All was well in the ant colony: The queen was having hundreds of babies, the worker ants were taking care of those babies as well as building new tunnels for them to live in, the soldier ants were defending the nest and procuring food, and the male drones, who only had half the genes of the females (and probably half the IQ, the females would often joke), were basically just hanging around the colony until spring when they would fly off, mate with a fertile female from another colony, and then die shortly thereafter.
Everything appeared just as it should be, except from the compound eyes of one drone who had always felt a little more special than the rest (despite his relative lack of genetic material) and was tired of his position in the colony’s hierarchy. As a drone, he was considered not much more than a flying sperm donor who would self-isolate and then die shortly after his Big Act. He felt like he had more to contribute than just servicing some up-and-coming queen…so he enrolled in business school!
In business school he learned that in order to get ahead of the others, he needed to think like an entrepreneur. He learned how to dream up unnecessary “value-added” services to supply chains that were already working efficiently. He learned how to write fake business plans in corporate gibberish in order to attract investor money. And most importantly, he learned how to exploit the work of others in order to make profit for himself.
Going to business school was an educational epiphany for him, and he graduated with the blissful feeling of someone who had finally understood who he was. After graduation, he went back to the colony and couldn’t wait to apply his new knowledge.
But before he got started, he realized if he was going to be a true entrepreneur and individual, he would need a name. Now names weren’t something that ants typically had – being members of fully cooperative societies and all. They worked together in such a harmonious way, that humans deemed ant colonies super organisms because of their ability to solve complex problems as one.
So he had to pick a name when there was no precedent. He recalled some of his heroes from business school and remembered Cornelius Vanderbilt, the first of the robber barons – who made his money (unethically) through railroads! Not only that, but he also married two of his cousins, the second one whose name was Frank, and the ant thought that was marvelous. So he decided to name himself Cornelius.
After naming himself, he went over to the side of the hill, where some of the soldier ants were working.
“Hi, I’m Cornelius. What are you gals doing here?” he asked.
“What does it look like we’re doing?” replied one of the soldiers.
“We’re getting food,” said another.
“Well, what exactly is involved?”
“Are you serious?” asked the first soldier. “What are you, a journalist?”
“No! I just graduated from business school and I want to see if I can help the colony run more efficiently.”
“Are you saying we’re not efficient?” accused a third soldier.
“Not at all! I’m just curious. And I’m sure you do a great job. Tell me all about it!”
“Fine. Well, we send out a squad to do some reconnaissance work. You know, to find a picnic or something. Then they report back and we send out enough soldiers to get the goods. Then it’s back and forth using the shortest route for as long as it takes.”
“Hmm,” said Cornelius. “That sounds really swell, but what if I told you that I could save you the trouble of sending out the initial reconnaissance group. That would cut down on time and risk, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, I don’t see how, but go ‘head and try me,” said the first soldier.
“I have a company that can find picnics and alert you to them for a small fee,” said Cornelius.
And with that, Cornelius had discovered the first fake need around which he could form a start-up. He set out to find a few other male ants who also felt rather useless and objectified, and he knew just where to find them: the bar! He grabbed the most sober ones and hired them on the spot. They stayed up all night and made a business plan, a company name, a logo, and even an app. The app was called “Picnicr” and used geo-location and crowd-sourcing to locate picnics.
The next day Cornelius found the soldier and showed her his app. She tried it out and to her surprise, and annoyance, it worked pretty well, so all the soldiers signed up for subscriptions to the app.
Cornelius was very pleased to be making money, but he suspected he should be making more. So he visited the worker ants that took care of the babies.
“Hey ladies, are you enjoying taking care of these screaming brats?”
“Um, I don’t think the queen would appreciate you talking about her children like that,” said one of the workers.
“But honestly, don’t you have aspirations beyond baby-sitting? Wouldn’t you like to, you know, maybe take a class, or get back to your painting or writing? What I’m saying is – didn’t you envision more than this when you were a larval ant?”
Cornelius had hit a nerve with a few of the workers. When they were young they did have aspirations for higher education and art, but had accepted their caste placements early on, and never questioned them. Until now.
“OK, I’ll admit, when I was young, I dreamed of becoming a modern dancer,” offered one of the workers.
“Well, it’s not too late!” said Cornelius. “My new start-up company can help free up your time – for a nominal fee. I can bring in a nanny from another colony and she can fill in for you while you go take a class!”
“But how can I afford that? I don’t make much money as it is!”
“Easy! I get workers from that colony over by the elementary school. They work for practically nothing just to get away from those horrible children! So you’ll still get your salary, and with that you can pay me my fee and I’ll take care of the cost of the nanny.”
“But how can I afford to take a class? I’m barely making ends meet.”
“No problem! I also own a bank and can lend you the tuition money! I assure you that the payments will be easy on your budget.”
And that’s how Cornelius got into the childcare and education businesses.
But it still wasn’t enough money! So he visited the queen. “Now your highness, with all due respect, aren’t you tired of having one pile of babies after another? It’s got to be exhausting. I cannot even imagine how painful and energy-sapping it must be. And we sure do appreciate it, mind you! But wouldn’t it be nice to take some time off and maybe take a trip? When’s the last time you went on a vacation? I thought so. Well, I’ve got just the thing – my company can provide a surrogate queen who can carry and birth however many litters you decide. So you can still be having babies, while simultaneously relaxing in the Mediterranean, and I hear the picnics there are far superior to ours!
Cornelius was making money mandible-over-antenna, and enjoying his wealth in the most opulently senseless ways. But after a short time, the colony started to collapse. The queen had to come back from the south of France and pawn her jewels to pay the surrogate fee, and then had to take out loans (from Cornelius) to pay for emergency maintenance to the colony’s infrastructure, which had been overdeveloped with all that venture capital and now was falling apart. Sadly, some of the tunnels had collapsed and many ants were killed.
Meanwhile, the workers who had finished their degrees, couldn’t get jobs in their fields, since those fields don’t exist. Have you ever seen of a modern dance troupe of ants? Of course not – as we all know, they lack the gift of expressive movement! So the workers had to go back to their original jobs, and couldn’t pay their student loan bills with those salaries. And subsequently, the workers that had been brought in from the other colony had to go back to being tortured by the magnifying glass wielding children at the elementary school.
The soldiers had lost their sense of direction because of their dependence on geo-location, so they were no longer able to find picnics and their atrophied bodies couldn’t carry much food anyway, so the colony started to starve.
Moreover, the ants who for tens of millions of years worked together as a super organism, became individualists who saw each other only as threats that needed to be quashed and superseded. The harmony of the colony was gone and 90% of the ants acted like assholes. The other 10% were so depressed, they couldn’t even leave their tunnels.
But no worries! Cornelius was there to save the day one last time! He had created a start-up that made robots! These robots didn’t need food, never lost their sense of direction, could carry heavy supplies, didn’t need to procreate, and never got depressed!
So the ants were replaced with antbots and picnics were ruined forever after.
“What the hell is that in the potato salad???”
“It looks like an ant! Kill it!”
“I’m stepping on it with my boot, and it won’t die! There’s hundreds of them! This picnic is over!”
And that’s how the war on picnics was won.