In this article the author conjoins two studies which demonstrate that wolf hunting behavior is analogous to the mass flocking of starlings. This is an interesting article because these studies demonstrate the exact opposite of what this author is arguing in the article entitled: “To Hunt, Cooperation Is Not Needed.” The evidence the author cites actually demonstrates that behavior is a function of attraction.
“The study concludes, “Our results suggest that wolf-pack hunting is an emergent collective behavior which does not necessarily rely on the presence of effective communication between the individuals participating in the hunt, and that no hierarchy is needed in the group to achieve the task properly.”
“This model does not suggest that wolves lack intelligence; it just means that they don’t NEED to be intelligent, communicate or have a hierarchy to accomplish their task. And like the previous post, it also suggests that hunting is not the reason wolves form packs.”
“It also means that if someone wants to propose an alternate model they will need to provide evidence as to why it is more compelling.”
In “Natural Dog Training,” 1992, I wrote that wolf society is a self-organizing system that has no leader and didn’t rely on any manner of communication in a hunt (other than feelings). So the bulk of the criticism above must be directed elsewhere because I never equated cooperation with cognition as did the mainstream theorists until only recently. Nonetheless my argument attracts ire from some scientists because they reflexively think I’m saying something I’m not, as well as not recognizing the logical consequences of the evidence they cite.
In my model cooperation means working together to achieve a common goal and so since wolves work collectively and accomplish a common goal, they are indeed cooperating. It’s just that they aren’t thinking. In “Natural Dog Training” (1992) I used the term “harmony” in conjunction with a model for emotion (predator to prey dynamic) and was clear that cooperation was anything but cognition. Harmony and synchronization are principles direct from physics yet were criticized by folks such as this author as New Age. So then the question, if the immediate-moment mode of analysis is so unscientific, why did it take modern science this long to understand something that the immediate-moment analysis of behavior (i.e.not projecting thinking into the minds of animals or their genes) made almost immediately apparent in the late seventies? I for one would be happy to call the phenomenon of cooperation in wolves a murmuration.
From the study the author quotes:
“Starlings joins in groups composed of hundreds-of-thousands of individuals, and in the absence of centralized control and devoid of a social hierarchical structure, display behaviours can easily be interpreted as those of a macro-organism whose cells are the individual birds.”
During the seventies when I was arriving at the critical features of my model, I used to drive weekly into Manhattan to pickup, deliver and work with client’s dogs. My favorite part of the trip was coming into town over the Bruckner Expressway, a portion of which was an elevated skyway over the South Bronx affording a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline ahead, the rooftops of thousands of Bronx brownstones to the west, and then eastward across the bay to LaGuardia airport. Along the shoreline there were seagulls swooping gracefully in the wind, jetliners taking off and thundering just overhead, but most aesthetically pleasing were the multi-colored pigeons in large flocks flipping and flopping their colors from slate gray on black and white, to flashes of white and then black as they yawed and banked in unison, rising and falling, expanding and condensing, an assemblage of ever changing fluid motion, generating beautiful wave forms of colors and shapes, especially when the sky was overcast and multicolored in kind. These multi-cellular oscillations contributed to my belief that a group of dogs or wolves, were likewise of one mind; components of a larger body, interacting in ways that would compute a wave. In “Natural Dog Training” I used the term “Group Mind” to sum this up.
I also didn’t believe that these flocks of pigeons were flying for any utilitarian purpose as in the genetic rationale of a display of fitness or to confuse predators. In fact sharks and killer whales tap into the schooling impulse of fish to herd them into a tight ball, concentrating them in one spot for pass after pass in order to effect a maximum kill.
Pigeons don’t fly for survival, they fly for the joy of it, but then again this joy isn’t just fun for the sake of fun. My best guess at the time was that organized swarming was restorative in some way. They needed to do it and this need was greater than a need to survive or replicate. I also believed that the pleasure I felt from watching them, spoke to the restorative process encoded within my own human aesthetic as well. It must feel good for pigeons to be in a murmuration just as it felt good for me to watch them. Undoubtedly this same innate aesthetic is what would pull pigeons from the safety of their roosts and without any material benefit for the expenditure of a great amount of energy, to join the thrill of the wave. There was something in me, as well as within a pigeon, that resonates with syncopation writ large.
