A few weeks back Brendan made a post called Stigmergencies whether stigmergy can really help us build a better system. He was responding the work of Heather Marsh who argues for a movement away from representative democracy and towards collaboration. Like Marsh, I believe that we have a system in desperate need of change. Like Brendon, I’m not sure stigmergy is the way to go.
In order for everyone stigmergy to work, everyone must be working towards the same goal, which means the same goal must be mutually beneficial to everyone.
That would only happen in a homogenous society.
Which is not what we have
True stigmergy appears only in eurosocial insects such as bees and ants. These insects each have highly specialized roles and the work together seamlessly to maintain the good of the hive. While this may sound good theory, it works because the majority of infertile members work to provide for the king and queen who are solely responsible for reproduction.
This works because of inclusive fitness. First defined by W. D. Hamilton, inclusive fitness is a metric of evolutionary success. While personal fitness includes only the direct offspring of an individual, inclusive fitness also includes any genetically related offspring an individual supports. Eurosocial insects behave the way they do because helping maintain the hive so that the queen may reproduce increases their inclusive fitness.
While I’m not trying to equate human behavior or thinking with ants, it’s hard to imagine a phenomena so grounded in likeness working in a world as diverse as ours. People’s wants and needs are too different to all naturally benefit from the same thing, and without that sameness, stigmergy seems ineffective, at least on a grand scale.