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    That townhall looked like I felt..., 2008-10-08 02:26:19 | Main | perverse slopes..., 2008-10-09 10:42:17

    I just started reading Peter Kropotkin's 1902 Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, and the first clear example he draws on turns out to be carrion beetles, of which, he notes:

    we have quite well-observed facts of mutual help amidst the burying beetles (Nicrophorus). They must have some decaying organic matter to lay their eggs in, an thus to provide their larvae with food; but that matter must not decay very rapidly. So they are wont to bury in the ground the corpses of all kinds of small animals which they occasionally find in their rambles. As a rule, they live an isolated life, but when one of them has discovered the corpse of a mouse or of a bird, which it hardly could manage to bury itself, it calls four, six, or ten other beetles to perform the operation with united efforts; if necessary, they transport the corpse to a suitable soft ground; and they bury it in a very considerate way, without quarrelling as to which of them will enjoy the privilege of laying its eggs in the buried corpse. And when Gleditsch attached a dead bird to a cross made out of two sticks, or suspended a toad to a stick planted in the soil, the little beetles would in the same friendly way combine their intelligences to overcome the artifice of Man.

    Well that's a neat trick, I thought to myself. I'll believe it when I see it.

    So I flipped on the intertubes, and there it was, pretty much just like he describes it:

    Sometimes I really love the artifice of Man.

    Coincidentally, the North American variant of these clever little grave diggers are nearly extinct, primarily due to the habitat destroying nature of Man's artifice.

:: posted by buermann @ 2008-10-08 20:51:21 CST | link


      Good old artifice! I was thinking, what with artifice and all, innate and directed understanding of mutual aid as a factor in our survival, why we might make social arrangements that improved on, slightly, or were at any rate more entertaining than those managed by dung beetles. But then I spent an afternoon trying to make the paranoid people at Belligerent Rectum, LLC understand that the directions to the job site were not a trap.

      I still think it would be worthwhile. Anarchy, I mean. But I do wonder how my brothers and sisters in the world of paranoid LLCs will make the transition. Perhaps they could be happy signing petitions against each other and checking out garden produce that excites prurient interest.

    posted by Zomg @ 2008-10-09 02:26:16 | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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