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tags: hive mind, social contract, mass media, individual identity, collective identity

The idea of hive mind is a certain interpretation of the collectively goal-directed activity of bees in and around a bee hive, imagining that physically individual bees lack mental individuality and instead all share a single consciousness with a single collective set of perceptions, urges and motives, knowledge, expectations, aspirations, gratifications, and intentions. Since the idea of hive mind in bees is pure speculation, it is possible to imagine it as a perfectly single collective mind. For example, it is possible to imagine that the hive mind of bees is so completely and equally shared that every single bee is constantly enduring the full drudgery of being-the-queen at the same time as always enjoying the full pleasure of being-the-worker-bees gathering pollen from flowers in the sunshine. The meaning of hive mind is that the collective is the primary unit of agency, the source of value definition, creative initiative, and identity definition. With hive mind, a collective is more important than the individuals who make up the collective, the collective owns the individuals, and the individuals belong to the collective. In the case of bees, the single intelligence shared by numerous bee bodies involves, presumably but implausible, a form of telepathy that is inherent in each bee, rather than being constructed of complex cultural teachings, but for human beings an outwardly fair imitation of hive mind is artificially constructed with culturally supplied symbols and pageantry, but not a hive mind that is completely and equally shared in every individual person. With humans, everybody is restricted to living in his or her personal body, with its sensations, pains, and pleasures, but there is a culturally constructed orientation to certain crucial pillars of reality, including messages about threats and opportunities defining a collective situation. It is widely recognized that the shared stories and emotional triggers distributed by pervasive mass media, for example, concentrated under the control of a few corporate owners responsible to the same advertisers and funders, and under irresistible pressure to be patriotic and responsible in maintaining investor confidence in stable and predictable growth, contribute mightily to that shared sense of reality. Unlike our speculation on the shared consciousness of bees, however, in which there is a perfect transparency of experience, and a perfect empathy, among all bees, the shared pillars of reality in human culture support and legitimize a hierarchical inequality of experience and dignity among human individuals by effecting widespread personal identification with the collective in an imagined social contract. There is a conspicuous lack of transparency and empathy across the hierarchical class divisions in the human hive. There is a de-location of personal identity from the high definition of what is strictly personal, to the low-definition of a personified abstraction, a culturally constructed collective. There are some clearly positive consequences to predictability and stability in cooperative effort. The question is, are there also negative consequences to this way of creating stability, and is it possible to do anything about them if there are? How might it even be possible to re-orient outside the influence of an ambient hive mind?

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Copyright © 2017 Sandy MacDonald.