Search
  • Shreyas Prakash

Turn on the hive switch

In 2005, a Panther named Dragan Mikic escaped from a French prison when a group of men—presumably fellow Panthers—used ladders, rifles, and wire cutters to break into the prison and free him. As one prosecutor said, “These guys don’t care about being put in jail. They know they are going to escape.” As another observer put it, “They think with one brain.” — The Culture Code, Daniel Boyle

"They think with one brain".


Is it even possible for such a phenomenon to happen?


Let's investigate.


What's a hive mind?


Jonathan Haidt defines the hive switch as “an adaptation for making groups more cohesive, and therefore more successful in competition.” A hive switch is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals realize they have become part of and fused within a collective; they transcend self-interest and invest in something larger than themselves.


Psychologists like Haidt have studied phenomena like “muscular bonding”—how armies, for example, forge bonds by physically moving together in time. When humans engage in synchronous or rhythmic movements, their hierarchies, borders and rigid delineations temporarily dissolve.


Group rituals such as flash mob dances, festivals and carnivals incite "collective effervescence" —


a feeling of electricity and elation that can make people less selfish, more caring and increasingly focused on communal fusion rather than individuality. When these experiences of “interlocking” flip on the hive switch, we momentarily forget ourselves, trust others and coalesce.

This definition of collective effervescence reminds me of my own hive-mind moments —


  • Back in high school, all of us used to assemble at the school ground and sync our foot movements to that of the Physical Training Instructor — left, right, left, check. left, right, left, check.

  • Right now, during the boxing workouts, the synchronous punching of the bag. The instructor gives instructions to punch and jab, and we hit the boxing bags at the same time. It gives me a feeling of togetherness which cannot be explicitly described in any other way.

  • Ecstatic dances performed in which dancers, sometimes without the need to follow specific steps, abandon themselves to the rhythm and move freely as the music takes them to a trance — a feeling of ecstasy. I have attended one such festival at Muthappan temple, Kannur, Kerala where I was seeing the gypsy avatar of Lord Siva (Muthappan) perform such an ecstatic dance.



90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee


Individuals compete with individuals who are competing. This is a natural trait of us, as primates. We have excelled in this level of competition.


However, as we could see some instances from the hive-mind, we are also shaped as groups competing with other groups. As Charles Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and co-operative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists.


Darwinian idea of group selection fell out of place in the 1960s, and Jonathan Haidt has tried to resurface this idea again with various other contexts and backdrops. Haidt mentions that there have been various circumstances in which we act to contribute towards the larger group, and less towards our individual selves.


Altruism.

Heroism.

War.

Genocide.


These are various instances where the hive-mind trumps the individual self. In this point of view, religion is nothing but an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together. It helps communities to come together with a shared morality.

Natural selection is working both at an individual level, AND the group level too.

In that sense, we are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. The hive-mind and the self-mind are both a part of us.





On that note, what were those instances in which your own hive-mind was activated?
0 views

Recent Posts

See All

Could the future business model of government be a subscription model? Based on the ideas of Balaji S from his recent podcast with Tim Ferris We are seeing everything becoming a subscription model rig

Join 100+ readers for a fresher perspective on the design of products, productivity systems and tools for thought. No spam. No ads. Only thoughts.