Don Tapscott in the talk above uses the starling murmuration
somewhat like a cover-design illustrator would, as a vivid metaphor and little else. In this TED talk
, Prof. Steven Strogatz, a leading expert on nonlinear dynamics offers a delightfully simple and elegant description of this phenomenon.
Some of the underlying principles he describes can perhaps be loosely bio-mimicked in attempts to design movements without explicit ringleaders, and synchrony without obvious choreography. The freethought movement is looking for assertions of presence that are neither as fleeting as flash-mobs nor as static as organizations prone to being banned, and displays of finesse that are neither as contingent upon individual stars as Cirque du Soleil nor staged by seeming automatons devoid of personality as a Soviet army parade. How then do the starlings manage to get it right? Strogatz demonstrates how behaviors as impressive as the murmuration can emerge from as few as four simple rules:
Quote:There are just three simple rules. First, all individuals are only aware of their nearest neighbors. Second, all individuals have a tendency to line up. And third, they are all attracted to each other but keep a small distance apart....There's a fourth rule. When a predator is coming, get out of the way.
As for the advantages of such swarming, Strogatz continues,
Quote:If you're in a swarm, the odds of being the unlucky one are reduced as compared to a small group. There are many eyes to spot danger. And you'll see in this example with the starlings, with the birds, when this peregrine hawk is about to attack them, that waves of panic can propagate , sending messages over great distances.
At the risk of belabouring the analogy and ignoring the fact that the simple model above may not adequately account for the caprices of human mobilization, some 'biomimicry' that loose, heterarchic groups such as many current freethought groups can benefit from, inspired by the behavior of such swarms, are:
1)Grow close-knit local communities, down to the scale of having your own 'freethought buddies' like lunch-buddies or study-buddies. The 'Think Global, Act Local' dictum is best served when local partnerships are fostered.
2)The globally shared principles animating each local community, a 'common minimum programme' of non-negotiables if you will, on which broad consensus prevails, need to be constantly reiterated and reinforced. It is when both global,universal principles are well internalized and local support is at hand, that undertaking small-scale campaigns for secular humanism in the family or workplace
3)Interactions between participants must be facilitated by networking of the sort that can help them get readily in touch, but respecting personal space and maintaining the voluntary nature of the exercise without any trace of coercion.
4)Finally, to avoid 'predatory' witch-hunts and censorship, it helps to keep identities small
and affiliations flexible enough to be reconfigured at will i.e. a page being taken down on a social network shouldn't mean that community members are entirely disconnected.
Also, besides 'waves of panic', these networks should support the propagation of 'waves of opportunity' of creative, collaborative activity. One condition that goes without saying is that such a dynamic is best expressed when the size of the group of participants is sufficiently large and so, Rule Zero perhaps is that 'Size Matters!'.