Re: Q: Ant colonies and capitalism?

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Jan 08 2001 - 10:41:27 MST wrote:
> I don't know the answer, but what I do know is that ants within a colony
> are all very closely related, all children of the same Queen. They may
> even be clones. From this perspective the ants are in some ways more
> like the cells in your body than like individual organisms.

The reason I'm asking about ant colonies is because an ant colony is a
single reproductive entity which nonetheless contains independently viable
and mobile subcomponents.

> You might ask whether selfishness and competition plays a role in
> our bodies.

An equally valid question.

> One example I can think of is sperm cells, which compete to see which can
> get into the egg first.

Sperm compete with other males' sperm. I don't think there's any
correlation between the fitness of a particular sperm and the particular
chromosome set a sperm contains, so it's hard to see how competion could
occur or how artificial competition could be adaptive for the male.
(Though the *female's* genes have an interest in combining only with
healthy sperm.)

> There may also be some competitive structure
> in the immune system, where cells which create antibodies which are
> successful in identifying pathogens get rewarded. I don't know the
> details though. There are also theories of "neural darwinism" where
> brain cells compete in some sense during the early months and years of
> brain formation.

I've heard of "hedonist neuron" theories of brain development, but you're
right, the use of controlled evolution in the immune system is also a case
in point.

(Personal nitpick with accepted terminology: "Neural darwinism" is a
lousy term, since it implies transmission of differential characteristics
to offspring. This is not darwinism; it is survival of the fittest.)

> Speaking of the sperm example, I've also read that bees use competition
> to decide which get to reproduce, in much the same way. The queen bee
> flies as high as possible and only the strongest males can fly up to it
> and mate. I don't know whether ants use a similar selection mechanism,
> but it would make sense if they do.

This is competition between reproductive entities, and thus not really a
case in point.

-- -- -- -- --
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