Great TED Talk: D. Gordon on Ant Collaboration

Ants are incredibly fascinating creatures whose behavior and organization has myriad implications for complexity science, etc. Using only extremely basic heuristics, ants create a vast, complex, “smart,” rapidly responsive and biologically successful aggregate. 

In this talk, Dr. Gordon expounds upon how order within an ant colony emerges sans oversight or central authority, and its implications for human ecology and organization.  

Here’s a snippet of an Interview she did with the science channel: 

Q: What is the most exciting discovery you’ve made in your research?

A: There are two: 1) Ants use the rate at which they interact to decide what to do. 2) Older, larger colonies act different from younger, smaller ones. Since ant turnover is high, the ants in old colonies are the same age as the ants in young ones. This means the behavior of older colonies is not due to the experience of older, wiser ants. I think instead it’s an effect of colony size; in fact this is what led me to discover that interaction rates depend on colony size.

Q: Was it an interest in ants that led to you studying them, or was it an interest in learning about organization and patterns that drew you to ants?
A: I was interested in complex systems like embryos, brains, and ant colonies. No one is in charge, there is no central control, and the components (cells, neurons, ants) act in response to local information. I chose ants because you can see everything that’s going on, which is more difficult in an embryo or a brain.”