I've been working with the integral model since the mid-90ies, so I ended up doing an analysis for my doctoral work of an online community, using Ken Wilber's very early rendition of the integral model that he wrote about in 'Sex, Ecology and Spirituality'. And he hadn't written any of the more simple texts at that point in time, so I worked my way through that and actually parsed the conversation of a seven-month online community that Margaret Wheatly had created.
And out of that, I became really, intimately connected with: how do you relate thought chunks that flow through us as we make meaning? This would have been now called memetics, but we didn't have that word then. So as a result of doing that kind of work and the result of bringing integral together into thinking of wholes, I learned from Spiral Dynamics, and one of the authors of the book, Dr. Don Beck, the story of the beehive, which he actually got from Howard Bloom. I can't but always admire the fact that Howard 'Bloom' could talk about 'the bees'. And he tells first the story, as far as I know, where it was written in 'The Global Brain'.
So the story that he tells about the bees is that... Howard Bloom actually had a career shift in the middle of his life. He was an anatomologist, he was a biologist originally. And then he went into the music world and became an impresario of one of the 60-ies rock-'n-roll bands. And he was watching people instead of insects and realized there wasn't a lot of difference.
In fact, he could see the same patterns in people as he was seeing, and particularly he pointed at the beehive. So he had identified what Don calls the 'Bloom pentad': that the beehive has these five roles, and they are actually what enable the beehive to achieve its goal. Did you know that a beehive has a goal? It actually has to produce 40 pounds of honey a year or the hive doesn't survive.
Okay, the accountant says, bingo, a goal. A living system has to have a goal. Well, isn't that interesting? I got very attentive to how did they achieve the goal? Well, about 90 per cent of the hive are conformity enforcers. Five per cent are diversity generators, then there are resource allocators and inner judges, and the fifth role is called intergroup tournaments, competitions.
So how these work is, is actually how I teach complexity and resilience, because it is just a masterful plan. The bees who are the conformity enforcers go out and they forage in the fields, and they come across a really good patch of flowers and they come back. And of course bees have a language, they do this dance, right, at the doorway to the hive. And the dance, I usually do this when I'm talking and I get out and really do the dance, and it's like a rave. Because 90 per cent of the bees are coming back, and they're saying: 'There's really good tulips over there, and they're this colour and the sun is at this angle and it's that far away and it's this time of day.' All of this they have been able to map into this dance.
So their resource allocators' job is to reward the bees: 'You brought back a full load, you get a full lot of bee fuel so you can go back and get some more.' So the interesting thing about the conformity enforcers is they just keep coming back, because that worked, they keep getting rewarded. The diversity generators though, their job is to forge anywhere else, some place else. They come back and they do a little dance, but no-one notices, because they're one or two bees saying: 'There's really good flowers over there, too, you know.' No one notices, because there's a rave going on with this 90 per cent of the hive.
But eventually, when the conformity enforcers pillage one patch of flowers, they come back and the resource allocators say: 'Only a 50 per cent load, we're only going to give you a 50 per cent to reward.' So eventually they come back with nothing, because they've really brought all the nectar and the pollen in on former trips, and they get cut off. And they actually get depressed, and they can actually measure depression in bees, because of the pheromones. So then they get depressed, walking around, and there's no energy in the hive. Except that the diversity generators have continued to do their job, and they keep coming back with a full load, and they have a little dance, very different from what the other ones were doing, but they get rewarded.
And as these very depressed bees notice the messaging from the diversity generators, the conformity enforcers all of a sudden get the message. 'Oh, there's flowers over there. We could go there.' So they swoop over, completely change their direction, and when they come back, of course, they have a full load and they get rewarded.
So it's kind of like a loop. The hive has figured out that this is how we optimize refuelling ourselves. So this is how they do renewable energy, really. But the interesting thing about the hive... The inner judges are the ones that are working with the resource allocators to do the allocation and 'Are we moving towards our goal?' They're doing something else, though. When they're in the fields, they're pollinating the flowers as well as bringing back their own fuel, and that pollination is actually renewing the resources for a next year.
So I love this story from a sustainability perspective. The sustainability of the hive is what we're trying to do for sustaining cities. But they don't leave it there. They also sustain the fields that support them. So they have a double sustainability loop.
And the fifth role is the competition between hives in a field. So that always ensures that the hive that's most effective actually is the one that is going to survive.
But when I learned that the honey bee is actually a 100 million years old, a 100 million years old, and it has adapted to every geography on Earth, and it has this double sustainability loop... We're supposed to be the most intelligent species of the vertebrates; the honey bee is rated as the most intelligent species of the invertebrates. A 100 million years old - we're somewhere between a 100.000 and a million.
I wondered: Could our species learn something from that species? They have this collective of about 50.000 bees in a hive, like a small city. I started to wonder: Could we think of a city as a human hive, and could we actually start to notice: do we have similar patterns, or is our species so immature that we haven't quite got there yet? And yet, because of our consciousness, I personally believe we are on a trajectory to do that. And I also think that the bees show us that we have a long, long way to go beyond sustainable cities. We have to think about sustainable ecoregions that work with cities.
So that's how I think about the human hive. I have come to think that everything from elections, which I know you're going to face next year in September, and I just watched an amazing one in Canada and we're going to see in the States, end of 2012. I actually think that is how we are starting to communicate with one another and shift directions, through long, stable periods of time where we had all the fuel that we needed, didn't have any problems, we just kept going back to the same patch. But now we have to listen to all those diversity generators who are saying: we've got to change our energy sources, we've got to do something very different. And I believe that by following those diversity generators we will shift the way that cities actually work and the way that human systems work.
Why is it important now? Because more than 50 per cent of humanity on Earth lives in cities. We're in human hives. We have to get more intelligent about how we live here, and move beyond - I talked about holons earlier. Really, our cities in many ways are heaps, not holons. Holons have order to them, they're a system, but a heap has just a lot of stuff that isn't integrated. And so I think that the bees have a beautiful holon in their hive. We won't have exactly of course like a beehive, but we will have our species' version of it. I imaging that's possible.
So that's one of the sort of stages that I've taken the integral city to think: not just integral map, but the human hive.