Thursday, 17 July 2014

Designing, or backstorying, intelligent aliens.

Lets have a go at pulling some thoughts together.

Reproduction method

Asexual, either natural or artificial, where there is no (sexual) contact between sexes. Motivation personal survival and species preservation. There could be allegiance to a group, or competition if the survivors get to pass on their genes.

Display. Females are usually much larger (as they have the extra reproductive bits) and longer lived, males are disposable and selected by display of objects or dance. In an intelligent species that could be achieving a level of income and/or academic achievement.

Competition. The majority of higher life forms on Earth compete. The female is much smaller than the male, anything up to 33% smaller. The males aggressively compete for female(s), who select, or are selected, on physical bulk and ability.

Curiously, of all primates human females are large, 80% the size of males as they compete with each other. You hardly need to be told that as we get bigger as a species, this gap seems to dwindling as a result of better nutrition for women. (My Gran still had a 20” waist when she died in the 60's, hardly topped 4ft. She left the contents of her handbag and a few items of clothing. For most of her life she did not legally own even that.)

Doesn't matter. A very advanced species may combine any of the above in a simple process that does not interfere with the adult(s). I'm thinking of Honor Harrington where the majority of pregnancies are bottled (incubated) until ready to birth.

After sex comes food. How important once a species grows from “natural” food to processed?

All my mothers family were “chattels” and grubbed in the dirt for other peoples enrichment. Gardening for me is a swear word. I will take, even kill or be killed, but I will not dig.

Vegetarian. The bottom of the food-chain, just above plants. Unless a pollinator, all other species are a threat and/or competition to be removed. On earth the most dangerous animals are herbivores. An intelligent veggie will think nothing of dropping a few dinosaur killers then coming back later to seed a once-inhabited planet.

With the exception of the mosquito, the most dangerous animals on the planet are herbivores.

We also know that without predation herbivores usually over breed and suffer from other effects due to the lazy selection processes of every other hunting species but us.

If we all went veggie, how many species would survive? The first immediate mass extinction would be all pet and livestock species. However, the bee would be secure.

Omnivore. Us again. If you cannot eat one thing, you find another. So no single species is of overriding value, unless there is a cultural imperative as with African herdsmen and their cattle.

Carnivore. A true carnivore hunts its prey, as such is at the top of the foodchain. This is natures nature conservator. It is in its best interest to maintain a healthy and robust ecology. Less fussy would have large ranches of well maintained livestock, something like the Australian ranches where competing species are controlled.

There are some interesting documentaries on Orca's. Each pod seems to specialise in one prey species. An interesting model if taken into industrial times, a pod, clan or family specialising in one technology. If you meet an alien called Smith or cooper-.

Doesn't matter. Once the bulk of individuals become separated from the process, the concerns become abstract, political and socio-economic rather than a matter of personal experience.

Environment.

This is the interesting one. You have to balance the environment the species was designed for compared to that which any one group or culture now finds itself living. Here's a few examples:

Jerry Pournell's Moties are worth looking at. The original 3-armed was a radical mutation. Spaceborn wiped out the planetborn. Population has to be controlled as individuals die if not made pregnant. Subspecies abound.

Larry Niven's Kzin. They were Samurai-clones in the original stories but changed to a genetically modified carnivore who's females are barely sentient with two sub species, one telepathic and the other who's pure black dominant genes make them telepathic resistant. Their homeworld seems to have avoided mass extinctions and has some very nasty mega-fauna that they evolved to hunt.

Predators work, they have internal logic. We have rich hunters who will go anywhere and kill anything.

Aliens don't work. No internal logic. Once the alien goes through all these processes the wrong way. Caterpillars are the eating machines, massing much larger than the adult, who can manage on a very frugal diet. How does the alien maintain its high metabolism and growth without constant feeding?

So, on with the show.

Space Raptors (need a better name) are pure pack hunting carnivores What if they have dominant females (much larger) who select mates who are able to demonstrate desirable skills, competing against other males. Female offspring may be raised to command, either taking over their mothers clan or another by alliance or conflict. Spare girls may be cast out to form their own destiny.

Likewise the males are trained in useful skills until they are ritually traded or cast out.

For such a race getting over the stone age would be the problem. Naturally equipped with weapons, early metalworking would be slow to develop when stone is easier and quicker. The answer may lie in jewellery and art, being able to produce such items would be highly desirable trait. Iron working may be skipped altogether with printing and electricity, ceramics and glass coming through such a route.

I hope this gets you thinking and constructive criticism very welcome!