The members of team 2 were types to look at the situation pragmatically, in terms of the bigger picture. They were also somewhat lazy, messy, and chaotic in nature. They all agreed that the fastest, best solution ought to be an elegant solution to the problem. No one wanted to stay up all night babysitting the ants. A micromanagement approach was out of the question. How then were they going to get the ants to behave? They got together and went over some ideas:
“Why not make the ‘good’ food more desirable.”
“We could add a chemical substance that bonds only with the evil food and makes it taste horrible.”
“Who knows that much about chemistry?”
“How about we dump a substance on the food that makes it all taste bad, but the ‘good food’ less bad.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
“How about we pen them all up and let them eat their fill of the ‘evil’ food. Then let them loose.” Someone else suggests.
“Alright, let’s get started.”
One of them calls in the reality show hosts and asks for an additional supply of ‘evil’ food. “Are you kidding me?” asks the host. “You realize you’re trying to win this contest?”
“Well, you asked for it.”
Team 2 gets an extra supply of isolated ‘evil’ food.
On the first day, the ants are corralled into an enclosure as they leave their hole and exposed to evil food and water only. They are forced to eat nothing but the evil food for the rest of the day.
During that day, groups of the ants are exposed to mixtures of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ with different chemicals dumped on them. Group 2 members then record change in the percentage of desirability of good and evil. Eventually, they find a substance that drastically reduces the desirability of evil while minimally impacting(or actually increasing) the desirability of good.
The food supply is doused with the winning substance. All the workers are left in the enclosure overnight with nothing to eat but evil food.
Team 2 goes home and has a good night’s sleep.
On day 2, the reality show host visits them and tells them: “You guys aren’t working very hard at this.”
“Why should we?” says a member of team 2.
“Your ants haven’t even started to collect food yet.” The host replies.
“Well, they’re only ready just now.”
That morning, the remaining purely evil food is removed from the cage and the enclosure is taken away. The ants are now free to do whatever they will.
Then, team 2 does exactly nothing at all. They lounge around all day talking, drinking beers and ordering pizzas. They’re having a good time.
The ants, having already filled themselves with evil food the day and night before are more instinctually drawn to the alternate nutrient profile of the good food. Furthermore, the mixed food pile has been covered in a chemical that makes the evil food still less desirable.
At the end of the day, the ants have brought very little evil food back to the colony. Team 2 leaves them alone. Over the ensuing days, the ants are allowed to work continually without regulations or interference. If the percentage of evil food collected starts to go up, they are all confined in the enclosure again and fed nothing but evil food. Then they are released to do as they will for days at a time.
The reality show host is visibly stressed out when he comes to visit them.
“The other team is working around the clock to win this while you guys are slacking off.”
The host looks at the terrarium and sees some of the ants carrying evil food back to the colony. “What are you doing?!” he asks “Why don’t you stop them.”
“Why should we interfere more than have to.” A member of team 2 replies. “The more we interfere. The more we disrupt them. We’re trying to do this as fast and efficiently as possible aren’t we? We have to accept a small margin of error.”
“But you aren’t stopping them or regulating them.” Blurts out the reality show host. “This isn’t how the game is supposed to be played! You’re supposed to frantically try to control the ants to entertain the audience.”
“We are controlling the ants. We’re influencing their desires in our favor.”
“What kind of new age bullshit is that!?” Exclaims the host. “Stop those ants with the evil food now.”
No one on team 2 moves.
“Are you doing anything at all?”
“Yeah. We put chemicals on the food.”
“We never said you could do that!”
“You never said we couldn’t. We also looked at the official rules. No reason not to.”
The host is at his wit’s end. He storms out of the room and goes back to watch the diligent and honest efforts of group 1.
When the host is gone discussion opens up again.
“How about we introduce another animal that eats mostly evil food.”
“There’s no way they’d accept that. It completely changes the game.”
“How about a bacteria or fungus then? Why not?”
Group 2 experiments on samples of the food supply with cultures taken from moldy bread, rotten milk, their own mouths, and the open air. After a few days, they find a mold that mostly feeds off of the evil food. Then, they release this mold into the entire food supply.
Most of the evil food rots and only good food remains. Most of the remaining margin of error in the system is eliminated with one deft stroke. It is no longer necessary to confine, condition, or regulate the ants at all. Some days, team 2 doesn’t even bother to show up at the reality show’s studio. They know that if they do show up, the host will simply bully and bother them. They meet at each other’s houses and party.
Soon all the food has been collected by the ants. Their part of the contest is over yet it doesn’t end. Team 2 turns on the TV at their homes and are amazed at team 1’s struggles while they relax and socialize. More days pass before they are finally called back to the studio for a decision to be made.
Both the terrariums are fumigated at the end of the contest and judges painstakingly open up the ant colonies and count the grains of good and evil food in the two terrariums.
To the amazement of the host and most viewers of the reality show, team 1 has done very little to change the initial percentages despite their hard work. Evil food remained slightly more desirable than the good food.
The amazement is even more pronounced when team 2’s colony is examined. Less than 10% of food found in their colony is evil food.
“We could have easily done better.” A member of team two explains to a stunned audience.
To everyone’s consternation, team 2 ends up standing joyously on the higher dais. Team 1 stands below them in every way. They were wilted, used up and exhausted on their journey to total defeat. Their hard work was for nothing.
“How were you so far ahead in both speed and efficiency while doing so little?” asks the bewildered and stunned host on live national televison.
“We merely worked with the ants’ natural tendencies instead of trying to directly impose our order on them. We simply incentivized whatever it was we wanted.”
The host clearly doesn’t really understand what was just said. Still confused and upset, he manages to wrap up the program.