Synergy and Superorganisms

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We call this “synergy”. The term is used extensively in high pitched events such as motivational seminars. But to describe a superorganism?? Aw come on, Bill !!

I’m going to take it even further by stating that synergy is a unifying process that is a common thread in, for example, anthills, bird flocks, and our human bodies.

As it turns out, anthills, bird flocks, and human bodies are all superorganisms. Organisms consisting of many other organisms. They are all collections of parts that act to create a whole. And, the parts operate using local information from their nearest neighbors. These parts have no idea that they are part of a superorganism. To make it even more intriguing the parts, ants, birds, and cells, themselves are superorganisms.

Ants do their tasks by sensing and depositing pheromone trails. Birds in a flock sense the location, speed, and direction of their nearest neighbors.  Our body cells respond to other immediately adjacent cells.

Ants, birds, and body cells have no concept of the whole. But, all local behavior acts in unity effectively joining together to produce this highly unpredictable anthill, flock, or body. The result is far greater than the sum of the parts.

What we are talking about is not rocket science. It is simple interactions at a local level resulting in a whole that cannot be predicted by mathematics. And it is hierarchal. Superorganisms acting within superorganisms.  All of this can only be described using organizational principles.

Synergy is the result of these organizing principles. If we are inclined to look for some unifying concept to describe all of Nature, try synergy.  And by studying synergy, we begin to realize that everything in Nature is interconnected.

My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.

7 Responses to “Synergy and Superorganisms”

  1. I think you’ve got it nailed, Bill!

  2. Daniel Templeton says:

    Very instructive, Bill. Thanks!

  3. Andy Reilly says:

    Thanks for the very interesting blog.

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