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Ants More Rational

than our politicians - Humans aren't always rational, but ants almost always are. Maybe we have something to learn from them. If we go extinct, insects may end up being the next dominant species here on earth.

This is not the case of humans being "stupider" than ants. Humans and animals simply often make irrational choices when faced with very challenging decisions. Researcher Stephen Pratt says, "This paradoxical outcome is based on apparent constraint: most individual ants know of only a single option, and the colony's collective choice self-organizes from interactions among many poorly-informed ants."

What the researchers found is that in collective decision-making in ants, the lack of individual options translated into more accurate outcomes by minimizing the chances for individuals to make mistakes. A "wisdom of crowds" approach emerges, Pratt believes. He says, "Typically we think having many individual options, strategies and approaches are beneficial, but irrational errors are more likely to arise when individuals make direct comparisons among options."

What do these findings say about understanding human social systems? Pratt says, "It is hard to say. But it's at least worth entertaining the possibility that some strategic limitation on individual knowledge could improve the performance of a large and complex group that is trying to accomplish something collectively." That last sentence sounds like a description of the US Congress!

When our insects start thinking better than our politicians, is it business as usual? If you want straight thinking and good insights (as opposed to crazy innuendo), especially as that ominous date of 2012 looms on the horizon, then stick with us. And if WE'RE going to have a future, YOU need to subscribe today!

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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