Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Collective vs individual behaviour

When we look at ants, we tend to see a colony and group behaviour. When we look at ourselves, we tend to see individual behaviour. Is this an example of macro versus micro? In the view of aliens (if any), we must look like ants, including collective behaviour. Why do we view ourselves as individuals?

Although I live rather solitary, I’m still part of a local community. When aliens (if any) would monitor me, they might conclude that I have some kind of a privileged role amongst humans. Indeed I have.

Human studies of ant colonies have revealed that ants have various roles in their society or caste: queen, caretakers, soldiers, and workers (eg, Smithsonian, source). The same principle appears to apply to other social animals and (obviously) humans. Aliens (if any) would see a kind of Droste effect.

Does our role in a collective make us feel like an individual? I summarised our various roles in life in a recent diagram.

About 35% of our useful lives is allocated to learning, about 50% to working, and about 15% to resting. The (very) high number of years of collective learning separates us from any other species.

I suppose our belief systems are responsible for viewing ourselves as different from others (eg, citizenship, money, power, religion, sexuality, skin colour). In that case, it’s quite likely that these belief systems are also responsible for viewing ourselves as an individual (eg, freedom, liberalism, the self).

Life, Nature, and (perhaps) the Universe show 3 collective and 2 individual development stages, being:.

Collective development stages:

  1. Needs (ie, all lifeforms). Examples: trees, Africa.
  2. Wants (ie, lifeforms using tools). Examples: birds, Asia.
  3. Beliefs (ie, humans only). Examples: Europe, USA.

Individual development stages:

4. Awakening (minimizing beliefs);
5. Wisdom (very few individual humans).

For decades, we are stretching our beliefs to an extreme extent. The fabric of society is not able to handle that kind of stretching and is showing signs of wear and tear, including increasing opposition to those radical beliefs.

To date, I have not been able to find any society ever that achieved an Awakening as a 4th collective development stage, let alone Wisdom as a 5th. It seems that our beliefs mark the end of the collective cycle. Often, a military conflict marks the end of our beliefs (eg, 2022 Russia-Ukraine, China-Taiwan).

Last but not least, it could be argued that the enlargement of collective organizations (eg, EU, NATO) shows a decreasing belief in individualism.

Not the End of the World (2020) by Katy Perry
video features Zooey Deschanel
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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