Hi-Tech Society: Race to the Bottom? Will our hi-tech hand-held gadgets lead us to becoming a less sophisticated society? It appears to me that such gadgets seem to dramatically increase the interaction within the adolescent peer group. I suspect that this interaction tends to create a greater group-think than before. It appears to me that adolescence is reached younger and lasts longer than before; I would say that generally this age of adolescence period is from 12 to the mid-twenties. Scientists are studying and trying to develop an ability to emulate the actions of animal swarms. The birds and the bees can do it; why cannot humans emulate their behavior to our advantage? The collective behavior of animal swarms displays advantageous collective actions without the guidance of organized leadership. Ants, as individuals, are not clever—as a collective ants, bees, birds, caribou, etc. are amazingly clever—there seems to exist something one might label as swarm intelligence—simple creatures following simple rules equal swarm intelligence. Computer engineers attempt to emulate swarm intelligence to solve complex human problems. Compare animal swarm intelligence with group psychology. What is the nature of the ‘group mind’, i.e. the mental changes such individuals undergo as a result of becoming part of a group? A bond develops much like cells which constitute a living body—group mind is more of an unconscious than a conscious force—there are motives for action that elude conscious attention—distinctiveness and individuality become group behavior based upon unconscious motives—there develops a sentiment of invincible power, anonymous and irresponsible attitudes--repressions of unconscious forces under normal situations are ignored—conscience which results from social anxiety disappear. Contagion sets in—hypnotic order becomes prevalent—individuals sacrifice personal interest for the group interest. Suggestibility, of which contagion is a symptom, leads to the lose of conscious personality—the individual follows suggestions for actions totally contradictory to person conscience—hypnotic like fascination sets in—will and discernment vanishes—direction is taken from the leader in an hypnotic like manner—the conscious personality disappears. “Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—a creature acting by instinct. “He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.” There is a lowering of intellectual ability “pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children…A group is credulous and easily influenced”—the improbable seldom exists—they think in images—feelings are very simple and exaggerated—the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty—extremes are prevalent, antipathy becomes hate and suspicion becomes certainty. Force is king—force is respected and obeyed without question—kindness is weakness—tradition is triumphant—words have a magical power—supernatural powers are easily accepted—groups never thirst for truth, they demand illusions—the unreal receives precedence over the real—the group is an obedient herd—prestige is a source for domination, however it “is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure”. Perhaps human groups cannot develop in a similar manner as does swarm intelligence but the existence of such successful ways of handling complex problems indicates that some critical thinking regarding human group behavior is certainly in order. Questions for discussion: Do you think it is possible for humans to significantly improve performance within a group? Do you think that we can find a way to make group behavior more sophisticated? Sources for ideas and quotes in this OP come from Swarm Theory--an article in the July 2007 edition of “National Geographic” and from Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego by Freud.