Within biology, we find extraordinary expressions of symmetry. While nature has created such great diversity in species, there are common threads that tie together all species together in strange and unexpected ways. Why do so many animals take 21 seconds to urinate? Why do all mammals pass through similar morphological, anatomical shapes on their way from conception to birth? Moreover, why is it that no matter what lifespan or weight of a mammal, individuals of any species die after approximately 1.5 billion heartbeats? The mass between a bacterium and a blue whale changes by a factor of 1020 but surprisingly, all of these creatures share a fundamental number of common properties. Even though nature gave rise to increasing complexity, all of these animals follow fundamental laws, which are physiological invariants that span a diverse range of life forms. The new 6D mathematics is extremely useful in predicting these changes.
One of these emergent invariant laws is that when 6D flat spacetime is projected to 4D spacetime, it is called Kleiber’s Law, which states that an animal’s metabolic rate scales to the 3/4 power of the animal’s mass. It’s not a perfect law, but many animal species seem to follow it.
Other interesting invariant patterns not only apply to individual members of a species but also to groups of such individuals. Some organisms live in colonies in which the division of labor is so specialized that individuals cannot survive by themselves for extended periods. These organisms are called eusocial, and the collective is called a superorganism. The term was coined in 1789 by the father of geology, James Hutton and variously incarnated in the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, and the biosphere theory of Guy Murchie and Vladimir Vernadsky. In the 18th century, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes was one of the first to popularize a human version of the superorganism in his classic, Leviathan. In the 19th century, Herbert Spencer coined the closely related term super-organic to focus on social organization in a sociological context. More recently in 2008, E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler popularized the term in their 2008 book “The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies.” It is mostly in this context that superorganisms have been studied ever since. Insect colonies notably display eusocial behavior, and individuals of a species live much of their lives engaging in social behavior that resembles specific functions of multicellular organisms. This similarity goes beyond metaphor, however. The close resemblance to internal organs, combined with the ease of manipulation of colonies, has inspired scientists to design experiments that resolve outstanding problems of multicellular organisms using insect colonies. These superorganism colonies appear to have their behavior, life, and even types of death.
Fire ants are one example of how invariant symmetry applies to a larger scale. Individual fire ants cannot survive by themselves; each plays a specific role to serve the colony. For instance, some harvest food while others tend to the newborns, and they all need a queen to produce offspring for the entire colony. There are social structures and hierarchies, a division of labor into specialized functions such as resource production, task-based specialization, and “drones” being controlled by managers and queens. When faced with an existential threat, such as their nest flooding, the entire colony springs into action, each member fulfilling its unique role to defend the queen through an intricate and collective dance. Upwards of half a million worker ants will instinctively surround their queen and her eggs, linking arms and forming a floating raft with their waxy bodies, creating pockets of air for buoyancy to keep the queen alive. Such social responses are innate, suggesting that higher level social functions are coded into their genes, and direct their collective behavior as a superorganism when triggered by environmental conditions. Thus, individual actions can be looked at as a symmetrical, invariant piece of the whole.
From insect populations, scientists and thinkers have begun to generalize the superorganism concept in many other directions. The more we look in nature, the more we see superorganisms everywhere, especially at a microbial scale. The brain can be considered a superorganism. It consists of relatively simply neurons, but when networked together, highly complex behavior emerges. One hot area of research sees multicellular organisms such as us as superorganisms composed of trillions of different microbe populations.
“For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE, which is but an Artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Sovereignty is an Artificial Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Thomas Hobbes was the first person to popularize the idea of the state as an artificial man, a social superorganism. Today, the concept of superorganism has re-emerged. Like Hobbes before him, Gaia Vince, former features editor for the journal Nature Climate Change, has coined the word Homni to represent the superorganism composed of the entire population of humanity. Vince claims that Homo Sapiens is evolving into Homo Omnis, or Homni, a collective being that brings to mind the 17th century Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes.
