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Bees’ Tiny Brains Could Change How We Engineer Computers

Bees’ Tiny Brains Could Change How We Engineer Computers


Honey bees are just plain cool, that’s simply
a fact. They make sure our earth is full of flowers
and food for us and other animals, they have complex social hierarchies, and it turns out,
they can do math. In particular, scientists have recently found
out that bees may understand the concept of zero–the concept of nothing, of the absence
of value. Which is impressive because zero is actually
pretty complicated–it takes human children a couple of years to fully understand it. In order to fully appreciate the buzz around
this discovery, we should explore a couple other things about both bees and the number
zero. Bees, in addition to being an essential pollinator,
are a surprisingly sophisticated model for studying animal cognition–surprising given
they’re an insect. They can understand abstract concepts like
sameness and difference. They can leave the hive, find a new source
of food, remember where that place is in 3-dimensional space and communicate it when they get back
to the hive. They’re just tiny intrepid adventurers,
guys! Ok, so bees are smart. But zero’s not that hard, right? I mean it’s just the smallest number. Or is it?! Zero wasn’t even used as a number in mathematical
calculations until around 5th century C.E., in India, and before we used it as a number
it was difficult to perform even basic calculations. I mean, experts herald the invention of zero
as one of the greatest breakthroughs in mathematics, and without it, we wouldn’t have higher
order math and we wouldn’t have modern computing. So, zero is a nuanced concept. The research group that uncovered these bee
mathematicians trained the bees to choose images containing the lower number of items. For example, when presented with a 3-item
picture and a 4 item picture, they should pick the 3-item picture. This already means that they have an understanding
of quantity and numeracy–the whole idea that there are amounts of things and that one amount
is more than or less than another is pretty complex in itself. But then the researchers added an image with
nothing in it, no items, which the bees had never been exposed to before. And the bees, having been trained to choose
the image with less items, chose the one with nothing, indicating that they understand that
nothing, i.e. zero, is less than something. This is reasoning that until now has only
been observed in animals with larger and more complex brains, like monkeys and parrots and
well, us. The kicker here is that bee brains have fewer
than 1 million neurons. Neuroscientists are surprised that an animal
with this few brain cells is capable of understanding and reasoning around a complex concept like
0–one that took us, human beings, many millenia to wrap our heads around. This research opens up new questions about
how our brain perceives zero, and how this may differ from species to species. But another unexpected result of this study
is computer-related. How do computers deal with zero? If bees can perceive zero with brains of less
than a million neurons, it may have implications for advanced computing. Modern computing, which is number-based, has
a notoriously difficult time with the number zero. They can only recognize is as a number, not
a concept. In mathematical calculations, the computers
we have now may be unable to complete a command if they have to divide by zero–it may even
actively crash the code you’re running, depending on the programming language. Maybe we could use something like bees’
seemingly simple understanding of absence, of nothingness, in our development of artificial
intelligence. Understanding how bees perceive zero without
a number may help us circumvent the perpetual problem of zero and make some serious strides
in our computing capabilities. But also, like, bees are just really smart
and I think maybe they’re gonna be the ones who inherit the earth after us. And frankly, I’m ok with that. Math is hard, but you know what’s easy? Setting up your very own website with Domain.com. Domain dot com is awesome, affordable, reliable,
and have all the tools you need to build a new website. They can fulfill all your website needs. They offer dot com and dot net domain names,
and intuitive website builders. They have over three hundred domain extensions
to fit your needs, from dot sky to dot dot love, dot cat! Take that first step in creating an identity
online and visit domain dot com. Find out some more about our furry winged
friends in this video over here, and subscribe to Seeker to keep up with all the latest bee
news. And fun fact, experts think that the concept
of zero jumped from Indian philosophical texts to mathematical theory. I never knew math could be so spiritual. I’m Maren, thanks for watching Seeker.

100 comments on “Bees’ Tiny Brains Could Change How We Engineer Computers

  1. The best way to visualize zero when computeing is the double funnel.

    You simply picture all numbers as a web of possible combinations into infinity then goes out on both sides and each one becomes a funnel to zero because complexity become what makes it's size. Now you can subdevide each funnel to infinity but as you stream calculations between each side you come to zero which is where both funnels meet.

    This is the point where it can go both ways and if your calculations already do it stops it from moveing.

    Then you just form your binary around it.

  2. Um, that's AI design, not computer design. Also, AI ARE good with 0s…. I don't understand what you were trying to say?

