[OPE-L] ants and the law of value

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Fri Nov 24 2006 - 14:45:55 EST

I'm not an expert on the economics of ant colonies. But I think a
study might pay dividends because the comparison to human economy
might prove instructive. A friend who works in this area tells me that
there's a concept of 'forgaging for work' in the literature that
explains how task allocation across all tasks is organised in the
colony. Briefly, if an individual can't find any work to do for one
particular task (e.g. brood care), it will try and find a different
task to perform that does appear to be in demand (e.g. collecting food
from incoming foragers). Hence the individual 'forages' for a
'resource', where that 'resource' is useful work to do. The question
then becomes: what are the details of this task allocation algorithm?
Do ants represent the value of tasks (e.g., some kind of pheromone? or
implicitly?) Of course there are big and important differences between
ant and human societies, just as there are between thermostat and
human cognition. But taking a fresh perspective often helps.


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