The cover picture of Hobbes classic, Leviathan, shows a king, representing the commonwealth, with his body composed of all his subjects, making up the cells of his body. Hobbes conceived of Leviathan as a mythical creature called the commonwealth, whose existence was motivated by the necessity of establishing rules which individuals can live by to avoid the brutish life of conflict and violence without them. This was a great concern in his time. Hobbes postulates a condition called the state of nature, in which each person would have a right to everything in the world, a country that would lead to a war of all against all (Bellum omnium contra omnes). To avoid this terrible state of existence, people need to agree to a social contract and establish a civil society. To do this, Individuals have to cede some rights in such a civil society in exchange for protection. If a state agrees to this, in the laws there will inevitably be some symmetries established.
Today’s superorganism goes by a different name. Vince conceived of Homni, also a superorganism of society, but for a different reason. He conceived of it to bring attention to the outsized ecological footprint of humanity, and the planetary-scale impacts that our civilization have created. The Homni of Vince is born out of the Anthropocene, a product of industrialization, population expansion, globalization, and internet communications. Homnis are currently ravenously devouring planetary resources. Its insatiable appetite annually consumes 18 terawatts of power, 9 billion cubic meters of water and 40% of global land area. Besides, it is rapidly poisoning the biospheric, geospheric, hydrospheric, and atmospheric planetary commons. This is a very different superorganism than the one of yesteryear.
One aspect of Homni, modern industrial capitalism, has created large centralized systems supplying the needs of almost the entire population. From shipping/transportation to communications via the internet to industrial agriculture to highway systems and hospitals the superorganism is dependent on these large decentralized systems. Human beings, the individual cells of Homni, are increasingly reliant on large centralized systems for our life. We can look at these transportation systems similarly to veins, supplying nutrients.
If one looks at these systems in this way, human civilization now shares fundamental properties with the more familiar biological superorganisms such as bees or termites. For example, most people living in our modern world are like their eusocial animal counterparts as each plays a highly specialized role to keep the system running smoothly. Similarly, a breakdown of Homni’s central systems can have catastrophic consequences for each human being. Because of this shift to extreme specialization, very few people would have the skills to survive if a large-scale system breakdown was to occur. This is similar to most superorganisms, as opposed to tiny scale tribes, where these systems are much more flexible.
One paleontologist, Tim Flannery also believes that humanity can be represented by a superorganism model and further, that we are evolving into a cooperative, interdependent species. We can see elements of this from the communicative system – the internet, to the local social groups. However, like many superorganisms, they can expand into the walls of their system and run into trouble. If they do not understand that system and respond to it well, there can be severe consequences. The question is “will humanity become the cooperative, thinking, responsible brain and steward of the planet before it’s too late?”
Individually, it appears that our modern society is global. The internet, a mere toy a few decades earlier, is now an integral part of our daily life. Raw materials are mined from all over the world, processed in other parts of the world, and assembled in factories and sold to markets in others corners of the world. Just like an ant hill or a blind mole warren, there are many systems to ensure the raw materials get where they are going. Supermarket shelves display bananas from South America, mangos from Mexico or Senegal, rice from China, and cucumbers from Spain. The supply and production chains are heavily interwoven.
So, beneath the façade of individual autonomy, we are entirely and intimately dependent on each other’s health and wellbeing, just like ants. Within this complex economy, most of the things that keep you and I alive are the results of other people’s efforts. What this means is that each one of us has an invisible social contract with everyone else in society, regardless of class, gender, age, or culture. This means that we depend on everyone working together to make a better world, just like ants or blind moles.
Today, the individual in our culture, is like a specialized cell in a multi-cellular organism. Though each of us appears to have an autonomous existence, without the larger social system to support us, none of us could survive with the superorganisms’ systems. In actuality, each one of us depends on our broader society for our autonomy.
