Ant bridge (1989)
One of Belgian complexity theorist Jean Deneubourg's 1989 ant nest, food, bridge experiments, which is similar to his earlier circa 1983 lazy ant experiment. [7]
In experiments, lazy ant study is a 1980s study which found that ants can be divided into two categories: one consisting of hard workers, the other of inactive or ‘lazy’ ants, and also, most interestingly, that if the “system” were shattered by separating the two groups from one another, each in turn developed its own subgroups of hard workers and idlers. In other words, a significant percentage of the ‘lazy’ ants suddenly turned into hard working ants. [1]

The published details of the study remain to be tracked down. Mention of the study was made in the 1984 foreword “Science and Change”, to Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine’s Order Out of Chaos, by American writer Alvin Toffler, who refers to it, without citation, as a “recent study”. [2]

Prigogine, in his 2003 “Surprises in a Half Century”, one of his last published works, attributes the experiment to Belgian complexity theorist Jean Deneubourg, who first started working with his colleagues on the collective behavior of ants in 1983, and who has published theories such as autocatalysis of ant behavior. Prigogine summarizing the experiment as follows: [6]

“Let me quote a final example. My colleague Deneubourg has performed the following experiment. You have two large boxes connected by a small channel. The ant’s nest is displaced from one box to the other. Ants are crossing the channel to recover the initial situation. Deneubourg has found a way of identifying the individual ants. The surprising result is that there are two groups of ants: active ants and lazy ants. The active ants cross the channel repeatedly. The lazy ants remain most of the time in the same box. Deneubourg selected out the lazy ants and made the same experiment. The astonishing result is that some of the lazy ants then begin to work. How human this sounds!”


Pareto principle
The findings of the lazy ant study corroborates well with the Pareto principle, which says that 80 percent of a system’s wealth is typically confined to 20 percent of the population.

The study can be used as a reference case in point in regards to those who would advocate equality of wealth distribution, such as discussed and critiqued in chemical engineering thermodynamics terms in American chemical engineer James Ferri’s student produced 2011 “Thermodynamics of Life: Wall Street Edition” video production. [3]
Capitalism vs Communism

The study can also be used as a case in point in regards to failed “equality of workers” political theories such as captured well in the 1965 epic drama Doctor Zhivago, which details the early 20th century implementation of Bolshevism (Communism) as the answer to the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II, an implementation based in part on the scientific theories of Karl Marx, among others. [4] At one point in the film, Dr. Zhivago, when he first meets his half-brother Yevgraf, a CHEKA policeman, he comments:

"Cutting out the tumors of injustice, that's a deep operation; someone must keep life alive while you do it."

Here we see the “Tsar autocracy” ruling theory, in the context of a growing Russian state, no longer being functionable, hence a growing “tumor of injustice”, and the Bolshevism “equal workers” ruling theory being an operation done in an attempt to remove the tumor. Some operations, however, are not successful. Hence, the ultimate fall of the communist regime, possibly because its theoretical structure was not based on fundamental studies, such as the lazy ant study, and principles, such as the Pareto principle.

Human molecules | Rise and fall
The study also brings to mind Austrian-born American political economist Joseph Schumpeter and his theory of the multi-generational rise and fall of human molecules through social classes, to the effect that one newly-partitioned group of “lazy ants”, considered as a social class, spontaneously divides into two classes: lazy (lower class) and hardworking (upper class), in one step or generation, one might say. [5]

Mechanical equivalent of heat
In 2008, American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims incorporated implications of the lazy ant study in regards to the thermodynamics of human molecules, work and occupational choice, as discussed in his JHT article “On the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat and Occupation.” [1]

The study also brings to mind American physicist Alfred Mayer’s 1884 floating magnetics experiment as well as British anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 1992 theory of the Dunbar number of maximal size of working group stability, in regards to the aspects of system structural and operational stability.

1. Thims, Libb. (2008). “On the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat and Occupation” (URL) (PDF), Journal of Human Thermodynamics, Vol. 3, Issue 1. pgs. 1-7, April.
2. Toffler, Alvin. (1984). “Foreword: Science and Change”, in: Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (pg. xxiv). Bantam Books.
3. Ferri, James K, Kaminski, Ashley (artwork), Wnek, Angela (script), Lavine, Isaac (script). (2011). “Thermodynamics of Life: Wall Street Edition”, YouTube, Oct. 26.
(b) Occupy Wall Street – Wikipedia.
4. Doctor Zhivago (film) – Wikipedia.
5. Schumpeter, Joseph. (1942). Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy ( §18: The Human Element, pgs. 200-218; human molecules, pg. 204). Routledge.
6. Prigogine, Ilya. (2003). “Surprises in a Half Century”, in: Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems: Questions on Working with the Unexpected (editors: Reubein R. McDaniel and Dean J. Driebe) (pgs. 13-16; experiment, pg. 16). Springer, 2005.
7. Goss, S. Aron, S. Deneubourg, J.L., and Pasteels, J.M. (1989). “Self-organized Shortcuts in the Argentine Ant”, Naturwissenschaften, 76:579-81.

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