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. -Ian.
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