k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

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Cycloneman
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k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Cycloneman » 2012-04-14 11:49pm

Suppose we have a species, let's call them "humans," who have a reproductive rate a few inches above replacement. This species also happens to be scientifically advanced and starts flying around the galaxy and absorbing other, less advanced species. One of these species, let's call them "breeders," reproduces at an exceedingly quick rate, having adapted towards r-strategy. They have about half a dozen children every successful reproductive act, and their kids grow up quick - around six or seven years. They're egg-laying and don't normally keep track of children, so children require little-to-no investment. Upon first contact, they were basically hunter-gatherers. Thanks to humanity's gentle kindness, they now understand the wonders of agriculture and other such valuable things like germ theory, and their population starts exploding.

The humans have long since abandoned such immoral behaviors as forced sterilization, infanticide, etc, as a means of population control, being products of the Enlightenment. So how do they keep from being outbred over the course of the next decade or two? Obviously their political superiority will be maintained for some time after this shift, with their superior industry, science, education, infrastructure, etc, but even then the breeders will just eventually outweigh them completely.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-04-15 01:35am

...Is this meant as metaphor for something racial? No, that's an unfair question, you don't have to answer that.

The obvious answer is that typical r-strategy species depend on their children's ability to survive in the wilderness at a rate high enough to ensure replacement rate. No species naturally breeds much faster than replacement rate in a stable ecosystem, after all. Once a hypothetical Stone Age culture starts drastically altering their natural ecosystem, one of the first things that will happen is that their ability to unthinkingly spawn tadpoles and drop them in a pond to mature declines, because the ponds are now contaminated with pesticides and their infant mortality rate goes up as a result.

Another, subtler answer is that the evolutionary r-strategy is not consistent with high intelligence, or may not be. Brain development takes a very large metabolic load, in return for not very much gain in the child's early years of life. Intelligence is useless without skills that must be taught, and most of the obvious applications for it in the wild are social: consequences of the species naturally forming into tribes. A species which doesn't need to spend much energy on childrearing... why would it become social at all? If it did, why would the huge metabolic load of a large brain be desirable in underdeveloped infants that are being expected to survive in the open like wild beasts?

A Bengal tiger has little use for human-level intelligence, being a solitary predator whose natural advantages of ferocity and strength keep it fed under normal conditions. A plains ape does have a use for intelligence, being relatively feeble and needing to band together into large groups to survive, then needing to jockey for social position within those groups by constant, complex maneuvers.

You will note that one species evolved intelligence and the other did not... and that even the tiger is relatively intelligent compared to r-strategy animals, most of which are fish, reptiles, or rodents. I can't think of a single relatively intelligent animal that relies on r-strategy reproduction, to be quite honest. So I question the premise that a 'true' r-strategy organism would evolve intelligence in the first place.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby GrandMasterTerwynn » 2012-04-15 02:03pm

Cycloneman wrote:Suppose we have a species, let's call them "humans," who have a reproductive rate a few inches above replacement. This species also happens to be scientifically advanced and starts flying around the galaxy and absorbing other, less advanced species. One of these species, let's call them "breeders," reproduces at an exceedingly quick rate, having adapted towards r-strategy. They have about half a dozen children every successful reproductive act, and their kids grow up quick - around six or seven years. They're egg-laying and don't normally keep track of children, so children require little-to-no investment. Upon first contact, they were basically hunter-gatherers. Thanks to humanity's gentle kindness, they now understand the wonders of agriculture and other such valuable things like germ theory, and their population starts exploding.

The humans have long since abandoned such immoral behaviors as forced sterilization, infanticide, etc, as a means of population control, being products of the Enlightenment. So how do they keep from being outbred over the course of the next decade or two? Obviously their political superiority will be maintained for some time after this shift, with their superior industry, science, education, infrastructure, etc, but even then the breeders will just eventually outweigh them completely.

As Simon says, the only reason an r-strategy evolves in a species is because it is the sort of species whose chief cause of death is being eaten by bigger, badder, species. Ergo, the six offspring that are produced in each mating? Four of them, on average, will wind up dead in the half-dozen years it takes for them to get to reproductive age. Also, this would tend to suggest that the species' life expectancy is probaby about seven to eight years . . . with a lifespan in the low teens. (The biggest, most intelligent r-strategy animals on Earth are the advanced cephalopods such as octopi and squid ... and they have a lifespan south of three years.)