As time goes by, individuals of an organization may die or leave, creating vacant job positions that are filled by new individuals. The organizations they make up change slightly, but to an outsider, it looks the same. Human beings, as cells in the social superorganism, resemble the individual cells of the human body, which are continually dying and being replaced by new ones – an incredibly complex web. Moreover, to our friends or family, we, the multicellular individual are just a person, without this incredible global interconnection. The structure of our society, the human superorganism, remains alive while individuals are replaced continuously. To wit, the superorganism of human civilization has a life of its own, regardless of the individual human beings who continually churn through its body.
How does this organism work? What disrupts its ideal functions? How can we predict what it needs to learn? These are the questions we will tackle.
When we look at the turmoil that the world is embroiled in today, we realize that something is not working. Many of us believe that Homni is sick because something is gumming up the societal metabolism. The superorganism is sick, and the disease is spreading throughout the body, affecting many of us, the individual cells. Just as the failure of human organs can spell disaster for the entire body, the failure of a state can destroy the social superorganism.
When there is no longer cohesion in the social fabric of our society, our social body will begin to fall apart. If the laws of the commonwealth that Hobbes envisioned as necessary to keep the social superorganism alive fail, then the superorganism will start to disintegrate. Social scientist Robert Putnam, the man who popularized the term social capital, has been tracking its demise in the United States for decades, as summarized in his book Bowling Alone. Drawing from nearly 500,000 interviews between 1975 and the year of publication, 2000, Putnam traced the fragmenting social capital in our families, friends, neighborhoods, and democratic structures. Some startling statistics his research has produced is a 58% drop in attending club meetings, a 43% drop in family dinners and a 35% drop in having friends over. We are having trouble trusting others.
How has modern technology with the new variables and landscape it created, affected social interaction. Has the internet increased or decreased social cohesion? Both. It used to take weeks for a physical letter to go through the world’s postal system and reach a destination halfway around the world. Today, email allows us to send a message in a few seconds, increasing the space of the web we can throw. We have the potential to connect with billions of people on social media, and we can stay in touch with anyone, anywhere in the world. This has increased social cohesion. At the same time, social media has created filter bubbles, fueling polarization, identity politics, and disrupting social cohesion. Indeed, wars are fought using this as the means. Additionally, the virtual world may give us more relationships, but they are not as rich and satisfying as real-life ones. Dating websites allow people to meet, but some such sites promote casual sex minimizing emotional intimacy.
In the end, the technology that enables homni to exist is also hurting it. The internet knows no boundaries and culture is starting to move seamlessly from continent to continent. Transportation is not yet real-time, but it compresses time enough to allow mass cultural migration and mixing. However, as it offers freedom, for some it causes fear and hatred which lead to violence.
However, one exciting thing about insect superorganisms, that we may be able to apply in a larger sense, is that they seem to obey a Kleiber-like power laws. This is demonstrated in a 2010 paper entitled “Energetic Basis of Colonial Living in Social Insects” by researcher James F Gillooly, Chen Hou, and Michael Kaspari. The authors discovered that the essential features of the physiology and life history of colonies of eusocial insects (such as bees, termites, ants, and wasps) follow the same size dependencies as unitary organisms when a colony’s mass is equal to the total mass of individuals. Colonies also scale super linearly and die (when an insect queen dies). The authors make other observations that support a superorganism view of the colony:
- Whole colony metabolic rate – this is not just the sum of individual metabolic rates but is approximately proportion to 3/4 power of the total colony mass, M3/4 – similar to Kleiber’s law in unitary insects.
- Whole colony growth rate – the egg production rate is also approximately proportional to M3/4. From the perspective of a superorganism the queen is therefore seen as the ovary, while as an individual, it is seen as an extreme outlier.
- Lifespan rate – this is approximately the lifespan of the queen and scales with colony mass as lifespan scale with body mass in unitary insects, following a 1/4 power law: M1/4.
This has exciting implications for our uses. Just what is the metabolic rate of the human superorganism? How much mass does it have?
