Chapter 7

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Insects

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1

Progress

1. The UCC is quite excited. Things are going well. It has recently been helping a number of advanced organisms develop sophisticated sensory capabilities, allowing them to monitor changing circumstances in their surrounding environment. The data is then transferred to a compacted mass of highly specialised cells that process the information and use it to calculate, plan, and implement the most appropriate response.  

2. The system is improving the efficient application of the Primary Instincts, thereby greatly increasing the organism’s ability to survive. Although it cannot yet be classified as cognitive thought, it is an unquestionable form of logical consideration and a significant step towards sentient behaviour.

3. Instead of relying entirely on an impulsive, instinctive, and largely random reaction, which often inadvertently places the organism in greater danger, the new process assesses where a perceived threat is coming from and takes evasive action. It may be simple and clumsy, but it gives the organism a greater chance of survival, and a distinct advantage over its competitors.  

2

The Termite Concept

1. The system is having widespread success, but is proving especially and quite uniquely effective in the UCC’s latest discovery: A highly sociable variety of insect that has evolved in a very special way.

2. In most ways the insects in question are quite ordinary. Similar looking creatures can be found anywhere but none have the particular capability that makes this species so very unique. 

3. Insects can be quite large and surprisingly robust, but these are neither of those things; they are relatively small, and rather fragile. Individually, they are entirely insignificant, helpless, and inept, but as a colony their abilities and apparent intelligence are quite outstanding, and like nothing the UCC has previously encountered. 

4. Their nests are unusually constructed. They have developed a technique of mixing soil, or sand, or whatever other resource is convenient, with their own saliva, and forming it into a flexible building material. 

5. Then, through a truly mystifying process, the little creatures use that material to construct substantial structures in which they house their population, protecting them from the elements and potential predators.

6. The obvious assumption would be that the process is entirely random; that one insect drops a blob of building material and the next one drops another on top of it, and this continues until they have eventually created a structure.

7. It is also a foolish assumption. The chances of ending up with anything more than a pile of chewed soil are pretty slim, and there are nests all over the place, all built to a similar size, design, and standard. 

3

Intent and Purpose

1. The UCC is perplexed, it must discover how such a sophisticated and organised process is being accomplished by such simple creatures. Yes, the buildings are poorly formed, and yes, they often fail, but they are not random. They are being built with methodical intent and purpose. Somehow, a degree of intelligence is being employed that exceeds that of any particular individual. 

2. Socially, each colony revolves around its queen; she is important. Her safety and wellbeing are the focus of the entire population. She is the mother of every individual in the colony because she lays all the eggs. Consequently, she is revered, pampered, and protected; but she doesn’t know how to build a nest. 

3. The queen gives no instructions; and neither do any of the workers, of which there are numerous kinds; all of them blind and deaf. 

4. So how do thousands of tiny blind, deaf, and relatively dumb insects know what to do? Not one of them possesses sufficient brain capacity to store even a low-resolution image of what they are building, let alone a plan of the entire construction process? 

5. Their actions and behaviour are instinctively pre-programmed responses. They encounter a circumstance and react in a predetermined way. There is very little that can be considered subjective thought. Yet something about them is highly sentient. They are thinking. Not as a collection of individuals, but as individuals within a collective.

4

Shared Sentience

1. It should have made sense earlier, but it hadn’t been what the UCC was expecting or looking for. 

2. The sentience of the insect species is shared. In many ways, it is like the UCC’s own. It is not resident in one place, and not easily located or identified. No individual insect has the knowledge, skill, or incentive to build a colony on its own. Nevertheless, as a collective, they do, and without any means of managerial leadership. 

3. The necessary skillset must build up generation upon generation; becoming written into the very fabric of what the insects are; coded into the very core of their DNA. Not one of the tiny brains can hold it all, but thousands of combined tiny brains can; each one holding a snippet of a knowledge that is shared in a mutual objective, communicated via a subtle, almost undetectable telepathic network. The UCC names it Quantum Interconnection, QI.

5

QI

1. The UCC is fascinated by the insects’ ability to communicate information on a quantum level, and studies into it further. What it discovers is simple and requires no direct conscious communication. There is no element of conversation, no exchange of specific data, just a subtle bidirectional exchange of knowledge; a gentle, symbiotic understanding. It is pure QI.