This implies that such a species isn't going to be very smart. For one thing, if you're hatching from an egg and have zero parental care beyond ensuring your egg hatches; then your brain will be mostly developed the instant you come from the egg. You will hit the ground already knowing how to find food, seek shelter, and run for your life. Since your parents are investing no care in you, you will be born with a strong sense of neophobia ... meaning you won't be inclined to want to learn or try new things, as new things will usually be hazardous to your health. You may get bolder when you get big enough to try to reproduce ... but you'll probably be dead shortly after breeding, so that tends to put a cap on how much you can learn.

Contrast this to a human, whose entire childhood from birth to sexual maturity probably exceeds the lifespan of these "breeders," whose minimum life expectancy in a hunter-gatherer culture is more than double the "breeder's" entire lifespan, and whose lifespan exceeds the "breeder's" by an order of magnitude.

tl;dr - Please put some more thought into your "what-ifs"

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Ultonius » 2012-04-15 04:01pm

I suppose that you could theoretically have a species that combines r-strategy and k-strategy. They might produce a large number of children left to fend for themselves, most of whom are picked off by predators and other accidents, until the few survivors reach a certain age, and begin to develop sapience in a similar manner to human babies and toddlers, and are then raised and educated by their parents or unrelated adults. A number of fictional species use this reproductive strategy or a similar one, such as Kreelies from the webcomic Schlock Mercenary, Amphibiosans from Futurama, the Race from Turtledove's Worldwar series, and John Ringo's Posleen.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Cycloneman » 2012-04-15 07:45pm

The breeders begin life as basically a pack animal with their siblings (assuming some egg-eating scavenger doesn't eat them), then eventually discovers a tribe of their own species, which they orbits or joins depending on how mature they are.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-04-15 11:05pm

Again, you can't define a species without defining the biological niche it occupies. If the animals live in packs, why don't the packs actively try to raise their own offspring? Why are they so unlike normal r-strategy lifeforms, in that they have short life expectancies but a staggering infant mortality rate, something like 80% or 90%?

You're trying to define the question too narrowly by presenting us with a false dilemma.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Rossum » 2012-04-15 11:36pm

Cycloneman wrote:The breeders begin life as basically a pack animal with their siblings (assuming some egg-eating scavenger doesn't eat them), then eventually discovers a tribe of their own species, which they orbits or joins depending on how mature they are.


Sounds rather inefficient. You'd think that if this species has developed to the point of tribes then the leaders of the tribe would take an interest in the various egg clutches. They gather up the eggs, wait for them to hatch, and then use the resulting children as pets, slaves, beasts of burden, child labor, or new members to indoctrinate into whatever cult they feel like making up. Or they just eat them... maybe rival tribes steal the eggs of others to limit the population of their rivals. Even if the parents in this species don't care about their own young for some reason, I'm sure rivals would take an interest in them... at the very least I'm sure hunter/gatherers would have an easy time figuring out how to hunt or gather eggs laid by their own species.

In fact, if the idea is to make some kind of explosive breeder race where the parents don't care about their children... then the only sort of society I can imagine resulting would be one where child labor and child soldiers are commonplace. The tribe gets a whole bunch of eggs layed in a period of time (I'm assuming that the energy required for a female to lay X number of eggs is negligible if she apparently doesn't care about them) and then gather them all in a bunch, hatch them, kill or exile any weaklings they find, and then use the survivors as labor.

The young eat gruel or whatever, then work, hunt, or fight. In any given group of workers, hunters, or fighters then the leaders or 'best' of that generation stand out (or just survive) and they go on to mate and sire the next generation. The population is thus rather stable because if the tribe runs low on food to feed its population then they either start fights until enough die to reach equalibrium or they force people to hunt and gather till equilibrium.


As for what "humans" do when they contact them... I dunno, leave them on their planet? I mean, unless you can move enough of these "breeders" into a new colony somewhere to form a genetically stable population then even if they breed alot then they'll run into inbreeding and other problems. On the other hand, if these people are shown to be intelligent enough to join the galactic society, abide by its rules, and gain employment, then they could indeed have individuals gain transport to other worlds and systems.

Then, if the "breeders" rate of reproduction proves to be a problem somehow then I'm sure this civilization could create some laws that enforce reproductive regulations on everyone. I don't know how it would work... maybe a law could say that egg-laying races have to prove they can financially support their offspring to hatch them. If they can't (or don't want to) support all of them then the ones they can't support are frozen before they are legally determined to be people (cue long debates on this that never end). Said frozen eggs can get adopted or whatever until some point at which they are disposed of in a humane manner.

Similar ruling goes for species that give live birth, with the necessary alterations.

Add a bunch of other legislation to deal with whatever other problems might supposedly come up from the differing reproduction rates. If those don't work satisfactory then I'm sure hate crimes will pop up (like they always do) that will just cause more problems.

