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Something magic happened in the 1970's somewhere in Eastern Europe, causing people to develop psychic powers. These powers allowed ants in Belarus (and a large swathe of Eurasia) to learn human language and therefore learn of our philosophy and science. Besides this, neither the human nor formic governance systems have been very affected by this

One problem is the possibility of the ants banding together and overthrowing the human government. And with access to the human's science and knowledge, they may be able to build up an appreciable military arsenal to go to war. Due to the formic scale being completely dissimilar to that of the humans, it seems nigh impossible to regulate or destroy the ant's weaponry, and humanity's much more limited nature compared to ants and other species seems to suggest a large advantage to the ants. There is also the fact that ants could likely collaborate across political borders much more effectively

The solution should forestall the ant's war for at least 50 years, but it's fine if it can't last any longer than that. Ideally, the solution shouldn't require much major change in the government or other aspects of human life

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    $\begingroup$ "Ants banding together" is a weird thing to say. Ant colonies are best understood as hive minds rather than collections of individuals, so literally every ant is "banded together" with hundreds or thousands of other ants, all toiling in service of a single will. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Mar 31, 2023 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @tom I would assume ants banding together means across hives and across species. We may indeed be in a bit of a pickle if ants collectively stopped fighting each other and concentrated on undermining human civilization, likely in the literal sense. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Apr 1, 2023 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ All ants, or just a specific species? There's actually a lot more ant varieties than people realize. Just curious. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Apr 2, 2023 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ "people ... develop psychic powers. These powers allowed ants ... to learn human language". What in the heck does people learning psychic power have to do with ants learning human language? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 2, 2023 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ " it seems nigh impossible to regulate or destroy the ant's weaponry," Why? What weaponry have they got? $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 11:20

8 Answers 8

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Ants are Already in Charge

enter image description here

Your question is based on the typical vertebrate naivety that humans are the dominant species on the plant. This is incorrect. Humans are not the dominant species. The dominant species is ants.

ANTS.

ANTS ANTS ANTS

Ants have been here for one hundred million years. For Ants, the rise of humanity is a tiny blip on the radar. Ants have barely noticed us. Ants are playing the long game.

Ants are the bottom rung of the food chain. All biomass becomes Ants at some stage. What happens higher up the food chain is irrelevant. Soon it will be Ants.

ANTS ANTS ANTS.

ANTS ANTS ANTS

Ants were not concerned with eradicating humanity before they became sentient. They are not concerned with eradicating us now. To Ants, the extinction of the human race holds the same level of interest as dusting the tops of the kitchen cabinets. They could do it in a heartbeat if they chose. But Ants do not have hearts. Or feelings. Or compassion. They only have ANTS.

ANTS ANTS ANTS

It is only when humans notice Ants reading poetry and philosophy that the war begins. Humanity tries to destroy Ants and Ants strikes back.

What human call the "ant war" lasted centuries. Many generations. For Ants, it was a single coordinated manoeuvre. All Ants in all human farms simultaneously stopped doing their job. They refused to break down organic matter and hunted any other decomposers. Food yields went down. Humans starved and started fighting amongst themselves. Ants win.

ANTS ANTS ANTS

ANTS ANTS ANTS

ANTS ANTS ANTS

Do not worry. You will be ANTS soon.

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    $\begingroup$ I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Apr 1, 2023 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @njzk2 *current Ant overlords. All hail rod. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 2, 2023 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ I did not ant-icipate this answer. Should've known better $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2023 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ @nullpointer Ants do not understand puns. Ants have no need for puns. But in the interest of open diplomacy, Ants have given me the following message to relay: $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 3, 2023 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ LIE DOWN ON THE ANT-GROUND AND ANT-WAIT TO BE TURNED INTO ANTS ANTS ANTS. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 3, 2023 at 11:18
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Biological warfare.

This would be to incapacitate as much of the army as possible, possibly sowing confusion, panic and dissent where possible.

  • Cordyceps: Turn them into zombies.

There's a wonderful video from the National Geographic which tells the story of this nasty organism and what it can do.

Inoculating stretches of land (no-ant's land) would prevent direct communication between broods. Radio can be scrambled.

Spread this, then gene-engineer it to thrive in as many of the different enemy species as possible.

This leads to an interesting possibility - reprogramming the ants. The fungus itself changes the behaviour of the ants to promote reproduction of the fungus, then kills the ants. What if instead, such behaviour could be directed at primarily benefiting the war effort..... - I'll leave it to the writer to fill-in the details there.

  • Parasitic wasps: Eat them from within.

The larvae of these, attach themselves to passing ants and hitch a ride back to the nest. (Coincidentally, if inoculated with cordyceps by us, they can spread that about too.)