2. The system allows individuals to benefit from a far greater wisdom, spread across the collective; knowledge that is available to all without being isolated within, or dependent upon, the mind of one specific individual. 

3. It is an outstanding and highly efficient system. One in which the UCC can see nothing but potential. Maybe this is what it has been waiting for. 

6

Format Issues 

1. There is no time to waste. The UCC immediately begins working with the tiny creatures and immediately encounters its first concern: the exoskeletal form of the creatures will severely limit the size they can grow to, which in turn will limit the size of their brain, therefore their capacity for increased processing power… intelligence. 

2. The data storage of course, won’t be a problem, because the Quantum Interconnection will provide extended capacity as a colony grows; but where the QI is digital, the processing system within each individual is an analogue organic neural network, and as such, requires physical accommodation.

7

Assisted Learning

1. Slowly, as the generations pass, the UCC helps the insects learn; and as they do, the UCC ensures the additional information is recorded within the DNA and passed down through the generations.

2. The nests that were once simple domes, have become so much more. They are magnificent cities; veritable fortresses; complex buildings standing several metres high. Each one contains hundreds of independent chambers, connecting tunnels, and complex ventilation systems. They have sophisticated irrigation, and climate control that ensures the interior temperature, humidity, oxygen, and CO2 levels are maintained within a 10 to 15% margin, regardless of any fluctuating external conditions. 

3. The queen has her own chamber with dedicated helpers. There are gardens, where specialised foods are grown; nurseries, where the eggs are maintained in incredibly stable conditions; dedicated food stores, building maintenance, and protective security. Collectively, the insects are building, managing, and maintaining the whole colony, yet individually, not one of them can conceptualise any part of the process or even visualise the colony in its entirety. 

4. A single colony can now contain over a million individual creatures, with each one devoted to the welfare of the hive. While working independently on whatever contributory task is inherently dominant in its DNA, each one is part of the collective, simultaneously sharing a symbiotic interdependency with every other colony member. Each individual actively contributes towards, and benefits from, a collective intelligence that is far greater than the sum of its parts. 

8

Potential for Integration

1. When a colony grows too big, a group will amass and leave to begin a new colony of their own. The process by which that new colony is formed will follow the same pattern. The building will start off simply, then grow in sophistication and complexity as the numbers, therefore the collective intelligence, increases. 

2. The colonies are inspirational; like a miniature version of the UCC. Tiny pockets of collective consciousness that are presenting the UCC with a hint of how it might progress in its quest to integrate with the physical realm. 

9

Something Special 

1. The UCC has helped create something special; a collectively intelligent entity that is integral to the physical realm but not dependent on any one individual. The ability places them a step in front of the insular behaviour of other advanced creatures. Members of the colony can live and die without significantly affecting the collective. It gives the colony great strength; a unique level of invulnerability that even the most closely-knit group of insular individuals can’t match; and it gets stronger and wiser as it grows. 

2. It is so much more than just a nest. It is a community, a family, a single large organism made of many smaller organisms. It is a living example of what the UCC itself would like to create and become part of. 

3. The insect colony has a logical harmony to how it operates. It is a non-competitive union of individuals that are physically independent but intellectually integrated; dedicated to maintaining the hive and its inhabitants. Nothing else matters.  

4. The insects have confirmed and demonstrated several things to the UCC: The advantages of independent behaviour, the value of a group with shared objectives, the potential of an intelligent sentient brain, and the ultimate strength, security, and invulnerability gained from being part of a collective. 

 5. The only concern the UCC can envisage might be that, as the intelligence of a collective species increases, there is a compromise: the level of individuality loses out to the collective. Getting the balance right will be imperative; but the social collective template seems to hold the greatest potential. 

6. As for the species themselves, the UCC will always favour and protect the Termite format. They have earned that privilege by demonstrating the potential of a collective intelligence; but they will never become the UCC’s chosen species; they are unsuitable in too many ways. Even though they have provided a developmental template the UCC will replicate many times, on countless planets scattered throughout the universe, they will never escape their inadequacies. Even with the intervention of the UCC, the Nature of Phi will always settle their evolutionary progress too soon. Regardless of how far into the future they survive as a species, it is unlikely they will evolve much further, and it is not enough.  

7. Nevertheless, their contribution means the UCC now has an objective: developing an advanced collective that benefits from a form of Ultra-Sentience. It is now simply a case of finding precisely the right species in precisely the right environment. 

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