How is Meeting of the Minds 2013 a Meeting of the Human Hive Mind?

Meeting of the Minds 2013

Meeting of the Minds 2013

While I am attending the conference this week I will be listening for all the Integral City Intelligences as they are expressed by the four voices of the city.

Let me explain, how I have come to think about the city as a human hive. I will start by asking, how much is enough intelligence to live in the human hive sustainably now and with resilience in the distant future?

Human Hive

In the twelve chapters of my book [1] (and on my website) I explore five kinds of intelligence for the city –

  1. contexting intelligences – these include intelligences for the ecosphere, emergence, integral mapping and lifecycles
  2.  individual intelligences – these include inner intelligence for our intentions, beliefs and values and outer intelligences for our bio-physical forms and behaviours
  3. collective intelligences – these include building intelligences for structures and infrastructural systems and storytelling intelligence for shared cultures, relationships and values
  4. strategic intelligences – these include inquiry intelligences to ask good questions (like how much is enough?); meshworking intelligences that connect all the dots and support collective learning; and vital signs monitoring that gives us feedback on how successful our decisions are
  5. evolutionary intelligences – that give foresight on where our species might be headed.

All these intelligences I write about, are woven together in the book, by the three powerful images that help me frame the city with a new paradigm.

  1. The first image is the integral map of human capacities – I explored this in and earlier blog (for Meeting of the Minds).
  2. The second image is – the meshwork of the city and its links to the meshing of relationships in our brains and the emergence of structures in the bio-psycho-cultural-social realities of the city. I referenced this in the second blog on Integral Vital Signs Monitors(for Meeting of the Minds)
  3. The third image – the focus for today’s blog is really an allegory for the city based on the dynamic and resilient life of the beehive. I have spread this image throughout the book, so in this blog I want to pull many of the threads together and focus on the power of this image of the human hive.

Did you know that the honey bee – apis mellifera – is the most evolved species on the branch of living organisms classified as invertebrates?

Did you know that humans – homo sapiens sapiens — is the most evolved species on the branch of living organisms classified as vertebrates?

Did you know that a beehive has about 50,000 bees in it? About the same number of people who would make up a small city. So I’ve been wondering about what the most advanced species of the invertebrates might be able to teach us about the city – the human hive??

How have bees sustained themselves for 100 million of years? That is 10-20 times longer than homo sapiens sapiens has existed on this earth. How have bees migrated and adapted to basically every location on earth? What secrets might they have discovered that could help our cities become more resilient today? How can they teach us how to survive locally and connect globally?

Well thanks to author, Howard Bloom [2], I have learned one way of understanding how bees have created a double loop of sustainability for their beehives.

First off, do you realize that a beehive has a purpose? It must produce about 40 pounds of honey per year in order to survive. So a beehive has a clear sustainability objective for the hive, measured in terms of energy production.

How do bees obtain the raw materials to produce honey? They do this by creating 5 roles within the hive – not the usual suspects most of us are familiar with like drones and queens. No, no these roles have much more purpose to them:

  • About 90% of the hive are conformity enforcers (CE).
  • About 5% of the hive are diversity generators (DG).
  • A small per cent are resource allocators (RA).
  • And an even smaller per cent are inner judges (IJ).
  • The fifth role is created through inter-group tournaments (IGT).

Now let me tell you about how each of these roles works on behalf of the beehive – and also remind you how bees communicate with one another.

They can actually convey an amazing amount of information through the language of their waggle dance. The bees fly out into their eco-region and bring back pollen and nectar from flowers and when they land at the entrance to the beehive they do a waggle dance that tells the other bees, the location of the pollen, the distance from the hive, what type of flower is producing, how much there is, the condition of the flowers, the time of day – an amazing amount of detail about the source of the energy from which they produce their food and build their hive.

Here’s how they work together:

The CE’s are foragers who fly out into the local area, collect the pollen and return to the beehive. At the door of the hive, because so many of them have gone to the same patch of flowers, there is a tremendous energy in the dance – it is like a rave going on, because so many are conveying the same information. When the CE’s are dancing like this the hive is just humming a happy sound.

