Why would I write about bees?
Everyone knows about the colorful flying insects that are kind of cute, look like they escaped from Sing Sing and sometimes annoy you. Wow they even have fur.
Like bears do!
Bears on the other hand will kill you swiftly once you get near them. Even if you say: “dude I got lost and I respect you man for looking different and being twice my size. Dude, I have some yummy berries.” That is why I stick to cuddly teddy bears and stay away from real bears. Polar bears have many cubs so they can eat some of them to survive and be a good mom to the other ones.
It is just game theory, basic math with no ethics. If the mom was ethical and if she did not eat some cubs they would all die. And that would be it for polar bears. This choice is terrible to me and it breaks my heart. No really. This wouldn’t happen if they had fruits and grass to eat. But they are stuck in the cold frozen north.
Do not hug a real polar bear. Or prove me I am wrong. I challenge anyone to post a selfie hugging a polar bear.
I have nothing against polar bears by the way.
I think humans should just leave polar bears alone.
But anyway let’s get back to bees not bears.
Bees are fascinating in many ways.
Let me list a few.
Bees run our Planet.
They are essential to the well-being of our eco-system. They might be a slight nuisance buzzing around us and sometimes stinging you if you threaten them. But imagine the earth without bees: no flowers, no crops, no crops to feed cattle, no honey, no natural anti-biotics, etc.
The iconic Canadian author Douglas Coupland, who wrote Generation X, has written a book related to the bee’s extinction titled Generation A.
Some researchers have claimed that “bees are the most important species on earth.”
Sadly, its population is declining rapidly. So much so, that the US has now recently declared it as an endangered species. There is an easy solution: just plant indigenous plants without using pesticides around your surroundings. It is a win-win situation: you will be surrounded by beautiful flowers and you are saving the planet. Wow I almost sounded like a hippie there.
Instead of Green think Rainbow.
The following TED talk is very interesting on this subject.
I love the bumble bee role of shaking tomato plants at the frequency of C to make sure we can enjoy ketchup on our fries.
All right so let’s keep them bees alive. Wasps who are their bad ass cousins give bees a bad rep by the way.
But the geek in me is also interested in their complex behavior.
Bees can teach us Cool Science.
Bees like other insects are numerous (so far!) As a kid I was told in class that if you put all mammals on one side of a scale and all insects on the other side, the insects would tip it big time. That fascinated me. Wow how many ants would it take to match the weight of an elephant? Actually you can work out the math and it takes roughly 1,000,000,000 ants to match the weight of some average elephant. Wow that is one tenth of the US debt.
I mention this because the large number of insects explains their emergent behaviors. Kind of like how the quadrillions of synapses “explain” that human brains can “think.”
I will illustrate this with a very simple example: diffusion. There are many ways to illustrate this in daily life. Just drop a red blob of liquid in a glass of water. It will eventually turn into some sort of a pinkish liquid. That is diffusion. Basically something localized gets turned into a global average. But really what is happening is that a gazillion of molecules are interacting at a small scale through random “collisions” and eventually create a uniform solution at a large scale.
Many random events (when the number is large enough) create emergent large scale structures.
This is somewhat paradoxical and counter-intuitive: the more events the less random the outcome is. On the other hand decrease the number of events and things get more erratic.
Pink has emerged from a localized red blob and water through gazillion random interactions but eventually everything settles down to pink.
This is not my idea of course but comes from Schrodinger’s epic book: What is life?
Read it if you get a chance. It is top of the shelf material.
Diffusion results in a rest state. That is sort of a static view of what is happening and it is pretty well understood through what is called “linear partial differential equations.” That is baby bottle material for anyone who passed Calculus in high-school.
Much more interesting are complex local systems that exhibit emergent behavior. This is when the baby bottles we were fed in Calculus classes are of little use anymore. We need new paradigms.
Bees might help.
On the other hand, bees found the best packing of space with polygons. It naturally progresses through locally optimizing the amount of food and space they want to share. And because there are a lot of bees and they co-operate you get a solution to Kepler’s famous problem of how to best pack space with spheres. It didn’t take one genius to solve it but a lot of bees cooperating way before this problem was settled by mathematicians.
Heh, Heh, yes I know the hive is man-made in this case. But humans only figured it out when bees figured it out through emergence.
Nature can do it without bees as well. Check out the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and Rayleigh Bénard convection cells when boiling water.
The dynamics of bees before recent human intervention evolved over many years into a self-regulating system involving collective adaptation to external and internal factors. Many people have researched it, the same goes for ant dynamics as well.
Look it up for inspiration.
Other researchers have already caught on: in finance and artificial intelligence. For example,
It might also inspire optimization approaches. There is even an algorithm named after bees:
That is all cool. It definitely whets my appetite for knowledge inspired by the emergence created by the dynamics of bees.
But what can bees teach you about ethics?
Bees can teach us to be Better Humans.
« Jouis et fais jouir, sans faire de mal ni à toi, ni à personne, voilà je crois, toute la morale. »
Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1740-1794).
To translate: the bees teach us that they are just doing their thing. Leave them alone and if not they will sting you. They will not kill you like bears but remind you to leave them alone.
“We are having fun and keeping you alive! So back off and mind your own business and I won’t sting you.”
Ok so what is the lesson to human/human interaction from bees?
Let people be. If you have to interact with people give them honey and anti-biotics. If they abuse you give them three chances. Yes some people have bad days. After a while of abuse sting them by ignoring them.
That is the wisdom of bees.
I like bees and try not to harm them.
After reading this would you swat a bee?