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On the Hive Mind and Tyranid Sentience

2022.01.28 20:46 Odenetheus On the Hive Mind and Tyranid Sentience

A common misconception I often see is the belief that hive mind is some type of purely external entity, and that tyranids are incapable of sentience.
I feel like it'd be good to (again) discuss this subject. First, let's begin with some definitions.

Sentience
noun
sentient condition or character; capacity for sensation or feeling
...
>Sapience
noun
  1. great wisdom or sound judgment
  2. the capacity to be self-aware
...
Hive mind
noun
a collective consciousness, analogous to the behavior of social insects, in which a group of people become aware of their commonality and think and act as a community, sharing their knowledge, thoughts, and resources
For longer definitions and discussion thereof, see the respective Wikipedia articles on each.
Any creature capable of experiencing, well, basically any emotion or feeling, such as hunger, anger, hatred, sleepiness, is sentient. Every human, every other mammal, every bird, every fish, even crustaceans (though not necessarily all molluscs) and probably quite many, if not all, insects, are sentient. Sentience is something of a requirement to act. There's even an argument to be made for cell phones being sentient, but that's beyond the scope of this post.
What many animals possibly aren't, is sapient. They're not self-aware, they're not capable of any abstract thinking, and they're not able to draw any relevant conclusions.
These two are often conflated, especially for tyranids. There is no doubt that tyranids, big or small, are sentient; the one exception to this would be living ammo and other tyranids lacking any relevant type of nervous system.
There is ample proof thst tyranids are sentient. They're consistently shown to display hunger, and aggression, neither being possible without sentience. This is made extra salient when tyranids are cut off from the rest of their kin in the hive mind, as shown in Valedor and elsewhere. Specifically, it's stated that they revert to their 'animalistic selves'.
However, most inidivudal tyranids have very little in the way of sapience, and that's where the hive mind comes in. Lictors, swarm lords, and other tyranids with more advanced brains are, of course, capable of individual sapience as well, just like other more advanced animals such as parrots and humans are.
That brings us to the second misconception: how a hive mind functions. Hive minds aren't external-only entities that impose their will on its members. The best analogy of a hive mind is a massive communist democracy, in which everyone gets to contribute according to their own ability. Small tyranids contribute very little individually, but there are a lot of them. Since they're not relevantly sapient, they're individually incapable of contributing individual sapience, so the majority of their contributions are sentience and processing power. Their "votes" are simple, basic, but they still do vote. This is most likely the reason the hive mind is capable of hatred (which it has been stated to be).
Bigger tyranids are capable of more individual thought, and act as both co-ordinators and intermediaries. They co-ordinate the thoughts, and contribute more on an individual basis. Most likely they do not only use their own individual brains to do this, but also use the processing power provided by the individual masses. In a way, they're the arbiters and administrators of the tyranid thought processes.
This is the main way tyranids differ from necrons. Necron warriors don't contribute any thought at all, and are possibly not sentient at all. The necron higher-ups do all the thinking, with the great masses merely being slaved bodies. Unlike the tyranid set-up, there is no input from the warriors; it's a one-way street.
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So they can Scandinavian :)
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