Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms

(quantamagazine.org)

174 points | by pseudolus 11 days ago

16 comments

  • nitrogen 10 days ago

    I've always felt that the oddballs and outcasts among us are like the sentinels or vanguards of society. They detect problems before the majority and try to warn others. It's a painful and unappreciated role, exemplified by one of the major alien characters in Greg Egan's book Incandescence.

    • j4yav 10 days ago

      Now that we can see all the oddballs on Twitter, doesn't it just seem like they are in total warning about every possible outcome all the time, to the point that it would only ever be actionable in retrospect?

      Every day my local health agency reports the latest pandemic statistics, and then all the oddballs pile in with every (incompatible) permutation of conspiracy theories that you can imagine.

      • devtul 9 days ago

        Some of them might not be broken-clock right, but I don't see a way of filtering the noise.

      • mjklin 10 days ago

        There is a Chinese saying 当局者迷, 旁观者清 “the one involved is baffled, the one watching from the side sees clearly.” The observers see more than the players.

        • szhu 10 days ago

          > painful and unappreciated role

          I think the fact that an outcasts are unappreciated is an inherent correlation. Being influenced by appreciation is mostly useful for getting individuals to adhere to the behavior of the group.

          As for it being painful? That's all relative. Individuals tend to choose the actions that result in the most reward and least pain, so outcasts probably choose to be outcasts because following the group must produce not as much reward or even more pain.

          • cko 10 days ago

            Or Holden Caulfield.

            • devtul 9 days ago

              That guy is such a phony

            • thrower123 10 days ago

              Cranks on Twitter are a fantastic early warning system. You start to suspect that people who actually do know things are behind the racist beagles or the shitposting norse god avatars...

              • krapp 10 days ago

                > You start to suspect that people who actually do know things are behind the racist beagles or the shitposting norse god avatars...

                Like the Machines from the Matrix who learned to exploit humanity's inherent mistrust of the status quo and created Zion as a cattle-pen to draw "enlightened" humans who rejected the system into and periodically slaughter, the powers that be have discovered that no mind is easier to enslave than the one that believes itself free.

                So yes, people who do actually know things are behind a lot of that, but not for the reasons you might think.

                • pinopinopino 10 days ago

                  Interesting, but I wouldn't draw too much out of the matrix. The matrix is a nice movie, but made in Hollywood. So it is also part of the establishment. If I were you, you should also distrust its message.

                  Who says its goal was not to demoralize the rebel from taking action?

                  I think the shitposters of the 'anime right' feel we are living more and more in a dystopian corporate crime ridden hellscape. They want to go back to their youth or to a fictitious past. If you ask them what they want, a lot of them wants a traditional family, a farm and a nice green patch around them. It are modern day romantics in their core.

                  They fear what is coming next. And you remember perhaps what is said about fear: "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

                • troughway 10 days ago

                  You might start to wonder if it's all interconnected.

              • aSplash0fDerp 10 days ago

                Just watched this documentary about two interesting ladies (twin savants).

                https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0yetxU1Ji4I

                For people that are not blowing through emotional capital online (or offline), we probably see something similar with exponential growth in other capacities that individuals nurture instead.

                Saying something is impossible just means you can`t do it personally.

                Those two are amazing!

                • SenHeng 10 days ago

                  Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve heard referring to someone(s) as retarded without it being an insult.

                  > in some ways, they’re retarded. And in some ways, they’re geniuses.

                  - some guy that looks like a researcher.

                • dorkwood 10 days ago

                  I've always felt like a bit of an outsider. The idea that my disposition may be a result of mother nature hedging her bets, in case the rest of the swarm is taken down, is oddly comforting.

                  • theseagin 10 days ago

                    Really, really good read. Natures way of also looking into wacky solutions to problems. She does not put all her eggs in one basket.

                    • booleandilemma 10 days ago

                      I can’t wait to project these slime molds’ behavior onto human psychology!

                      • reedwolf 11 days ago

                        Someone's gonna make a metaheuristic algorithm out of this insight. Probably call it "Swarm Sentinel Search" or something.

                      • Konohamaru 10 days ago

                        Loners are the kingmakers of humanity: they completely lost the game, but are able to decisively determine who will win. And kingmakers are the real winners anyway because everyone is at their mercy.

                        • ryanwaggoner 10 days ago

                          Pretty confused by what you mean here. Could you give examples of how loners decisively determine who wins the game? Or what the game even is?

                          • Fjolsvith 9 days ago

                            Lord Varys from Game of Thrones.

                            • ryanwaggoner 8 days ago

                              If a character from a fantasy series is the best example one can come up with, I'm not sure how much one should rely on this construct as an accurate model of the real world.

                              Additionally, Varys is not a "loner" in any sense. The core of his power is in the powerful network of relationships he wields.

                          • pot8n 10 days ago

                            What the hell does that even mean?

                          • zeckalpha 10 days ago
                            • mikhailfranco 10 days ago
                              • clairity 10 days ago

                                people who generally speak up for doing the right (pro-social) thing, even in the face of gain from doing the wrong (anti-social) thing, or even just letting others slide by doing wrong things, are such out-of-sync 'loners' who are a form of bet hedging against social collapse.

                                it doesn't need to be many of us, but some of us have to pay the social cost of keeping sociopathic behavior in check. it's often thankless and ostracizing (whistleblowers, for instance), and why we often give those folks titles like 'hero', to provide some measure of social compensation most of us aren't willing to take on.

                                • CameronNemo 10 days ago

                                  >But previous work in game theory has shown that when individuals can “opt out” of a collective activity for a few rounds, it can help maintain cooperation and diversity in a population and protect the group against parasitic individuals.

                                  Would love to know what research they are referring to here. Sounds fascinating.

                                  • lookdangerous 11 days ago

                                    It’s a noble function...

                                    • darkerside 11 days ago

                                      That must be performed periodically...

                                      • corporateslave5 10 days ago

                                        Please don’t turn this website into reddit

                                        • Forge36 10 days ago

                                          I've heard puns are the ultimate form of humor. I'll let this one slide

                                          • fit2rule 9 days ago

                                            Let us not incur dang's infinite wrath.

                                    • magicsmoke 10 days ago

                                      Sounds like the gay uncle hypothesis.

                                      • gojomo 10 days ago

                                        Sheepdogs & sheep herds?

                                        • gator555 10 days ago

                                          Reject all forms of identity politics...

                                          • krapp 10 days ago

                                            That, in and of itself, is a form of identity politics.

                                            • antepodius 10 days ago

                                              So long as it's a qualitatively different form compared to the rest.

                                              • gator555 10 days ago

                                                Nope. I’m pretty sure I can have an identity that is not political.

                                                • krapp 10 days ago

                                                  Not really. "Reject all forms of identity politics" is both a political statement and, being the first (coherent) comment you've made after creating this account for this thread, clearly a statement of self-identity.

                                            • gator555 10 days ago

                                              Politik reject all forms IDity