What These Ants Can Teach Us About Problem-Solving


In an inspiring effort to escape a bird cage in Jakarta, Indonesia, a 10-man (well, more like insect) team of ants linked up to transform themselves into a living ladder.

The photo, captured by Indonesian photographer Fahmi Bhs, exemplifies what many scientists call “swarm intelligence,” a theory that posits that while a single ant or insect probably isn’t very smart, their colonies are. According to researchers, ants do not have sophisticated enough neurological systems to be very good engineers, architects, or warriors—at least not as individuals. But when you study ant colonies, you find that the swarm mentality enables ants to solve problems that individuals fail miserably at — such as finding a quick path to a food source or defending a territory from threatening enemies.

Swarm intelligence may provide key insights to some of humanity’s greatest challenges: Can the collective actions of a group of focused individuals help humanity solve its biggest crises, such as climate change and world poverty?  If the ants are any example, collaboration is key to evolution and advancement. In the worlds of Helen Keller,

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

To learn more about swarm intelligence, check out this article from National Geographic.

Photo: Fahmi Bhs/HotSpot Media