – these are the kind of questions that are really fundamental to understanding what we are and what makes us different from inanimate matter. The more we know about these things, the closer we’re going to get to fundamental questions like, ‘What is the purpose of life?’ Now, in science we can never even attempt to make a frontal assault on questions like that. But by addressing a different question – like, Why is there an inexorable growth in complexity? – we may be able to learn something fundamental about life that suggests its purpose, in the same way that Einstein shed light on what space and time are by trying to understand gravity.”