The Slime Mould Collective

An international network of/for intelligent organisms

Discoveries of application within our own social interaction

Wether acting as a coach, manager or researcher, human interaction often impedes forward progress. What human processes might be improved to intelligently interact with one another, as modeled by the slime mold?

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Thanks for this question! I have two processes in mind based on my personal experiences. One involves age-old human ability, and the other is based on technology. 

1. Empathy

Human beings are different from slime mold is that each person has a diversity of unique needs, motivations, and perspectives. Often, these unique perspectives and needs are unmet and unacknowledged in human interaction. When this happens, we create stories of alienation - stories that say that we are different from one another. Empathy allows us to understand people's unique perspectives in a deep and authentic way. It is a foundation for people to turn their stories of alienation to one of connection. I define empathy as the ability to feel the full range of experiences of another person.  I believe that this level of connection is necessary for more intelligent human interaction, based on a deeper understanding of each other's perspectives. 

For example, I've been practicing empathic listening with a group of people. Empathic listening is the act of completely reflecting what the other person is saying, to make sure that I am hearing them to the fullest extent. After practicing this for a few months, I began to notice so many nuances in human communication that goes unnoticed. So many voices are lost when everyone is thinking about what they want to be heard about, instead of truly listening to what the other person is currently saying. 

2. Community Informatics 

In an article (which I also found through slimoco!) about what we can learn about complex emergent organization from slime molds, one of the characteristics stated was that "information" flows freely throughout the system. I think an obvious analogy to human systems is the current digital culture in which we live in, where the flow of information is becoming more and more accessible. Inventions such as the internet transformed both the amount of information that is available and the range of options that we have to communicate this information to each other. 

However, there is a lot of room for improvement. I believe that there are still huge impediments to access to information, such as geographic location, access to technology, and socioeconomic background. This creates an uneven distribution of information in society in general. Community informatics is one solution I've seen to improve this human process. Community informatics is a field of information technology that deals with social and cultural development from the perspective of communities. The focus here is on how to make information more accessible with the purpose of cultural and social enrichment in communities.

An example is LocalWiki, which is an open-source platform for people to collaboratively create knowledge about the places in which they live. The process for information sharing is completely open to everyone, and the source of information is centered on the actual community members who inhabit a particular location. 

Intelligent connection (empathy) truly has a significant impact on a plethora of human endeavors. The absence of empathy prevents humans existing together within the same "walls" of a collective "organism", let alone participating in its' growth processes.

The action of growth and maximizing resources dominates the molds' existence.

With almost an innate greed for resources as humans, how might two humans (let alone millions) intelligently connect/demonstrate empathy during a collective human endeavor, surrounding resources which humans want only for themselves? Might history (or the present) provide supplemental examples of failures or successes?

Maybe you are both barking up the wrong tree. You are both adding anthropomorphic interpretations on a form of collective behavior we know nothing about. Maybe cruelty, war, and absence of empathy is what makes our behavior similar to that of the molds. Who knows what goes on in their collective mind. 

You're right, empathy is an anthropomorphic interpretation of the collective behavior of the slime mould. I didn't bring up empathy as an interpretation of the internal workings of the collective mind of the slime mould. Instead, I was looking at the behavior of the mould as a model & inspiration for producing similar intelligent collective behavior in humans. That's how I interpreted the original question. I was using the slime mould as a metaphor. Empathy was one idea for how a similar collective behavior can be encouraged in the human context. 

Maybe cruelty, war, and absence of empathy is another source for intelligent collective behavior in humans.   

Actually we don´t know what relationships exist between the individual cells, or groups of cells. Maybe they are as ¨human¨ , or "inhuman", as we are. It is fun musing over the subject. 

It's an intriguing question, and the reason I joined the community here. I work in distribution and supply chain, so the "traveling salesman" is a puzzle I grapple with often. I think the way we structure our organizations and workspaces could be informed by slime mold behavior if placed in an appropriate model.

But I also think that slime mold could help design processes at the individual level that would create more ergonomic and efficient work experiences for people in many fields. I see a few obvious applications in my own field and perhaps in manufacturing, but if we can develop a particular modeling technique, it could be applicable almost universally.

Jeff, your second point really resonates with me. For years I've been striving to build an effective decentralized team in my organization, and that may just have cracked the code. If I want people to behave and succeed in slime mold fashion, they need to have the same dynamic architecture. That's brilliant. Thank you.
We identify with our bodies but our thoughts are more powerful. Today with so much interaction over machines minus body language, we are more and more obviously reliant on just our words which is getting closer and closer to just our thoughts. If we started paying more attention to choosing our thoughts toward each other in connection with our goals, we could set up systems in which we use shared specific thoughts to attain specific goals. We could use our thoughts the same way slime mold uses it's pulsating rhythm or whatever to get where it wants to go.
The pulsating rhythm of the slime mold exhibits the intelligence of the mold. Without this movement, communication would not occur. The need for food keeps the mold motivated. This goal keeps the mold talking, so to speak.

An organization of humans may have goals, but without hunger! communication and coordination will not occur.

Or it may, but it will not be cohesive and complete. It will lack all of the members of the organization pulsating with input, feedback and organization of action.

The degree a leader effectively passes on a sense of urgency (hunger) by deadlines, inspiration, etc. the degree we see an organization succeed.

Even more so, the degree an organization works together without centralized command (passing information, collecting resources and staying out of the way of progress) the degree at which the organization will succeed towards its goals.

Here are some organizations both human and nonhuman that I see accomplish this degree of success:
An ant colony; The builders at the Tower of Babel in religious writings; Google;
The expansion of white settlers in North America;

All of these worked different goals but all utilized the same resource: hunger!

Hi, just thought I'd post this link to a fascinating article I came across quite a while ago about the 'bottom up' business model based on the organisational environment of slime moulds - Lessons from Slime Mold: How to Survive and Thrive in Ever-Changing Organizational Environments by Kate Rutter

This forum seemed like the most relevant place to post it! Thought it was a brilliant eye-opener into a particular business/organisational model, an alternative to how most business models seem to operate these days (!), and unanthropomorphic in its treatment of slime mould behaviour (so, less room for criticism on that front!). Haven't time to reread it again but having seen The Creeping Garden 2 nights' ago, was reminded of the article..

Thanks for posting this article, on quick view it looks really interesting and haven't come across it before.

I spoke at a FT business conference last week using the slime mould as an analogous model, which prompted some really stimulating discussion on hierarchy, communication and cooperation within organisational structures. 

Hi Heather, yes it was you talking after the film about this FT event and the slime mould organisational model which reminded me of the above article I'd read, and I was pleased to discover it still lurking in my Myxo hotmail folder. 

Despite being the 'novelty invitee', it sounds like you gave them real serious food for thought!  

Hilary Koob-sassen videos on Vimeo , and using physaria as metaphor since 2004...


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