CHAPTER 4 – SLAVES | NEURONS | THE WEB
Howard Topoff has published several influential articles about the behavior of slave-making ants, including “Slave-Making Ants” in American Scientist 78, no. 6 (November–December 1990): 520–528, and “Colony Founding by Queens of the Obligatory Slave‐making Ant, Polyergus breviceps: The Role of the Dufour’s Gland” co-written with Stefan Cover, Les Greenberg, Linda Goodloe, and Peter Sherman in Ethology 78, no. 3 (1988: 209–218.
For more information about slave-making ants, I would refer you again to Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson’s The Ants (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990). And for a general overview, see R. Deslippe’s article “Social Parasitism in Ants” published in Nature Education Knowledge 3, no. 10 (2010): 27.
Much of this section, specifically the information on how ideas leap from one brain to another, comes from Richard Dawkins’s insight of a meme—an idea that behaves similarly to a gene—first discussed in The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976). Dawkins defines a meme as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Despite the title of the book, Dawkins makes a subtle yet critical point: that higher-level biological systems can act selflessly despite having underlying selfish genes. This can explain how kin and other related parties can be altruistic, as they are protecting the greater species or underlying genes. There is some debate about certain details of kin selection and Edward O. Wilson (who recently argued against natural selection in the journal Nature) and Dawkins are in the middle of an academic argument regarding the outcome. (See Nowak, Martin A., Corina E. Tarnita, and Edward O. Wilson. “The Evolution of Eusociality,” Nature 466, no. 7310 (2010): 1057-1062.) Regardless, the selfish gene theory speaks to how ideas can act selfishly and propagate; it also explains how neurons can act selflessly and commit cellular suicide, a topic that is expanded upon throughout this chapter.
The quote from Deborah Gordon is from Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010)
The story of Jill Price is nothing short of fascinating, and numerous articles have been written about her. The original journal article (with Price’s name redacted) can be found here: E. S. Parker, L. Cahill, and J. L. McGaugh, “A Case of Unusual Autobiographical Remembering,” Neurocase 12, no. 1 (February 2006): 35–49. For a more personal account, see the book Price coauthored with Bart Davis: The Woman Who Can’t Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science—A Memoir (New York: Free Press, 2008).
It is interesting to see the massive number of zeros that makes up a zettabyte, which you can view on a Wikipedia page dedicated to the number.
The web stats are from Nielsen and Pew Research Center and include the fact that we each view 2,600 web pages and 90 sites per month. Huffington Post published an infographic by Visual Economics which used this data in the article “Internet Usage Statistics: How We Spend Our Time Online” by Catharine Smith, published June 22, 2010.
The full bibliographical information for the articles and books named in this section are as follows: Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” The Atlantic, July/August 2008; Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Larry Rosen, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Daniel Sieberg, The Digital Diet: The 4-Step Plan to Break Your Tech Addiction and Regain Balance in Your Life (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2011); Dr. Kimberly Young, Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction–and a Winning Strategy for Recovery (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998) and Tangled in the Web: Understanding Cybersex from Fantasy to Addiction (AuthorHouse, 2001).
The USA Today article about the size of the web, entitled “Internet Suffering from Information Overload,” was written by Andrew Kantor and published on June 14, 2007.
The over 800 percent growth in the number of websites figure comes from a study by Edward T. O’Neill, Brian F. Lavoie, and Rick Bennett called “Trends in the Evolution of the Public Web 1998–2002.” D-Lib Magazine 9, no.4 (2008): 1-10. The number 19 percent is from data available for 2011 and 2012 from Netcraft’s “Web Server Survey,” which is published every month.
Neilson reported in 2012 that fewer people used the web on their PCs in 2012 than in 2011, the first year that this has happened. I expect this number will continue to decline. Read “State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012” by Nielsen for more details. The article can be downloaded, but you must register first.
Data firm Flurry also released stats in December 2012 showing an increase in app usage and a decline in the amount of time people spent using the web on PCs (from 72 minutes in 2011 to 70 minutes in 2012). Their data is a composite from comScore, Alexa, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. See TechCrunch’s article “Time Spent in Mobile Apps Is Starting to Challenge Television, Flurry Says” by Kim-Mai Cutler published on December 5, 2012. Note that this is the source for the data used in image 3.1.
CNN reported on January 28, 2011 in an article entitled “108 Apps per iPhone” by Philip Elmer-DeWitt, about the mobile usage stats presented in this section, which were derived from an Appsfire infographic about app usage. Appsfire found that the average iPhone user has 108 apps and spends 84 minutes a day using them. The Flurry data, discussed above, found that smartphone owners use apps for 127 minutes per day. I used the latter 127 minutes figure since it is a more current source.
In another highly relevant white paper which can be downloaded at cisco.com, “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011–2016,” Cisco predicted that global mobile data traffic will increase by a factor of 18 by 2016.
A similar approach to what I am describing is the semantic web, which has been proposed by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee. The problem with the semantic web, however, is in both the limitation of its scope and the difficulty of actually implementing it. Berners-Lee first proposed the idea in 2001, and we still have not made significant progress toward those goals, as Berners-Lee has indicated over the years. See Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila, “The Semantic Web,” Scientific American 284, no. 5 (2001): 28-37.
The quote about electricity comes from the journal Nature: A Weekly Journal for the Gentleman Sportsman, Tourist and Naturalist, “Nature’s Revenge on Genius,” vol.1, no. 1 (November 2, 1889), Nature Publishing Group.