Thursday, December 3, 2009

Genosia - Hive Races

I was watching Star Wars: Clone Wars episode 2.7, "Legacy of Terror," and, as usual, am skeptical about insectile sentient beings ("insectoids"). As discussed in my past insectoids post, the anatomical structure of insects precludes them from obtaining great size. Although, there are instances were they could obtain larger size: a humid, oxygen rich atmosphere, or water environment. A dry environment like Genosia is not a likely habitat. However, universal biology will allow for a great range of diversity - insectile creatures on other planets may have some similarities to Earth insects, but they may well have differences, especially if they were able to evolve to high level (i.e., technological using) sentience.

But my main query from watching the episode is one of the several topics I keep returning to: hive cultures. The Genosians have a queen, who spawns the entire civilization, much as an ant queen spawns all the members of her colony. This raises some questions.

Would one queen for an entire planetary civilization even make sense? Many separate colonies ensures the species as a whole survives because a) if an accident or disease strikes down one queen, only her colony dies, the others survive and b) one queen, even if constantly laying eggs, can not hope to produce as many offspring as multiple queens. But as a species evolves to higher order sentience, it is possible that they can eventually go against biological logic: and one queen becomes dominant - eradicating all others. Sentient beings do not always have to make "natural" sense (as we humans have shown repeatedly).

Why always a queen? Even the Borg eventually has a "queen." Why can not a species have a male king who is the only one that spreads his genetic material. Much like a queen sits around constantly (24/7) producing eggs, a king could be doing not much more than just fertilizing female eggs.

If a queen, or a king, is primarily involved in replenishing the species, would they really have that much control over their subjects? Lower species control via instinct and chemical signals. Higher species may be able to fight instincts - an underground, at first, resistance to the monarchy. A non-queen individual could have a mutation that reduces the queen's influence on them. For a lower species, that probably not pose much of a threat to the queen, but for a higher level sentient species, it may prove to be a major threat.

However, let us say for argument sake that the instinct is just too deeply embedded into their makeup, and so they keep their loyalty to the queen even into their technological age. Would such an alien race be bent on making all subject to their queen? Would our shocking level of independence from each other be too much of a philosophical threat? If a queen can not stop reproducing, and the population overruns the planet (especially if "minor" queens are allowed to have colonies of their own, all ultimately loyal to the dominant "alpha" queen), they would be pressured to go out into space and find new places to colonize. It would make sense that they would find safe places such as places that are not populated by a species that would fight back and endanger a queen, or which have microbial life forms which could threaten the queen's health (though there is the scenario that if a queen dies, their species may have a mechanism for one of the subjects to take her place).

And, I wonder, what kind of theologies would a hive-minded sentient culture develop?

Image credit: Animation Factory


Anonymous said...

Even if they cannot naturally stop breeding (wasps on Earth hatch males from unfertilized eggs) they may view infanticide as a acceptable last resort if there is no other way to avoid a destructive war, such views is a likely result of potentially planet-destroying technology. With the hive as a survival value with collectively indefinite lifespan, they are more likely to plan long term than humans, who are mortal and have primarily individual self-preservation.

Mr. David Michael Merchant said...

For some reason I've long been fascinated by the possibility of hive minds; not that I would necessarily want to be in such a society (think Borg). Humans do have a herd mentality, which while not quite a hive mentality, has some parallels.

Anonymous said...

Why should hive-based intelligent species be assimilation-mad like Borg? I think they would learn that respecting other intelligent species pays in the form of survival of their hive. And true herd animals never want to be alone, an hour or so of solitude is extremely stressing to them. Humans, on the other hand, are sociable part of the time and loners part of the time, probably a result of the competition-avoiding migration culture that began when our ancestors finally severed their bonds to the rainforest, and still exists among some Kalaharian hunter-gatherers.

Martin J Sallberg said...

There is a huge problem with the idea of hive-type societies among intelligent life, which has been highlighted as a byproduct of the avoid competition-model mentioned by anonymous. The model has kept developing, including the conclusion that competition between groups are bound to create suspiciousness and rivalry within the group as well because of the risk of impostors from other groups. That is, if ants were just as smart as apes, they would be able to fake identity scent by herbal parfume or something similar, and then suspecting ingroup for being outgroup would spread inter-hive rivalry into intra-hive relationships as well. Intelligent hive life thus seems unrealistic.