The God Amidst The Swarm

Have you ever observed an ant colony, and noticed that there appears to be a greater intelligence guiding the ants’ collective behaviour?

Each individual ant is relatively clueless about what it’s doing, but it serves a role in something greater than itself. (“They’re stupid alone, but smart together!”)

This “intelligence” doesn’t exist in any centralized location, just as the internet doesn’t belong to anybody . It’s an emergent intelligence. It’s a swarm intelligence.

There is no centralized “Hive Mind”- each additional ant adds to the collective intelligence of the colony. The ants don’t have a collective brain- they are the collective brain.)

This applies to us, too. Human society doesn’t have a centralized collective brain- we are a collective brain. And emergent from the larger system of nature is a perceptible wisdom that is greater than we can fathom.

This wisdom doesn’t ask to be worshiped. I’m not sure if it is conscious- I think it most probably is, but we won’t be able to be aware of it. So it doesn’t really matter to us, just as our skin cells don’t really care about our feelings. (But should it? Will contemplating the broader consciousness of humanity compel us to make better decisions?)

(Can the vast beast of humanity feel pain, or sorrow, or regret? I think it can, but it’s still in its developmental stages. If all of humanity were a single great person, she’s still a child.)

We are the individual neurons in this great brain. Together we form synapses, and transmit signals. New neurons keep forming, old neurons keep dying, the relationships between them account for more than we understand. Revolutions happen when society literally changes its mind.

(How important are individual neurons in these paradigm shifts? Very, and not at all. How important is an individual computer in a network on the internet? How important is a word in a language? The broader complex system, or swarm, must always be able to adapt to the loss or mutation of any individual element. Yet it is ultimately made up entirely of a collective of disparate individual elements.)

I believe that there is a greater wisdom than we can comprehend. But this wisdom isn’t “out there”, it doesn’t belong to a deity or any great supernatural power. This wisdom is systemic- it emerges from all of us. It’s within us. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that it’s between us, because it’s neither within me nor within you- it emerges from our mutual co-existence.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20

Now- if we think of God as something between us, then it is clear that divisive, bigoted behaviour quite literally hurts God. I don’t mean to say that God has feelings, or any sort of nervous system. (An interesting thought to pursue.) I mean to say that God is diminished whenever you behave without compassion or grace. Every human being who is cut off from another, by chance or by choice, is a wasted opportunity to cultivate God.

If you believe in God, honour and serve him by treating others with dignity, respect and compassion. If you don’t like the idea of God (I personally find her to be quite tedious and elegant as a concept sometimes- it really depends on the context, doesn’t it?) then disregard her, and honour and serve humanity.

A middle way might be to replace the term with Love. Love is diminished when you behave without compassion or grace. (God is Love. Works for me.)

C’mon, I’m sure that’s something we can agree on! What does the swarm think of this? 😛


Ant colonies are intelligent. This intelligence is emergent.

Human societies are intelligent. This intelligence is emergent.

If we extend this inductively, it makes sense to believe that there is an emergent wisdom from the Universe at large. You might call it God.

This wisdom isn’t “out there”, it’s within us.

This idea has some interesting philosophical implications.