Collective Intelligence : An Interesting Thought

Published on: November 12, 2010

Here I was at the end of the week, and after a tiring Table Tennis match with Binit dai (brother in nepali) I walked with him to his flat. Till then I was unaware that I was about to have a very interesting conversation with him. And it all started with a vague question, "Dai, when do you think Sharukh Khan will die?" I asked this question as I was watching his photographs in a daily newspaper.

To this vague question, he replied "Most celebrity have less life expectancy due to their stressful lifestyle." Then he added, "There is this basic formula for life, the more you push in your life the less your lifetime becomes." Then he added a scientific fact to the statement that the heartbeat per second defines the total life expectancy. Large animals like elephant have very low heart beat rate compared to a rabbit, so comparatively elephants live more than rabbits. In same lines, tortoise has a very low heart beat and it can live up to 200 years. Then suddenly I remembered an old documentary about human body where it was mentioned that the main reason of aging is oxygen. Though oxygen is the life support of human being, it also has a double edge to it. Different form of oxygen is the main factor behind degradation of cells.

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After a long silence to this thought, I asked yet another vague question, "Why do human beings have to be so restless? Why are they always thinking and doing something? Can't we simply exist?" To this he rebutted by saying that its not only humans but every living organism has a quest in life to exist, and continuously act accordingly. He then gave examples of how dogs and rats have adapted to the city life and have made their existence possible. And this is a true fact. Look at dogs how gullible they are? They have pampered human being to such an extent that a dog that doesn't wag its tail in front of their boss is simply not a good dog. Look how they have made their ways into human lives and co-existing as a part of human family.

This was the turning point of the conversation. Suddenly, from a simple scientific observation we were venturing into the reality of life - "Existence". This is when he shared a remarkable fact about human cells. Inside the cell we have something called mitochondria (power house of cell). But in the history, mitochondria and a cell was a different life system. Unicellular organism usually feed by engulfing other cellular organism. So in some faith of life, a cell engulfed mitochondria but instead of digesting it, a remarkable thing happened. Both the cell and mitochondria co-existed as one organism. The presence of mitochondria somehow enhanced the efficiency of cell, so someway they communicated to exist as one or we may say agreed to be one. Now its very similar to a dog and a man, somehow the presence of a dog in a family have started to make a family complete, making a presence of a dog important. As the new generation of the family exist, so will the dog's.

Every human cell has a unique identity of their own and is in a way an independent life. But its remarkable to see how millions and billions of these cells have coordinated in a godly fashion to exist as a human being. How do they know how to coordinate with each other. Who is commanding them? Because in all these examples there is no single commanding cells or identity involved.

For two human beings to coordinate, we have to communicate. Communication is a very important part of a society. But in case of cells and other life forms, how do they communicate with each other. What kind of consciousness do they have?
With casual seep of tea and popcorn, the conversation was a perfect ice breaker for some innovative thinking. So the next phase of this conversation, was to dwell deep into the aspect of matter and their consciousness. Then Binit dai said that there is something that have always fascinated him about life. The embroic process of human development is an interesting process. Initially, we have only one cell and the same cell multiply to be an embryo. But how do each cell know which part of the body they want to be? What guides their faith is a question that is interesting? This suddenly reminded me about the paradox of quantum theory. The fact that electrons show wave behavior has baffled scientific community for ages. Out of this fact a very important question have emerged - "During electron diffraction, how does one electron know where to land and what guides the path of an electron." Now I know that this has been explained by the wave nature of particle but it is an interesting question which shows that somehow these matter can communicate with each other is some interesting fashion.

This is the point where everything started to go murky. The whole question boiled down to collective intelligence of life. The fact that earth in itself is a living organism could be hard to take it, but once you follow the path of collective intelligence of how cell emerges to be human and human to community to Earth and may be to universe, it looks elementary. Though I have no evidence to prove, its an interesting thought to have.

This theory has an immense implication in every field. With this thought lingering in my mind, I looked at my cup to see it empty. So there it was a cup full of innovative thinking :). I jumped to my feet and left the flat leaving Binit dai to his thought and mine to jot down to this blog post. Hope you enjoyed.