  3. This is just the beginning of bee evolution. Soon, they will develop conscientiousness and be intelligent enough to sue us for exploitation.

  4. They could inherit the earth after us.. but if there's no us, that means we did enough bad shit to rid the planet of ourselves.. So, knowing this, I think bees will be gone shortely before we are..

  5. Well I mean it’d only make sense bees are intelligent if they consistently pollinate different flowers without repollinating the same flower, which in turn would mean they know how many times they have pollinated

  6. I feel like you didn't discuss the concept of 'null' or 'nil' in a computer system, it's the equivalent to zero in our understanding. It's the absence of data, while the number 0 in a computer system is represented by an integer.

  7. SEEKER
    Why must you keep interrupting the video with top banners?
    You are disrespecting your presenters and annoying your viewers.

  8. for chissake stop the vocal fry at the end of every sentence, lass. You have a nice voice when normally modulated. Use it.

  9. This idea is just stupid. Just test for 0 before dividing. Is this so hard for american programmists? LOL

  10. Seeker is slowly getting more clickbaity. Their can be multiple problems with this study and even then no computers aren't going to be based on a bees brain.

  11. Computers do have a way to interpret the difference between 0 and nothingness/absence. In many languages, a number-based variable (such as integers or floats) will default to 0, but if you doing arithmetic, you have to have 0. Meanwhile if you're using a string, you can leave it completely blank. For example:
    a=""
    This is a 0-length string; in effect, it is an absence of data, and it isn't treated as 0 either.

  12. Quickly looking at the study, I see no controls for the background color (white). To me, it is more likely that the bees learned to go towards the brightest – whitest square. No concept of zero is involved in this

  13. It may be common, that the majority of people don't understand zero beyond a placeholder in a decimal. I'm saying that because I don't quite know myself. Time for more YouTube

  14. Oh my gosh! This lady is soooo annoying. The facial expressions, voice, movements are soooo annnnnoooooyyyyyiiiiing that I can't stand to even watch videos with interesting topics.

  15. Pokemon go has null island because it doesn't put you nowhere when your gps is off, it goes to null island at coordinate 0,0.

  16. Maren is the hottest nerd I've ever seen! I mean that in the best way, nerd being used as a term of endearment. I'd "nerd out" with Maren ANY day!!!

  17. I hate to burst your bubble, but almost none of this lives up to the hype.

    First off, the number of neurons in an animal does not correspond to intelligence. Not all neurons are used for cognition and awareness. A large animal like a whale could have more neurons than a person and still be quite dumb because it needs more neurons to service its additional body mass. More skin to feel, more muscles to control in greater detail. If an animal also has more refined senses of any kind, those also require a larger proportion of neurons relative to brain mass. A human with a million functioning neurons might be a vegetable, but a tiny insect with a million neurons learning the concept of less-than is not impressive.

    In addition, it is possible to specialize a set of neurons for a particular function, in which case that function requires a smaller raw number of neurons, but performing that function can no longer properly be called cognitive. Humans (and most other animals) can detect a moving object, for example, even with extensive neurological damage that prevents visual perception. This is known as blindsight, and the person is never aware of seeing an object, but will instinctively catch it if thrown towards him. If we suppose that counting discrete objects and comparing numbers have a special role for bees in nature, it is not impressive that it can accomplish that task without much neural complexity, and it does not indicate robust cognition. The bees may not be aware of numbers any more than a person with blindsight is of an object he can catch.

    Zero itself, the empty quantity less than any number in magnitude, is not actually the revolutionary part of the number zero. The big deals with zero are using it as a placeholder (enabling composition of numbers using a base and sequence) and to rationalize negative numbers. There is no evidence as far as I know that suggests that bees are able to understand sequences as numbers with bases or negative numbers, so while they may register none as being less than some, they do not necessarily understand the concept of zero any further. That would again suggest that quantity is specialized in bees, and they have no access to that ability in their general cognition.

    Finally, computers understand zero just fine. For any representation of a number that I'm aware of (and that's a lot – BCD, binary integers, bignums, IEEE floats, fixed point, fractional…) there is one or more unambiguous, clearly defined ways to represent zero. The fact that a computer won't tolerate a division by zero in most cases is 100% intentional because it indicates that something is wrong. The fact that dividing by zero is wrong has nothing to do with computers, but with math. If you're keen on dividing by zero and getting infinity without an error, yes, you can do that on a computer, with or without learning from bees. IEEE floats can encode both positive and negative infinities unambiguously for exactly that purpose. So no, this is not going to be an important discovery for computers.

