Microcivilizations Topic

I think we may need to discuss the possibility of civilizations made by small creatures to decide if they are possible or not. I wonder if organisms sized like ants could really reach space stage.


well if were giving ants for example, some ants can farm aphids and mold


I see zero issue with the current conception of the game effecting microciv gameplay. If you wanted to talk about the cool ideas one could use or the implications or how you’d forge without melting yourself that’s cool but I don’t see any issues.

oooooh that’s a cool idea, I guess the main issue would be whether it’s possible for them to exit their planet with small rockets, or spaceships, I’m not an expert on rocket science but id imagine with ships being that small, they could only go so far up into the air

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I am going to argue against Space Ants.

While ants (and other small organisms) can definitely form communities that fit in our definition of society one way or another, there is definitely a roof to their capabilities.

In order for a species to be space faring, it must have reached a point in its development, where it understands the world around it and its laws well enough to apply them in such complex matter.

And this is the first problem with space ants. Limited capacity for learning and limited capacity for intelligence.

Now, I’d say I’m fairly smarter than an ant. And I don’t fancy
myself a rocket scientist. My understanding of physics is mediocre at best. Ask me how rockets work and you won’t get an answer. And even so, I’m still smarter than the smartest ant around. Ant Einstein, Ant Newton, Ant Hawking and Ant Haisenberg are all very smart by their species standards, no doubt. But they’re so small that their perception of the world is inadequate compared to ours. Their senses are duller. The Earth would be so infinitely big for them that it would be incomprehensible. They’re just too small. Their vision is blurry. They can perceive light, but not in the way we do. They rely much more on touch and pheromones, which are not really that helpful in this case.

And their size limits their brain capacity. They cannot be smarter than a human. And that’s it if there is even an evolutionary need for it. Why would an individual ant benefit from being smart? A stupid ant can find food and communicate with the Hivemind quite good even without understanding of theoretical physics or algebra and geometry.

Sure, the smart and can benefit from more complex battle strategies or something alone those lines, but you don’t fix what’s not broken. The Hive is military wise enough and the strategy of just swarming your opponent seems to work well enough.

Secondly, ants will have a real hard time developing complex technology, once again due to their small size. Metallurgy, one of the founding pillars of modern civilization, seems off limits to them. I can’t see a way in which even an entire colony is able to generate enough heat to melt metal. Or even transport it.

And, once again, what initiative is there to do it? How would it benefit the colony? How would the Hivemind discover use for it? Ants in armour is definately a fascinating thought, but does their biology allow them to manipulate the metal in shapes fitting for their bodies?

Ants are very impressive. They’re state builders in a way, not too unlike us. They have agriculture, I can definately see them domesticating other insects, have their own “cities”. But they have their limits. They do what they do well, but getting to space? That’s a bit beyond their pay grade.


Your measuring by individual intelligence, but there is such a thing as collective intelligence.


Even so, there is a limit to collective intelligence, heavily dependent on individual one.

If we look at our example with ants. Their greatest accomplishment is, by far, creating a “society”, where everyone is but a part of a biological machine. Everyone has a role, every ant contributes and every ant is ready to die. This society enables ants to do all kinds of things, such as building body-bridges, farm leaves, even make body-boats to cross bodies of water. But this is all well within their capabilities - they can perceive light, they can feel touch and they have smell. This means they can sense obstacles, potential threats and food. Then the ant society acts accordingly.

But how the ant society acts is, in my opinion, not that different from how an individual ant would act. A group of ants will avoid an obstacle. An individual ant will do the same. A single ant will collect and eat food. The ant society will do the same.

The difference is just the scale. The ant society is bigger, can cover more ground, can protect its members better. But everything the ant society does is possible, because it is within the limit of its individual members.

The collective intelligence of the Hive is still within the limits of what the ants can perceive. Sure, the hive can, for example, map its surrounding area with pheromones. But that’s because its individual cogs can do it. It is merely the sum of all parts. And if not a single ant can deal with the issues, imposed by its unfortunately small size, then the Hive will not fare much better.


