Future Thinking? Ask the Ants! (10)

We tend to make better decisions when we ask ourselves, “What will be the effect of this choice?” or “If I continue on the path I’m currently treading, where will I be in the next 10 or more years?” We often fail to think far enough into the future to imagine the consequences of our actions. Some people believe that things will sort themselves out in the future but Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Keeping our eyes on the future keeps our present in check.

Sustainable development, according to the Brunoltland Report that was commissioned by the United Nations, is “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This definition is quite instructive in this age of hyper-competition. Everyone wants to get ahead and a lot of people would at any cost. Beginnings are good, continuation is better and sustainability is the best. Some people start businesses which services will no longer be needed in a few years. Some study courses that will be obsolete by the time they graduate from school. Some are in relationships that will turn out for the worst if current indicators persist. The big question is, “Is there a future here?” Ants are smart enough to do the following:

  1. Rescue the future: when ant colonies are destroyed, the priority of adult ants is to save the future of the colony- the larvae and pupae. The scouts seek out a new habitation while the workers struggle to protect the young from the sunlight. The greatest way to preserve the future is to protect the present. If the ants scurry to save their own lives instead of those of their young, they will become extinct. What we allow to die is not as important as what we allow to live; what is dead is dead after all, but what we spare defines our future.
  2. Retrace steps: when scout ants fan out to look for a new habitation, they leave chemical trails. The more suitable a location is, the more scouts will select it by leaving a stronger chemical scent. Immediately a location is accepted, all the ants retrace their steps to align. Stubbornness is of no use when you are heading in the wrong direction. Time doesn’t make wrong right; the longer you stay on the wrong course, the farther you go from your real destination.