Meanwhile, the Diversity Generators have the job to fly to completely different flower patches than the CE’s. So since they bring back very different information than the CE’s they are always dancing to a different drummer (as it were). (say a square dance instead of the salsa). Do you think the CE’s notice these dudes? No way!! They are too caught up in their own bubble of joy!!

So we have the CE’s and the DG’s – now what are the RA’s and IJ’s doing? Well it’s their job to meet the CE’s and DG’s at the door of the hive. And as the forager bees unload their sacks the RA’s measure how full they are and the IJ’s dish out the performance rewards. If CE’s bring back a full load their bee tanks are topped up 100%. If the loads are less than maximum, they are topped up on a pro rata basis. How much is enough? From each according to her performance to each according to her performance.

Now the CE’s keep going back to the same flower patch because that’s the way it works – that’s the conformity they enforce. But what happens when the CE’s keep returning to the same pollen source? What was enough eventually becomes depleted – and the RA’s and the IJ’s stop dolling out the rewards – no more bonuses!! And the CE’s pretty soon stop dancing. In fact when the rewards are withheld they switch from their happy dance to becoming downright depressed. (They can measure depression in bees through their pheromones!!)

Meanwhile what are the DG’s up to? They are returning to the hive with little bee sacks full to the brim because they are accessing different energy sources and continue to receive more than enough bee-juice. They continue to dance their jaunty little square dance. And they are the only happy dancers in the hive. Do you think that maybe when the CE’s – who are all so depressed – sense that energizing dance, they decide to join the DG’s line dance??? You bet they do, and before long the CE’s are flying off in the direction that the DG’s have discovered. And they are back to dancing their happy dance and humming their happy tune.

And the what do you suppose the DG’s do?? Their job is to discover new sources of energy, so they are off in a different direction.

And so it goes. The hive rewards successful behaviour – behaviour that supports hive health and survival and withholds rewards from unsuccessful behavior.

Oh, and while all this is going on other hives are doing the same thing – so you have inter-hive tournaments, competing for the same resources in the fields.

If you have ever seen a picture of the globe with the air traffic flights between the cities over a 24 hour period, that shows you the intergroup tournaments of all of earth’s human hives which have an airport.

Have the bees discovered the secret to their sustainability? Have they discovered how to make change happen by individual and collective behaviour, in a natural way that sustains their hive?

Have they gone way beyond human preoccupation with simply sustaining ourselves, and our cities? Have they also discovered a second loop of sustainability? I would suggest that because, they pollinate the plants, and ensure renewable energy for another season they have created a double sustainability loop.

So – in our organizations – in our communities – in our cities — how much is enough CE activity? How much is enough DG activity? How much is enough RA activity? How much is enough IJ activity? How much is enough Intergroup tournament activity?

In the human hive who are our CE’s, DG’s, AR’s and IJ’s?

What are we rewarding? Life giving behavior? (e.g. attempts to change the outputs in auto industry to hybrids, electrics, etc?)

Is this sustainable now? Will it make our lives more or less resilient for the future??

What are the proportions? percentages? Rewards? we have allocated to CE tasks? DG tasks?

Have we discovered the second loop of sustainability?

How can we use all of our Integral City intelligences to get the human hive to discover the double sustainability loop?

How do our multiple Integral City intelligences actually reflect the Master Rule I propose sustains our cities? The master intelligence that says: Take care of ourselves? Take care of each other? Take care of this human hive – the city and its eco-region? Take care of this planet?

How can the human hive serve a healthy earth and add as much value as the honey bee has added to life on earth? (And how can a Meeting of the Human Hive Mind help us recalibrate our intelligence to avert the disastrous plight of the honey bee featured on the Time magazine front cover August 19, 2013?)

Bees: Cover of Time

Bees: Cover of Time


[2] Bloom, H. (2000). The Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century. New York: John Wiley & Son Inc.