It appears, therefore, that a swarm's scout bees do something sharply different from what humans do to reach a full agreement in a debate. Both bees and humans need a group's members to avoid stubbornly supporting their first view, but whereas we humans will usually (and sensibly) ive up on a position only after we have learned of a better one, the bees will stop supporting a position automatically. As is shown…after a shorter or longer time, each scout bee becomes silent and leaves the rest of the debate to a new set of bees. Figure 6.7 shows how this regular turnover in which scouts are dancing can help a swarm's scouts quickly reach an agreement…
In other words, the bee algorithms allow attrition (a time-honored process of improving the scientific community) to operate at an especially rapid pace.
In the final chapter, Seeley suggests five lessons we could learn from bees.
†¢ Compose a decision-making group of individuals with shared interests. Here bees have a higher stake than us: all members of a colony are related (sisters) and nobody can survive without the group.
†¢ Minimise the leader's influence on the group. Here we humans have much to learn.
†¢ Seek diverse solutions to the problem. Humans realised only recently that diversity is good for a group.
†¢ Update the group's knowledge through debate. Here again, bees are superior to us, as each scout's "dances" become less effective with time, no matter how good a new site is, while stubbornness can lead humans to argue forever.
†¢ Use quorums to gain cohesion, accuracy and speed. Impressively, bees came up with this concept long before the Greeks.
As a departmental chair at Cornell University, Seeley says, he applies these principles at faculty meetings with great success.