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Ants vs People

October 16, 2006

No, I’m not talking about some bad re-make of a 1950’s B-grade sci-fi film.     Last week,  while at the resort, we came upon a double line of ants stretching from a bed of plantings, across the sidewalk, and up a 2 story concrete wall.   One column of ants was going up, and the other down and the two lines ran parallel to each other the way traffic runs on a two lane road during rush hour – only faster and with less honking.   The ants were on a mission, moving crumbs of food up to their residence.  Six to ten ants would surround each piece of food and in a smooth, and organized fashion, would collectively push and pull the piece up the wall.  So synchronized was the effort that the group moved as a single unit.  There appeared no difference in effort for those ants pushing or those pulling.   These food bearers followed the same line as the the rest of the ants, and periodically, an ant from the opposing direction would step out of line, and try to take over the position of each one of the six or ten ants moving the food.  Seemingly, if one of those laboring ants were tired, it would relinquish it’s position in favor of the “fresh” ant.  If a position were not found, the fresh ant would rejoin the line heading in the direction that it was originally traveling.    Here were perhaps a thousand or more ants, working in a highly efficient and organized fashion, and all with the same purpose.

I described this in detail for a reason.  I work for a medium / large size company that is going through what should be a very straightforward process, yet one which is made more frustrating due to the involvement of human beings.   Humans, especially in large groups, don’t seem to naturally work together as a collective, nor desire to create the simplest process possible.  Instead, endowed with a superior intellect, and the forces of an unconscious ego, humans tend to focus on what they uniquely need, and create endless layers of process and task to provide for all those discrete ‘need’s.  

To be fair, ants won’t navigate the stars,  compose a symphony as we know it, or develop the unified field theory.    They do work with efficiency,  purpose, and a high degree of order.    I’m not suggesting we should become mindless drones, but perhaps, we would move ahead faster if we could embrace simpler objectives, hold less tenaciously to individual ways, details, and  the need to be “in the loop”, and above all, work together as if we were all humans.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Philip permalink
    May 2, 2012 6:41 am

    While I too am fascinated with the ants amazing ability to work as one collective unit to accomplish a goal. I am much more grateful of my individuality and free will, isnt that what makes us human.

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