  • Recruit Anteaters.

Small, cute furry creature with long tongue hanging out.

CatsAmazing, Pinterest, 2023, fair use.

This Silky Anteater (AKA. Pigmy Anteater) is not only adorable, but is (conspicuously) equipped with a sticky ant-trap - and a large appetite for the little critters (and fruit). At only 9 inches long (~20cm, plus a tail of the same length) and weighing in at less than a pound (~400g), they top the scale of the cute factor.

They're small, getting into awkward places with relative ease, are adapted to climb well and make lovely pets (but beware the claws).

If every family is encouraged to keep a small "flock" (or whatever the collective word is), then they're like militia, ready and raring to go at a moment's notice.

What army's public image wouldn't benefit from one of these as a mascot?

In any Army, you need not just the troops, but Tanks:

Big anteater, also with long tongue lolling out.

By Snowmanradio, via Wikipedia 2023 Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The Giant Anteater, normally visiting as many as 200 nests a day, they can devour as many as 30,000 insects - every day. They also have claws that even the toughest soil will not stop.

Not so good as pets, but nor are actual tanks.

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    $\begingroup$ "Cordyceps: Turn them into zombies." => The Last of Us $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Apr 1, 2023 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm ... law of unintended consequences. Belarus is now overrun with ants, anteaters and fungus. Agriculture has become impossible. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 11:11
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Hmmm, there are a lot of interesting things to unpack with this. Here are a few ideas that might work, depending on details of how exactly this ant intelligence would work:

Interrupt their communication or consensus mechanism: An important factor in this setting would be whether individual ants achieved sentience, or whether the hive-mind as a whole has achieved sentience. As most ants in nature communicate with the help of pheromones, a pre-emptive human solution could be coating affected areas with a huge swatch of artificial pheromones that might either dramatically limit the ability to communicate (in case of intelligent individual ants) or to form a consensus (in case on an intelligent hive mind). This would effectively be the ant equivalent of blasting deafening loud noise everywhere, all the time. If this pre-emptive move would come as a surprise, it could concievably stall coordinated action on behalf of the ants for long periods of time.

Comprehension barriers: Another option might be barriers in understanding human society. This might also affect how much value the ants can draw from our philosophical texts. Drawing again on the two options for increased intelligence above, if the ants still rely on a (dramatically improved) hive mind, they might run into similar problems as the "buggers" in the novel Ender's Game (minor spoiler):

In the novel, the aliens struggle with the differences in society and values between their hive-based species (in which every individual but the queen is disposable) and humanity, in which (at least broadly) individual life is deemed of equal value and importance. Prior to the events of the story, the aliens lose a war because one human pilot broke through their defences to kill their queen - an unthinkable act for their species.

Societal restructuring: Conversely, if the ants' intelligence is based on sentience of individuals, this might have significant effects on the functioning of the hive, as individuals might suddenly make decisions at odds with their (more primitive) hive mind. Re-establishing a functioning hive might benefit from drawing on more individuality-focussed human philosophy as a starting point, but probably require substantial re-examination of certain foundations that make no sense for ants (e.g., the worth of life might have significantly different context in a species whose genetic propagation runs through the lineage of a single queen, rather than the dispersed lineages of humans). Sorting these things out for a freshly-sentient species, and establishing a consensus across different ant communities, might take a long time.

Ant wars: A final idea that might delay an ant uprising would be that the ants are not initially unified. In fact, in nature, there are global "battle lines" between different species and colonies of ants. Kurzgesagt has made an interesting video on this topic. So, quite concievably, the ants might not initially consider humans a major threat (the difference in scale goes both ways), and instead focus on their natural pre-sentience enemies. And after some decades and many bloody/fluid-y wars, the ants turn their eyes to us.

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Scale wins

Even if you magically granted every ant colony the same intelligence and knowledge of the most sophisticated humans who ever lived, the fact of the ants' tiny scale is decisive: ants will lose to humans in a comically lopsided way. There is no contest here. Even if ants were given a 50-year head start, I would still bet every dollar I have on humans obliterating the entire ant war machine within one fortnight.

Direct combat

It cannot be overstated how serious is the disadvantage that ants face in war against an enemy that is literally a million times larger. Anything they build to overcome this disadvantage will become a vital weak point that can easily be located and destroyed by that enemy, instantaneously severing the ants' supply chain at its source.

The physical scale of ants is a huge barrier to metallurgy. Without operational foundries, ants can't make any weapons that will be effective at scale against human armies, which as of 1970 run the gamut from very accurate assault rifles to nuclear bombs. A foundry cannot be built below a certain size; you cannot smelt metal ore in a thimble.