In my emerging model I never viewed cooperation as a matter of cognition, leadership, planning, problem solving or communication, but rather as a wave. And like a wave plotted on a graph, there’s a midpoint at each intersection of the axes, and it moves over time and space along the curve as the organizing kernel of the wave. Cooperation in animals means an emotional and physical alignment and synchronization around a common axis and objective, a “wave function.” The wave pattern plays out over distance, in space, right before our eyes, such as a flock of pigeons on the wing or a pack of wolves on the prowl. But the wave also travels through time, what we otherwise call instinct and learning. For example; the quintessential “submissive” individual suddenly becoming “dominant” years later. A canine manifesting a trait is emotion evolving a pole in order to implement a wave. In any given moment we see but one slice of it, one intersection of the point on the graph. The predator polarity (Direct/Active) unfolding over time to complement its antecedent pole, the preyful trait (Indirect/Reactive), its equal and opposite separated by time just as the maximum and minimum of the starling flock is separated by distance. Learning in animals is a wave function, it isn’t a series of actions strung together by as a chain of associations connected mentally by some linear concept, “If I do this then I get that.” Learning is the evolution of behavior just as speciation is the evolution of genomes. And like any process of evolution it conforms to the Constructal law, and all the laws of physics as well.
Since animals act in accord with the principles of physics, what they do can be described mathematically. But this is only descriptive, it doesn’t say anything about what is going on inside the animal’s mind, and there is indeed something going on inside the animal’s mind. Just as a work of music can be described mathematically, what’s going on inside Beethoven, or inside the body and mind of someone listening to Beethoven, isn’t mathematics. Were we to reduce music to an algorithm we’re back to Descartes and his automatons. So what is going on inside the mind of a bird experiencing a murmuration? There’s only one possible answer, the starling is FEELING something.
The emotional dynamic I’m proposing is universal in all animals, birds and fishes. And the only way the murmuration of starlings is like wolves hunting, is if behavior is an expression of energy. It doesn’t mean it is energy as in a radio wave, but it is definitely energy because of the physiological and neurological activity within the body/mind which is electromagnetism and all kinds of pressure states, breath, blood, muscle mechanical tension, etc., etc.. My argument is that these emotional affects and physical states of tension make animals, birds and fishes act just as if they are charged particles moving through gravitational, electrical and magnetic fields. Animals, birds and fish move collectively as if they are constituents of a radio wave. To resolve their internal processes, collectivized behavior makes the invisible wave physically manifest. Note the distinction, they’re not feeling an actual electrical or magnetic force. They are feeling as if they are electrically or magnetically charged.
Energy can only travel as a wave. Flocks of starlings in a murmuration couldn’t make this any more obvious. But dogs loving to ride in a car is the same as well. Or to put it another way, a murmuration is what a feeling looks like.
The author writes: “Complex patterns are easily created by repeating simple mathematical formulas.” This is the essence of “Natural Dog Training,” the predator-to-prey dynamic constantly elaborating into complex social structures.
The author offers these diagrams from the discoverer of these formulas, Craig Reynolds, 1986. The first one is captioned “Separation to avoid crowding local flock mates.”
The second is captioned: “Alignment: steer towards the average heading of local flock mates (Craig Reynolds).”
The third is captioned: “Cohesion: steer to move toward the average position of local flock mates. (credit: Craig Reynolds)”
In other words, there is an impulse in flocking birds, otherwise occupied, to rise up and join the pulsating flock (attraction). There is a further impulse to maintain a set distance from local flock mates (attraction plus resistance). There is an urge to align around a common heading (attraction plus laminar). Cohesion, alignment, separation due to friction, flow, this is the language of the Constructal law, the wave in animal consciousness is how objects of resistance are incorporated into an improvement of the configuration.
What then would be the easiest and/or most likely way for an organism to evolve so that it was equipped to be attracted with a force that is simultaneously capable of acting as a force of repulsion via a pressure that could serve as an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic to maintain set distances, as well as compute an overall angle of alignment, that would organize interactions and collective behavior along a common axis of travel, and in conformance with the Constructal law via laminar and turbulent transfers of energy, would be consistent with “Control Theory, and that would simultaneously have the characteristic of a wave function, and which could be felt by a simple as well as a complex organism in but one grasp? Electromagnetism.
And what would be the aspect of animal consciousness that would be universal to all organisms and correspond to not only the above laws of nature, but all the laws of nature, including thermodynamics, gravity and most especially the laws of motion? Emotion
There isn’t a computer module in the bird or fishes computing an algorithm, because there is no need to have one. The math is already figured into the nature of electromagnetism and physically embodied by way of emotion, a virtual “force” of attraction. All the organism has to be able to do is feel a principle of conductivity so that the usual resistance experienced between organisms and which determines social distance and friction when not in a smooth wave state, would be experienced as electrostatic and magnetic repulsion (pressure) then to be computed into syncopated forward motion, i.e. the feeling of flow.
Starling murmurations are not the gathering of genetic relations, individuals are drawn and organized by the power of the wave, a universal operating system of consciousness. If an organism evolved to maximize this wave function in its makeup, it would be most able to bond with other organisms that are not genetic relations and do so for the sheer joy of it. Enter the dog by way of our friend the wolf.