THE LIVING WORLD turns chaos into order by making large structures out of small units. The sublime coordination of a flock of birds or a school of fish—built iteratively from the twitches and bumps of single individuals—turns instinctive behaviors into something vast and graceful. It’s not just for show. A lone gazelle can’t evade a fast-moving lion anywhere near as well as a slippery, undulating herd.
With that in mind, take a look at this video of a truck barreling through protesters in Minneapolis in May. The densely packed protesters swirl out of the truck’s path, then close ranks back around it when the truck stops. For a few moments, the movements of the protesters look very much like a murmuration of starlings responding to an attacking falcon, or maybe little fish to a shark—parting like water in front of a boat, swirling in eddies around the invader, regrouping behind it. The protesters respond as a collective….