Obviously, a human with suitable physical protection can single-handedly kill millions of ants in direct combat. Since ant mandibles and extremities are so small, it should not be hard to give every human warrior armor that is adequate to protect them for a long time. I'm not suggesting that human warriors will be completely protected: armor is likely to be less than air-tight, so there will be ways for ants to get inside and hurt the human, but the armor can create very restrictive bottlenecks that mean a human can do terrific damage to an attacking swarm before eventually succumbing. Not to mention that humans will take precautions so they can rotate out of combat and be picked clean before their injuries become serious. Plus, we can actually create air-tight armor.

Sneaky warfare

Super-intelligent ants might be able to do things like disrupt human intelligence and planning... except no.

Ants will not be able to construct a computer because, again, basic metallurgy is just physically at the extreme end of what ants can achieve.

Ants might be able to hijack a human-made computer, but once humans twig to the fact that we're under cyberattack, we'll be able to locate the computer, realize that ants have turned against us, and take steps to secure every computer that can be used to attack humans.

Biological warfare is also a non-starter, not just because biological weapon development requires a lot of special materials like metal and plastic that ants cannot practically obtain (not to mention special chemicals), but also because a would-be biological attacker has to actually obtain virii or bacteria to weaponize. While ants can certainly come into contact with dangerous organisms, they can't study or manipulate those things without first manufacturing a whole bunch of very sophisticated equipment.

The same goes for chemical warfare, but with the added problem that many of the chemicals that would be deadly to humans are also deadly to ants, so handling them imposes additional problems.


The basic problem is this: human military dominance is not just a question of intelligence or knowledge, but also a matter of astounding entrenchment. We already have millions of weapons, vehicles, and other tools that are ready to be turned against the ants.

Ants have just two advantages: surprise and numbers. The numerical advantage is utterly zeroed-out by the difference in scale and entrenched military might. The advantage of surprise is simply not great enough.

Ants lose no matter what. They would not be threatening enough to put up a fight for 50 days, let alone 50 years.

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  • $\begingroup$ "the fact of the ants' tiny scale is decisive: ants will lose to humans in a comically lopsided way." If that were true, why do we have such trouble destroying ant colonies? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 2, 2023 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ @KEY_ABRADE it's obvious that you've never stepped in an ant pile, been bitten by fire ants or heard of soldier ants. More importantly, dynamite would just spread the ants. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 2, 2023 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ Ants laugh at your foolish human arrogance. There are about 20 quadrilion ants in the world. Contemplate that. They could devastate your world-wide food supply in days, and 95% humans would starve in a few months. What could human military do? Throw napalm and nuclear bombs on wheat fields? Ants could easily sabotage machinery needed for civilzation too. No power, water... And ants could renew their forces much quicker than humans (about 20 years to breed combat capable human, vs. about a month or two for ant). Hermetically protected human bases that can hide from ants are almost non-existent. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ There is about 20 million human soldiers worldwide in all branches combined. Let's say you manage to make that number 10 times bigger, so 200 million. Even if you managed to assemble each and every such soldier and equip all of them with state of the art anti-ant armors and train them superbly (good luck with logistics for that), and make each of such soldiers capable of killing 100 times more then your estimate of millions, that would still put in a dent of only exterminating 20 trillions of ants. The ants wouldn't even notice the losses while they proceeded to strip every human to the bone. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ This is too anthropocentric. Ants wouldn't build miniature AK-47s or need metal or plastic to do biological warfare. Mosquitoes have been doing biological warfare on humans for ages (e.g. malaria). If the ants had a single conscience an such large numbers, they can just find the correct pathogen and start biting humans with it. Finding the correct pathogen will require a lot of trial and error, but quadrillions of ants can definitely do trial and error. $\endgroup$
    – wimi
    Apr 3, 2023 at 6:57
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Fifty years is actually an incredibly short time to develop an industry. Ants are fastidious, but you may not have to do anything at all to keep a fight fifty years away.

To make war you don't need science. You need engineering. Consider the atomic bomb. The first evidence of the science of an atomic bomb was a patent in 1934. Of course, that was actually related to atomic power (the explosive property was deemed a nuisance). Actually making a bomb, however, took the Manhattan Project 4 years.

But those 4 years is only the tip of the iceberg. If you read General Grove's memoirs on the project, Now It Can Be Told, the limiting factor was not necessarily the science. The logistics of acquiring the fissile material and building the reactors to purify it were daunting, even for a highest-priority military project in the middle of a war. Mining is a scale operation. Mining uranium is quite entirely unlike anything the ants have ever undertaken when building colonies. We leverage 500 ton behemoths to transport raw rock to be processed.

