A First Responder to a Stigmergency

So a few classes ago we had the opportunity to read some blog posts in class, something I had rarely done before. But it gave me a chance to read many interesting thoughts as to what’s going on in your guy’s heads. One that particularly stuck with me was Brendan’s post called “Stigmergencies.” In it he details his thoughts on markets, as in stock not farmers, and how they are perfect examples of a stigmergy, with “each broker scurrying around the trading floor is in their own way a dutiful scavenger, each LED stock ticker a blinding chemical signal” (Mahoney).

Now I am just a humble liberal arts major and have basically no idea about anything having to do with economics, but Brendan does a good job of putting it all in a perspective that I can understand. To make it particularly easy, for those of us who know nothing, he compares them to how the Oankali see us “they contain within them a terrible power” (Mahoney). The power to make and break nations with simple numbers. And these numbers, I have always thought that they control us because in our country there’s always the argument of “oh it will wreck the economy and destroy facilitate the downfall of our country.” But Brendan put another layer onto it that I had never thought about before, he said that markets “operate by turning people into things and by turning things into numbers” (Mahoney).

Something I had never really thought of before is what happens to the people behind the numbers. The ones who give their lives in order to make other people money. Brokers that are inside all day and become less and less like people, and more like machines. They are the middlemen that live to compete to try to beat his neighbor to make the best deal possible.  Like the ants on an ant hill they scatter, following the trails of the LED stock signals to do work to help their colony. Brendan argues that the more this goes one the larger the disconnect between buyers and sellers will grow, that over time this will “reduce our ability to see the life in one another” (Mahoney). And I agree, wholeheartedly. Stigmergy creates too much of a disconnect between people and the more we work with Butler’s fiction, the more I start to appreciate people. Not just humans but people, as a society. Where humans always seem to sabotage ourselves is when we stop communicating with one another, and start making quick decisions without really being informed about what our society needs.

A common theme with Butler is the destruction of the world because of the selfishness and destructive nature of humans, something eerily similar to what we see going on in the real world today. But I always find a spark of hope in Butler’s work by how some form of humanity always survives and grows anew. Not necessarily what came before, but something that is different does not inherently mean that it is bad. I really enjoyed Brendan’s take on this subject also because of the hope he sees in it. He, and I, believe that our society could change for the better, and it all starts with us. All we need to do is decide to.

Works Cited:

Mahoney, Brendan. “Stigmergencies.” ImPossibilities. N.p., 13 Nov. 2017. Web. 29 Nov. 2017.

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