Howard Bloom gives us a wonderful example of the power of CQ (Collaborative Intelligence) among our closest relatives in nature. In his book, Global Brain, Bloom compares the behaviors of chimpanzees and baboons. Chimpanzees are more intelligent than baboons; they even make their own tools. This latter fact further highlights the development of their individual intelligence. Comparatively the baboon is the village idiot when left to operate in isolation from the pack.
On the other hand, collectively baboons have achieved status as “the most widely distributed non-human primate” in Africa. In fact they have been described as the “rats of Africa”, flourishing in an environment where their smarter chimp-cousins are rapidly disappearing. So what are the factors contributing to the baboon’s success?
One of the most striking differences between chimps and baboons is that although the chimps have more advanced brain capacity, baboons have much better developed social networks. While chimps live in groups of approximately 40, baboons congregate in troops of three to six times that size. One of the additional advantages of larger groups is that the pack provides greater protection from attack to individual members. In larger groups there is also a much more expansive social database of knowledge and, I would suggest, greater CQ at work. Collaboratively baboons are geniuses when compared to the individually smarter chimp. Because of their larger network they can gather greater quantities of information about their environment and adapt to changes more rapidly. Their capacity to summon the CQ within their troop has then very distinct (and life saving) advantages.
An interesting aside to the topic of Baboons is that they tend to show very similar reactions to stress as humans do. They also ulcerate in response to social complexities.