Our intuition leads us to guess that power laws may play a key role in two areas we have just surveyed:
- We hypothesize that we can apply theoretically derived power laws to describe the behavior of organized human populations by extrapolating the superorganism concept beyond eusocial insects characterized by a queen, to human communities of sufficient size and complexity. As social capital is a critical parameter to gauge the health of the social superorganism, we propose a social capital metric along the power law lines.
- We hypothesize that we can apply theoretically derived power laws to psychometrics to obtain a measure for various forms of intuition.
While there is currently no proof to accept or refute these two hypotheses, a new applied mathematical theory developed by the authors, called 6- dimensional spacetime (6D) mathematics, lends strong validation to these two hypotheses (Teeple & Himann 2018). Their model of 6D mathematics was motivated to explain fundamental physics, especially foundational problems plaguing the standard model of physics.
A Brief Survey
Before we present the main idea of a metric for intuition, let us survey and summarize the vast landscape we have traveled across to arrive at this point:
- First, we acknowledge that modernity is falling into a data progress trap. In the span of less than half a century, our modern IT systems have matured to create a ubiquitous global data sharing network for humans and machines alike that our society and economy is now utterly dependent on.
- The dawn of AI, the IoT, and Blockchain will create so much data that we will suffer a problem both of the sheer volume and the quality of the information we receive.
- Since information quality is critical to effective decision-making, these two data problems can have significant impacts on all aspects of society including business, policy, civil society, health, and ecology. This motivates us to find solutions for these problems.
- We also found that human beings reason in two different and complementary ways (as described by Kahneman) – the fast, intuitive method of System 1 and the slow, deliberate, methodical and analytic method of System 2.
- The slow, rational thinking method is plagued with hundreds of cognitive biases, drug-altered perspectives, and foundational flaws.
- The bad rap of intuition in cognitive science is underserved and needs to be understood at a deeper level.
- Intuition is fast because it is a predictive information system acting on a lifetime of stored knowledge, inherited knowledge, extra sensory perceptions, and a mixture of other sources of existing knowledge.
- Future machine systems consisting of AI, dataset training, big data, and data analytics will be parallel to their similar human cognitive systems of brain, motor-sensory system but maybe not quality intuition and decision-making.
- Human beings are but one of many species and each perspective from each species can differ remarkably. This implies that even a knowledge of the world can radically differ from species to species. This relative experience of the world, and what knowledge it considers meaningful is called the Umwelt.
- Psychedelic drugs and mind-altering drugs have been part of the earliest human civilizations and are with us today. They can significantly alter how we see the world and the decisions we make. In many cases, they can expand our experience of reality and lead to insights that increase our problem-solving abilities.
- Symmetry in the universe is a source of inspiration for new theories to describe the world, giving rise to new symmetry mathematics such as 6D spacetime mathematics. These new types of mathematics can better solve problems in the world by proposing a new set of axioms that embed symmetry.
- Kleiber’s law inspires us to look to symmetry to derive similar power laws from 6D mathematics that quantify aspects of geometrical human intuition and render it more useful in decision-making processes.
- Psychometrics and social capital can have vast application areas if we could quantify intuitive knowledge in those fields. In psychology, we use such derived law to develop a better psychometric, and in social networks, we use it to produce a way to measure social capital.
- While psychometrics weighs the individual human organism, we can also treat sufficiently large, organized groups of individual human beings as an organism in its own right, a superorganism.
- By recognizing this machine-to-human mapping, we can create an asymmetry-based algorithm that quantifies intuition, effectively mapping it to a numerical equivalent proxy that can be subjected to analytic reasoning.
We can develop a metric for social capital, which allows us to measure the cohesion of the superorganism.
The tremendous opportunity offered by an algorithm that can quantify intuition is that it can bring vast amounts of hitherto qualitative, intangible, knowledge into the quantitative, tangible realm where we can utilize it to make better decisions. As had been noted previously, only 0.5 percent of all data has been analyzed and used for effective decision-making. However, this does not include applying a Democratic Quality Vector to it. So, the potential economic and social benefits are enormous. To get a better idea of this, we can look at the following data visualization.