    In conclusion, this video is all buzz and no substance.

  18. People are arguing whether or not bees truly understand the number 0, or if they go purely on instinct. It's just as remarkable, if not more amazing, that it comes from instinct, considering how long it took humans to identify it, and how we are tasked with continually teaching eachother the idea of it. (Edit): By this logic with bees not going to the blank images, would hummingbirds also understand zero? Hummingbird feeders are brightly colored yellow and red, presumably to attract the birds, since they go to brightly colored flowers. These feeders also attract very annoying yellow jackets as well. As far as I know, birds aren't known for a good sense of smell, so is it a matter of eyesight? If it is, bees, and possibly hummingbirds, rely on an understanding of color, not the concept of 0. An atttaction to color seems more likely than such small brains understanding a complex concept. But what do I know, maybe my idea has already been disproved. Let me know.

  19. 5th century c.e? Aztec and Mayans had zeroes for …like…….. Forever. Who are these mathematicians

  20. How do you expect any organism to choose nothing?? Yes, bees choose images with less flowers, but how can they choose something that is not there? Unless you expect them to try to extract pollen in an empty space, are they blind? 🤔

  21. Haha finally you western people had to agree that INDIA was much more advanced then you whites who were buring witches at that time.

  22. Pointless video.
    Yes the concept of 0 came from Indian philoshopers and mathematicians.
    And why do you think that India is spiritual. It is just like every other developing country.

    Stop making stupid videos and how do you know that your sources are correct and why do you think AI having concept of 0 will be a revolution? Don't be stupid.

    Unsubscribing.

  23. Formal discovery of zero (as a mathematical construct) took humanity some time, but thinking that before that humans didn't understand the concept of absence is just untrue. Take Newton's discovery of gravity. Do you think that before this discovery humans didn't understand that objects fall down to the ground when nothing's holding them?

  24. I think she is the Most Attention grabbing Host In Youtube .I think i will listen to her 1 hour discussion on Quantum mechanics without getting bored

  25. Bees are cool, but they are also an Invasive species, that are not needed for pollination.
    That is just a falsehood beloved by the masses

  26. I feel this was a little too lacking substance. How might non-numerical treatments of zero be represented by computers in an efficient way such that they solve the dividing by zero problem? Doesn't solving division by zero entail limits or infinitessimals (Calculus)?

  27. Bees are quite smart. I remember reading about an experiment German scientists did. They moved a food source (dissolved sugar) on a boat out to a pond and monitored the bees that found it. It turned out that back at the hive, no other bees followed their waggle dance, and they got no credit whatsoever for their information about the food source. Because the other foragers knew that the location these bees were referring to was on the water. They were like: "hey, this guy's crazy, there's no forage on water. Let's ditch this guy". Only when they pulled the boat back to about 2 meters to the shore, other bees started to give credit to new forager bees that tried to communicate the food source. That is because forage trees like willows sometimes have overhanging branches that protrude pretty much that wide onto the water. what I find intriguing is that it's every bees single decision to follow the dance of a scout and then investigate, there is no "hive mind" in this. So every bee compared the location in it's mind and abstracted that this place must be located on water, thus no forage there, thus unreliable information.

  28. Well If you ever get to read our "VEDAS" you will get to know that , math is more of spiritual and natural than mechanical it seems

  29. nothing and zero are two different concepts and choosing an image with nothing on it isn't equivalent to 'understanding' the concept of zero or the concept of nothing… thats the kind of stuff they hide in books about linguistics and philosophy of language… maybe you should try one out…

  30. So if my dog prefer a bowl with food in it instead of an empty one, does that mean that it also understand the concept of zero?

  31. It definitely didn't take humans long to understand that lack of something is less of it than any positive number of those things. It' s like the difference between having some food and having no food at all- probably most animals would understand that. It took humans that long to treat zero as an actual number, as a quantity of something, because the very concept of a number describing the quality of certain objects existing, only being zero, when those objects are missing due to there being zero of them was a bit hard to grasp. The idea that bees actually know what a number is and treat zero as an actual number, not just "less than a number" is over-interpreting the results of the experiment. Maybe they just learned to avoid the picture of a flower and choose the tile that has none based on that.

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