Another question I hear a lot is, "What can we learn of moral value from the ants?” Here again I will answer definitively: nothing. Nothing at all can be learned from ants that our species should even consider imitating. For one thing, all working ants are female. Males are bred and appear in the nest only once a year, and then only briefly. They are pitiful creatures with wings, huge eyes, small brains and genitalia that make up a large portion of their rear body segment. They have only one function in life: to inseminate the virgin queens during the nuptial season. They are built to be robot flying sexual missiles. Upon mating or doing their best to mate, they are programmed to die within hours, usually as victims of predators.
Many kinds of ants eat their dead -- and their injured, too. You may have seen ant workers retrieve nestmates that you have mangled or killed underfoot (accidentally, I hope), thinking it battlefield heroism. The purpose, alas, is more sinister.
As ants grow older, they spend more time in the outermost chambers and tunnels of the nest, and are more prone to undertake dangerous foraging trips. They also are the first to attack enemy ants and other intruders. Here indeed is a major difference between people and ants: While we send our young men to war, ants send their old ladies.
While reading the article, I had a thought. Are human societies also like superorganisms? As if he were reading my mind, Wilson answered that exact question three paragraphs later.
You may occasionally hear human societies described as superorganisms. This is a bit of a stretch. It is true that we form societies dependent on cooperation, labor specialization and frequent acts of altruism. But where social insects are ruled almost entirely by instinct, we base labor division on transmission of culture. Also, unlike social insects, we are too selfish to behave like cells in an organism. Human beings seek their own destiny. They will always revolt against slavery, and refuse to be treated like worker ants.