(CNN) A picture is worth a few hundred thousand people.

Comparing the mass of humanity (as observed from space) at Obama’s inauguration to ants might be interpreted as criticism or distaste for our new President. That isn’t the case — I have no love for any President or politician (and any reader of knows my distaste for democracy).

Rather this is just inescapable observation. So many people flocking around a central hub to ring in the new ruler — it is plain bug-like. As for interpretation, I see it as a manifestation of the self-domestication of human beings, tragic. Restoring individuality — freedom — to man (finding a more favorable equilibrium between human nature and modern existence) isn’t something that can be accomplished easily, if at all. I don’t know many who even desire such a freedom, which makes me sad.

Individuals seem lost in the shuffle of our modern age: are human beings more like ants than lions? I’m afraid that may be the case. If I’m right, the consequences could be disastrous.

More on modern zoo-manity from Richard.

Update 1/23/09: Patri Friedman compared two pictures of mobs and got a bit of flack for it (one picture was from Nazi Germany). I get it. His point wasn’t to compare Obama to Hitler, but to point out the following:

So to me, the massive crowd at Tuesday’s inauguration represents part of the dark side of human nature. (as do lots of other things in life). The desire to worship and subsume one’s will to a leader, who is elevated about the mobs, who is perceived as superhuman and special and wonderful, and who will fix all our problems. To me, that is the opposite of the messy reality of complex systems, spontaneous order, individual preferences, and distributed systems that is life.

Emphasis mine. I couldn’t agree more, and I sense there’s a correlation between strong feelings of individualism and distaste for monstrous crowds. Mobs are the anti-individual even as they are nothing more than the sum of the individuals present. How do you keep sacred the indivisible parts — a mother, father, child — when all you see is a mass (?mess?) of humanity? What is lost in the mob?

A lot.

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