05 May 2006

Beeing organised

We bee amazingly organised, and I quote:

When 10,000 honeybees fly the coop to hunt for a new home, usually a tree cavity, they have a unique method of deciding which site is right: With great efficiency they narrow down the options and minimize bad decisions.

Their technique, says [...] biologist Thomas Seeley, includes coalition building until a quorum develops.

This all by an, ahem, beestie about the size of a match folded in half! Why can’t we proud/thundering/organised/eager great bipeds — weighing perhaps 20,000 to 60,000 times as much apiece and with brains massing maybe 700 times as much as the whole critter — manage similar functions anything like as well? D’oh?


Leon Brooks said...

This sounded like a rigged question at the surface: the aviators are kind of specialised to their task.

However, given an individual 700x brain-mass advantage plus bonus flexibility and tools like computers available (even pencils and notepads), surely we could expect to do at least a little better?

I think the enemy is the nefarious “I know how to do that” with the appended silent/invisible “kinda, sorta, in one or a few special cases and ways, etc...”

Leon Brooks said...

In terms of brain-mass, our absolute advantage is potentially much larger than 700x. For example, it seems that data from every single facet (their formal name is ommatidia) in a bee eye is separately acquisitioned and mentally processed.

On top of this, it seems that — while high-definition-ish for a compound eye — a bee sees roughly only a sixtieth as well as a typical human, even given great swages of ommatidia.

So if we assume 60x better eyes and (very) roughly 7000x as much brain matter, we should be recognising things (a thumbwave figure) roughly 400,000 times more effectively.

Bees typically have three extra relatively simplistic (likely general light-levels and detection-of-movement only) eyes called ocelli, but the simplicity and extra processing cost, I guess, would count against any assistance they promised, rather than for.

All in all, heh, it looks like one human bean should see (and think about seeing) at least tens of thousands of times more effectively than a typical productive honey-maker.

Given roughly ten bees reporting on each potential site, plus the avasilability to the bean of assistant artefects like binoculars, maps, telephones, Internet, writing, vehicles et al, the aforementioned and humungous bean should be getting at least thousands of times as much processed information back to home base as a miniswarm of bees.

So even allowing for, say, 90% laziness or demotivation, said beans should be consistently hundres of times better data collectors than a miniswarm. What this implies about our motivation levels is not... well... very motivating.