Volvox, Synergy, Humanity

Volvox: "...a green alga, is a spherical colony of tiny interconnected flagellated cells. There is enough differentiation in the colony to suggest a trace of tissue-level organization. Individuals provide the colony with motility in a coordinated manner. The cells are immersed in a gelatinous sheath and are interconnected by strands of cytoplasm. The argument whether Volvox is a colony or a truly muli cellular organism is not settled, but it is certain that this alga is more than just an aggregate of cells." (Wallace, 470).

Synergy: "...the only word in our language that means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the separately observed behaviors of any of the system's separate parts or any subassembly of the system's parts..." (Fuller, 71).

General Systems Theory: "...consisting of the solving of problems by starting with the known behaviors of the whole system plus the known behavior of some of the system's parts, which advantageous information makes possible the discovery of other parts othe system and their respective behaviors." (Fuller, 87-88).

By these definitions, one may come to the conclusion that the argument of the colonial or multi cellular state of Volvox is irrelevant so far as general systems theory is concerned; Volvox is therefore a synergetic system that arose from the evolutionary process by which organisms adapt to their environment. This seems to place it safely above the state of being "just an aggregate of cells." For example, each of the Volvox cells that compose a sphere has two flagella, which makes each cell individually mobile. However, within the sphere, those in the front pull with their appendages, while those in the back pull. Thus, the Volvox "...swims in an organized manner," (Wallace, 470) with a rather elegant end-over-end rotation. Also, the colony augments itself through reproduction either asexually, or when conditions are right, sexually through the specialization of cells into eggs and sperm. Adjacent cells are able to give rise to new cells that will eventually cause the sphere to dimple inwards and pinch off into a new, inverted "daughter colony." Indeed, an entirely upredicted and incredibly intricate system arises from a seemingly simple coagulation of single-celled organisms.

Besides the biologically synergistic ideas contained within this example, the fundamental idea of the communal existence that these microscopic creatures utilize is precisely the method by which Buckminster Fuller suggests that humanity can raise its standard of living That is, "Both social co-operation and individual enterprise interact to produce increasing wealth." (Fuller, 94-95). And by wealth, he refers to the scientifically measured availability of energy: that is, horsepower, kilojoules, calories (from soybeans, broccolli, the sun), et cetera. It is entirely feasible that the synergistic system that applies to Volvox should work just as well within contemporary society. Volvox knows nothing of tension and compression, of force vectors and equilibrium, yet it uncannily utilizes all of these things to produce a primordial geodesic dome that predated that invention of Fuller's by several thousand centuries. And while Volvox knows nothing of energy transformations, energy pyramids, or entropy, it spins along through the pond water utilizing all that nature has to offer: her natural geometries, energies, et cetera. "Ergo, only complete world desovereignization can permit the realization of an all humanity high standard support." (Fuller, 96). Perhaps, then, humans should take their example from Volvox.

Vol"vox (?), n. Bot.

A genus of minute, pale-green, globular, organisms, about one fiftieth of an inch in diameter, found rolling through water, the motion being produced by minute colorless cilia. It has been considered as belonging to the flagellate Infusoria, but is now referred to the vegetable kingdom, and each globule is considered a colony of many individuals. The commonest species is Volvox globator, often called globe animalcule.


© Webster 1913.

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