Re: Q: Ant colonies and capitalism?

From: Michael M. Butler (
Date: Mon Jan 08 2001 - 00:55:51 MST

Well, genetically speaking, the ant colony is pretty much one organism.
The Queen, and to a lesser extent the eggs, are the most treasured
"organs". The organism as a whole is selfish as much as nature red in
tooth and claw can be. Leafcutter ants and those aphid milking ones are
two examples of "capitalism" if you squint just right.

See Doug Hofstaedter's "Aunt Hillary" chapter(s?) in _GEB_.

I don't think the facts behind his fancy have been found to have changed
too much yet.

Don't have the Wilson, sorry.


"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> (Other answers also welcome. I consult the ExtroCollective!)
> Eugene, do you know if anyone's ever found capitalistic algorithms
> operating inside the apparent communism of an ant colony? I wanted to
> make some point about "If selfishness is so efficient, why hasn't it
> evolved in ant colonies", and then I realized that for all I knew, it
> had. Then I became genuinely interested in how, if a "hedonistic ant"
> algorithm had evolved in ant colonies, the pseudo-selfishness would differ
> from real selfishness. You seem like the person most likely to know about
> it...
> Alternatively, is there anyone on the list who owns a copy of
> _Sociobiology_ and is willing to flip through the chapter (chapters?) on
> ants? SB is pretty old, but if there was any known information about
> hedonist/capitalist algorithms in ant societies, Wilson would have been
> almost certain to include it.
> -- -- -- -- --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:17 MDT