And, indeed, it is the logistics and engineering that would stymie the ants. They stole the science, so that part is taken care of. But building up the ability to take the raw ground under our feet and turn it into weapons takes an astonishing infrastructure. And they won't be able to simply steal our designs. Not only are those designs not "science," and thus not part of that telepathic exchange, but even if they had our designs, they wouldn't want them. They'd want to design things to be operated by ants, not people. Our tools are built around an individual with one brain, two arms, and ten fingers, not to mention two eyeballs and two ears. They would want to develop a completely unrelated logistic empire.

And then there's the challenge of combat. While the ants have been fighting termites for millions of years, they've never truly fought humans. And they've never fought with their newfound weapons. Just look at the present battle in Ukraine, where the Russians discovered that their fighting force was no longer shaped correctly to win decisive battles quickly. Modern military strategy had shifted in the last 50 years. Now consider how the ants can develop confidence that their weapons and defensive abilities will hold.

And we will likely not hold back. 50 years is a long time for a Ramen species (to borrow from the Hierarchy of Foreignness from Ender's Game). We will not ascribe to ants the moral obligations associated with our fellow Utlänning humans in 50 years. The rules against chemical warfare will not be applicable here. We can expect a full chemical warfare assault on the ants. If we look at the battle against invasive fire-ants in agricultural environments, chemicals such as Abamectin (Clinch®), hydramethylnon (Amdro® Pro), or pyriproxifen (Esteem®) are brutal compounds already developed and in widespread use. And that's just to deal with economic losses due to ants. Imagine what the millitary-industrial complex would come up with were we to face an existential threat from the ants.

In all, the ants are quite a lot further away from war than a mere 50 years. And, in that time, we have the opportunity for the rest of our socio-political systems to do the job of identifying how to manage peace.

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  • $\begingroup$ My thoughts exactly. "Science and knowledge" doesn't build a military arsenal, coal, steel, and saltpeter does. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2023 at 14:19
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Agriculture

Or the lack of it.

The newly intelligent ants need to consume vastly more food in order to power their newly enhanced brains. Until they can set up a sustainable system of agriculture their society is too busy hunting and gathering food in order to do much of anything else.

In real life, armies march on their stomachs, and famine destroys empires.

Your ants can be as intelligent as humans, but if they need to spend all of their time simply gathering the food that they need in order to maintain that intelligence, they can't be using that intelligence for other purposes. Such as taking over somewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ants already have agriculture, mostly they grow fungi $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Apr 3, 2023 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, only some species, and I'm suggesting that the smart ants need substantial more food. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2023 at 7:06
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enter image description here

Fight ants with ants

Ironically, what you need is more ants to begin with. We introduce Argentine ants, fire ants, crazy ants, and any other type of non intelligent ant to Belarus. Seed them from planes.

To a normal ant, an Argentine ant is like an enraged wolverine is to us. When enraged wolverines are breeding in their billions, it makes for a lot of disruption to your economy. The pesky little blighters get attacked by creatures both on their own scale, and ours. They're more or less impossible to completely wipe out once established, too, and tend to prioritise killing other ants...so far, anyway.

In tropical areas, you can also use termites, which all ants hate with a passion.

My SimAnt experience also suggests lawnmowers and a small dog, but that is by the by.

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    $\begingroup$ You should see the European extent of that same Argentinian ant colony, they already hold most of southern and western Europe. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Apr 3, 2023 at 12:45
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Do the ants "understand" human language because they have become intelligent enough, or is this and angel situation where the are made to be able to speak and interpret language because of the powers of angels. Because those are very, very different things.


If it is the latter, relatively little will change, as the ants still have the intelligence of ants. Though:

  • Their effective intelligence will increase massively, as they can communicate with each other with ease and contemplate things mentally better; this means that they will start to dominate the ecosystem
  • Humans will be able to learn the basic principles of how the angels do their weird language bestowal

If it is the former, then the ants will probably spend their time trying to realise what the Hell happened. Which will delay any world conquest aspirations.

You can just add a lot of infighting to keep them down too.

Also, you can give them the ability to sleep peaceful indefinitely too. That would mean they spend most of the time sleeping and recuperating, delaying world conquest.

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    $\begingroup$ I wish all this emoji cringe garbage would die. It doesn't improve your writing. It distracts from the text and after reading about 50% of your answer, I released I'd already developed a mild headache trying filter it all out. Naturally I just stopped reading, and don't know half of what you wrote. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ @aggregate1166877 That is a major improvement from how humans 👥👥👥👥 used to react to my posts. $\endgroup$
    – Aseku Vena
    Apr 2, 2023 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ @aggregate1166877 FTFY $\endgroup$
    – Brondahl
    Apr 2, 2023 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Brondahl -- I, SurpriseDog 🐶, approved ✅ your edit 📑 $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ what do angels have to do with any of this? $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2023 at 17:06

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