OUT OF PHASE with Alex Woolf

The Sirens Song

Hive Mind: The Inspiration

Alex Woolf

When I was about eight my family went on holiday to the South of France, and in the garden of our rented villa, I witnessed a massed attack by a swarm of ants on a large green gecko. It was hideous, yet also fascinating to watch them gradually dismember the poor reptile while it was still alive, and carry pieces of it away to their nest. I remember trying to imagine what it must be like to be that gecko. What really impressed me was how the ants operated as a highly efficient and ruthless team. They seemed almost to possess a collective intelligence.

Small things on their own are weak, I realized, but when they act collectively and in large numbers, they can be seriously formidable. A swarm of ants operates in many ways like a single organism, but with the distinct…

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