The Ant Space is a lovely metaphor; heaven and earth in a box. The practice is to create a world, add life, then observe and care for it from an all-seeing perspective. It is a thought provoking hobby.
A beautiful lesson comes from caring for the ants. If one can gain compassion for them, creatures so diminutive and unlike ourselves, then compassion for all living beings is close at hand.
The Ant Space teaches patience. The scene evolves at the pace of sprouting seeds and digging ants. It cannot be hurried nor can it be stopped. A constant reminder that the world is always changing and we exist at our own pace within it.
Ants are part of a Superorganism. Individuals cannot thrive on their own, but together they accomplish marvelous complex tasks. The Superorganism can build a home, hunt and forage for food, defend itself, raise offspring. It is an intelligence very unlike our own yet we are not separate from it. In the same way individual ants create a Superorganism humans make up a Social Organism; each individual having only a limited awareness of their contribution to the greater intelligence.
In Tibetan Buddhist tradition a sand mandala is created then ritualistically destroyed to symbolize the ephemeral nature of life. The Ant Space takes inspiration from this beautiful tradition. Create your own sand art within the Ant Space then let nature dismantle it. Ants will spread the colors, giving insight into how they move their world.
There exists a supercolony of ants that stretches across three continents, one hundred million individuals living and working together. The total number of neurons in this colony is equivalent to three hundred human brains. Each ant acts as both an individual neural network and a constituent of the higher intelligence, the ethereal Superorganism, the second layer neural network.
Humans exist in this same hierarchy; the group creating an intelligence greater than the individual. Over hundreds of thousands of years mankind’s knowledge has amassed in the human Superorganism. Collectively we have taken ourselves to the brink of artificial intelligence, a third layer of neural network. The next leap in evolution.
Google's DeepDream neural network is a type of artificial intelligence inspired by the visual cortex. Images it produces are artifacts of a copy of a human brain. The Carina Nebula DeepDream background is generated in this neural network. It is an option for every Ant Space. From a distance it looks like a cloudy nebula, up close it is teeming with life.
The thin habitat of the Ant Space creates a two dimensional world where the ants live. From that plane of existence the masterpiece they create is inconceivable. To observe from the outside is to gaze from a higher dimension, the third dimension, an all seeing aerie.
The world’s greatest physicists and mathematicians tirelessly pursue a unifying Theory of Everything, a theory that links together all the physical aspects of the universe. To do this science has had to recognize higher dimensions. String Theory, one of the most promising models, explains the universe in one time dimension and nine directional dimensions. What gazes from those higher dimensions is yet to be known.
The backdrop of each Ant Space is a unique selection from the immaculate Hubble Space Telescope image The Carina Nebula: Star Birth In The Extreme. The composition spans fifty light years, capturing the brightest stars in the sky. It is the most beautiful of astronomical observations, the very best humanity has ever looked at the stars.
The achievement of capturing this image is staggering. A rocket launched a satellite into orbit with a camera capable of focusing at a point in the sky 7500 light years away. It is a scientific pinnacle built upon 200,000 years of human progress. All of this to look at the stars, the very same thing we did in the beginning, walking onto the plains, looking up for the first time.
The beauty of nature exists outside of human constructs. Nature is not created or conceived, it just is. A cloud is never out of place. Trees are always the right height. A flower has never bloomed with too many petals, or too few. Nature is the source of beauty. At every moment it exists in perfection. Ants are not separate from this. The masterpiece they create is beautiful. It can be no other way.
A small piece of the Milky Way fills the space beyond the ants. It shows stars being born from the dust of the Carina Nebula. Some of those stars did not yet exist when the first ants started tunneling. Ants were here long before us and will be here long after us. They are ancient, older than the stars.
For 90 million years, 300 times longer than Homo sapien has walked the earth, ants have been tunneling. In that time they have spreading worldwide to fill every ecological niche and become the world's most abundant insect. Ants watched the dinosaurs die off and the rise of mammals. Continents drifted across the globe as ants were digging. Now, at the tip of their long history, they are creating art.
View the Ant Space Gallery by looking around this 360 degree video. Use VR goggles or a phone and Google Cardboard to view these ant farms for adults. Sit within the space. It is a lovely place to meditate.