Groups of social animals whose individual members follow simple sets of rules do surprising things. This NY Times article by Carl Zimmer in the Nov. 13 science section quotes Ian Couzin, a mathematical biologist at Princeton: “No matter how much you look at an individual army ant...you will never get a sense that when you put 1.5 million of them together, they form these bridges and columns. You just cannot know that.” The article notes the simple models that predict swarming behavior by setting the population density that which individuals switch from going their own way to following others. It also describes experiments using human subjects to test Couzin's models.
Many take our brains to be a more massive and complex version of the "hive minds" displayed by groups of bees, ants, birds and fish. Brain modelers assign relatively simple properties to their model neurons and then watch amazing patterns emerge when their whole society of neurons is fired up to interact.