The thing is that the colony CAN do more than 1 ant can do, it can overcome multiple obstacles simultaneously and with greater speed, and, well, you yourself are a collective intelligence, you are made up of every cell in your body, an, I believe I can say this with confidence, you can do more than what a single cell in your body can do. Cells, like ants, specialize to meet certain needs, and overcome obstacles. And I’ll finish this post later.

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I think that I may have kickstarted new controversial civ discussion

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I accidentally started a plant gameplay debat (not plant civ just gameplay) so it’s all good :smiling_face_with_tear:

Are ants the peak of what a collective intelligence is like? I mean for most of earth’s history the most intelligent thing animals could do was holding a stick so by that logic, animals weren’t capable of anything greater than that or ever would be.

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When it comes to the micro-world, there are other candidates, such as bees and termites. But I believe ants are a good outlier for collective intelligence in small creatures.

Now, whether they’re the theoretical peak or not is a different question. Most likely not. But that’s up to our imagination.


I don’t believe this to be a fair comparison. The connection between the cells in our body is much more intimate than anything else present in different animal societies.

For example, let’s take a look at our perception of colours. Clearly our cells can transmit information on such a level that our brain is able to process it and actually decypher what we are looking at. (Or, well, make up what we’re seeing. Truth to be told, I have no idea which of both)

But if I were to try and express the same information to you, it wouldn’t work. I cannot describe you a colour. No matter how hard I try. Red is red, cannot get more descriptive than that. I can give you an example of something red, but it is not quite the same. Obviously that sets limits to both of us as individuals and therefore there is a limit to our collective intelligence (since neither of us can describe a colour, even if we join forces, we will not reach an useful result).

Collective intelligence is not magic, it is very, very dependent on what the individual cogs can perceive. The human body is certainly a great example of what can be achieved, I do not disagree. But do we have an example of something similar with different individual beings, sharing information on such a level? I don’t think there is such a connection, even in a Hivemind.

Alongside that, how do you envision our Space Ants overcoming the limits imposed by their size (dull senses, limiting their understanding of the world)? How will they improve their environmental awareness, while still staying micro animals? And how will they develop tools and eventually metallurgy?

And if the ants aren’t effective for this, then what body plan should our micro astronauts adopt for this task?

The thing is, even the cells in our body can’t describe a color to our brain, all they can do is send it a different signal, in a different part of the brain, and leave it up to the brain to interpret.

And I believe it’s not fair to dismiss an example of collective intelligence as invalid because the organisms are too small, but if you want it that way, so be it,

What about city’s, or governments, or even companies, they are large entities entirely made of living beings with their own intelligence, beliefs, and thoughts, governments and companies have goals and move and grow, and can do more things at once than a single man, they can feel their surroundings and snuff out competition, those are my examples of collective intelligence, and ant colonies exhibit most of these properties, so don’t try and say that only an intelligent species can form collective intelligence, even bacteria do it.

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Hiveminds don’t exist


Technically the brain is a hive mind when you really think about it

I feel like we are shooting at different things here.

I am not denying the existence of collective intelligence. I am stating that, while it greatly enhances the capablities of a species overall, it is not magic. Simple as that. I believe that ants (or any micro animal, depending on how loose we use the definition) have limits individually, which then sets limits on what they can achieve even collectively. Does that mean that they cannot do anything together? No, I gave examples of things ants can and regularly do with great efficiency. But that doesn’t mean that they can develop an industrial society, let alone space travel. That’s one big jump and I don’t see a way. Which is why I asked what is the way you see.

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Seeing the title, I thought this would be the ultimate dumb civilization post. That is, single-celled civilizations lol

ants are my third favorite animal because they may be stupid alone but if you get enough together they can be as smart or smarter than a human

It’s the opposite for humans. The more of us there are the dumber we act lol

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Yeah, we sort’ve stop thinking for ourselves and just do as the others do, which is pretty typical for mammals.