Technology educator Dan Faggella offers a diagrammatic post-human view of consciousness. Dan explores the intersection between AI, neuroscience, technology, and futures. In an article from his blog page called “Exploration Post – Human Consciousness States – The Value of Psychedelics,” Faggella has created a diagram he has named “The space of all possible modes of being”.to summarize possible states of consciousness. Think of it as consciousness and sensory space for all living beings. Within this large permutation space, human experiences count for a tiny fraction of the totality of possible states.
The human Umwelt, how the world is perceived, is but one of many possible Umwelts contained within the union space of all animal Umwelts. Undoubtedly plants have their own Umwelt as well. However, your Umwelt is not static. It can expand and grow with the time of day, illness, or drug use. The researcher, Faggella considers the effects of different ways of increasing our normal Umwelt by using psychedelic drugs, cognitive implants, and AI.
Along the same line, scientists Kevin Boyack and Richard Klavans work in the field of science that measures science called scientometrics. They have developed maps of scientific research outputs to visualize patterns of large datasets of millions of scientific papers. In the map repreoduced here, the map shows the patterns of papers that use co-citation (two papers cited at the same time) and bibliographical coupling (when two papers reference a common 3rd paper) to reveal the pattern of commonly cited authors in a variety of scientific fields. Their dataset for this map is large, 20 million scientific research papers generated between 1996 and 2011. In a sense, such a map can be interpreted as a proxy to the known areas of science. Like Faggella’s map, our interest is in the crevices and space between the knowledge. Both views give us a glimpse of how much we don’t know.
A novel method to expand the human Umwelt to almost unlimited sensory space is being engineered by neuroscientist David Eagleman and his team of researchers and engineers. His lab invented the Versatile Extra Sensory Transducer (VEST), a sensory substitution device which takes any input data stream and translates it into a tactile signal via a network of 32 portable solenoids mounted on the vest. This creates a physical signal that the brain responds to. The first application of the VEST has been used to test if deaf subjects could “feel” words by learning to associate vibration patterns outputted by the VEST to words. The prototype translates a speech signal into a vibration pattern on the network of solenoids. After learning how to interpret the vibration signals for a few hours a day for a few days, the deaf subjects were able to “feel” words correctly. As cochlear implants cost about a hundred thousand dollars to install, the $500 VEST is a much more cost-effective solution. Eagleman’s company, Neosensory has produced a more compact wristwatch model with an array of 8 vibrating solenoids. This is but one example of how a person’s consciousness can be expanded in our modern world.
Without devices like this, any animal can only see the world through its narrow window of reality. No matter how vast we perceive it to be, it is experienced only through the lens of our limited biological sensors. A fish doesn’t know the ocean is limited because it’s been immersed in it its entire life. As we have shown, the theoretical awareness of our Umwelt shows how limited our current knowledge of the world is. The difference between what we can see and hear, and the secrets of the universe is vast. The innate Umwelt that we inherited at birth makes each member of a species a “blind being” limited to viewing nature from their own unique, but limited, perspective. Other species are “blind beings” and we each experience nature in our unique way.
The storyline of the popular 1967 fantasy comedy “Doctor Dolittle” was a doctor who could converse with animals. The theme song contained the lyric “If I could talk like the animals, walk like the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk like the animals…” It means that we could be much more powerful if we could expand our ability to understand. If we could extend our Umwelt, for example with technology such as the VEST, we could have a much richer experience of reality.
Just as the VEST offers the potential to expand our sense of the world and understand its hitherto invisible dimensions, the Democratic Quality Vector (DQV) allows us to understand the social capital of our societies in ways previously unseen. The DQV will enable us to access human intuition in a new way. Through the DQV, we can quantify what we once considered intangible, intuitive, knowledge and transfer it over to the tangible world of cold, hard facts. Essentially, it is a process of making intuitive knowledge amenable to calculation for the very first time.