So efficient and purposeful is a colony of ants that much has been written, particularly by science fiction authors, about the possibility of hive intelligence as the organizing principle in some extraterrestrial societies. This idea was taken up by H. G. Wells in his The First Men in the Moon (1901) and has been explored many times since.
In general, the prospect of a hivelike human community has been regarded as repugnant and the ultimate nightmare that might result from totalitarianism. Cold War era films such as Invaders From Mars (1953) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) drew a close parallel between the alien hive and the suppression of individualism under communist regimes. In his novel The Cosmic Rape (1958), Theodore Sturgeon pits humanity against "The Medusa," a galaxy-wide hive-mind empire that subsumes the conciousnesses of its intelligent conquests. This negative portrayal has continued with the Borg in Star Trek and their attempts to assimilate other sentient species into the "collective", although curiously it is the Federation – a cosmic extension of the United States – which tends, in the end, to do most of the absorption of other cultures. A different perspective on the loss of individuality and emergence of a group-mind is offered by writers such as Olaf Stapledon, in Star Maker, and Arthur C. Clarke, in Childhood's End, who foresee mankind's eventual melding with some form of broader, extraterrestrial consciousness as a triumph of transcendent evolution.
[Thanks to Kevin Ryan for additional information]
Archived newsSuper ant colonies, myxobacteria, and Borg collectives (Apr 17, 2002)
Related categories ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF LIFE
EXTRATERRESTRIAL AND NON-HUMAN INTELLIGENCE
SCIENCE OF STAR TREK
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