But, don't forget that this is in the future where space technology has advanced to the point where "humans" can travel the stars... and I can only assume that porno technology has resulted in lifelike androids that look like supermodels or in holodeck style virtual hookers. Add in all the aforementioned legal stuff and a society where money is important and I'm sure a fair number of the "breeders" would be perfectly happy to pay 19 Imperial Credits a month for Holo-porn instead of dealing with whatever kinds of emotional baggage they might run into with mating for their species.


Besides, I figure by this point in time "humans" would have developed artificial wombs or something so any pro-human group that feels their reproductive rate isn't matching the competition could start growing new humans in tanks to pick up whatever slack they feel is necessary.
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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby ryacko » 2012-04-16 01:35am

Biological and chemical warfare.

Give them blankets laced with hormone suppressants and sterilizing medications.
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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-04-16 01:37am

You're either joking, or you're the poster child for that disturbing political subtext I was talking about.

Jesus.

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby madd0ct0r » 2012-04-16 02:04am

since the R species don't care at all about their children, why shouldn't they just let them die, or cull them painlessly?

we might be looking at something like larval stages here, with the adult being a completely different creature.

If the children are intelligent then morally i think it's going to be uncomfortable for the humans to watch, but ultimately not their problem.
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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Rossum » 2012-04-16 02:30am

Also, just tossing this out: In the Mass Effect series there is the Genophage, a biological weapon that was used by the turians to modify the krogans so as to reduce their birth rate. Not sterilize them completely, just reduce their rate of reproduction so that they couldn't raise an army to wage war on the galaxy.

And the semi-short story Three Worlds Collide (link to TvTropes page) has the Baby Eaters, a species who evolved in tribes where all the offspring are pooled in a group and the adults have to eat them until their numbers are low enough to be sustainable. So, according to the story their species equates "eats babies" with goodness and anyone who refuses to eat babies, or only eats other peoples babies and not their own is evil. The story ends with another race declaring war on them and forcibly modifying them on the genetic level (that is, they modify it so that the babies are not intelligent enough to feel pain and also lower the overall birth rate so baby-eating is kept to a minimum).


Of course, those are alien races being used. Not sure if the humans in this scenario are advanced enough or... I suppose "invasive" enough to forcibly modify the genetic structure of other species. I suppose a similar solution could be resulting from forced cybernetic modification or whatnot like the Borg, Cybermen, or Combine.
Fry: No! They did it! They blew it up! And then the apes blew up their society too. How could this happen? And then the birds took over and ruined their society. And then the cows. And then... I don't know, is that a slug, maybe? Noooo!

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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Alerik the Fortunate » 2012-04-18 07:38pm

Actually, this isn't entirely different from The Gripping Hand, sequel to The Mote in God's Eye. In that case, the Moties could not refrain from reproducing without dying, and the humans were able to [spoiler=]engineer a parasite that interrupted the hormonal sex-change cycle that required constant pregnancy, providing a means of birth control that the Moties would probably have been grateful for a million years earlier.[/spoiler]

A lot depends on the aliens' thoughts on the matter. Being a true r-strategist, even assuming they somehow have the intelligence given by act of original post fiat, they probably wouldn't care too much about the survival of the individual offspring. In that case, a sort of culling program of youth, possibly eugenic in nature, would not be abhorrent to them; they may suggest or implement it themselves. Perhaps simply offering the equivalent of condoms would help. Do the aliens want an ever burgeoning population? Do they understand that it will lead to conflict with other species, and likely their own quarantine or eventual extermination if they do not relent? If the problem is made clear to them, they may invent solutions of their own or invite solutions from the more advanced surrounding societies.
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Re: k-strategist "empire" integrating r-strategist aliens.

Postby Bakustra » 2012-04-18 11:43pm

Cycloneman wrote:Suppose we have a species, let's call them "humans," who have a reproductive rate a few inches above replacement. This species also happens to be scientifically advanced and starts flying around the galaxy and absorbing other, less advanced species. One of these species, let's call them "breeders," reproduces at an exceedingly quick rate, having adapted towards r-strategy. They have about half a dozen children every successful reproductive act, and their kids grow up quick - around six or seven years. They're egg-laying and don't normally keep track of children, so children require little-to-no investment. Upon first contact, they were basically hunter-gatherers. Thanks to humanity's gentle kindness, they now understand the wonders of agriculture and other such valuable things like germ theory, and their population starts exploding.

The humans have long since abandoned such immoral behaviors as forced sterilization, infanticide, etc, as a means of population control, being products of the Enlightenment. So how do they keep from being outbred over the course of the next decade or two? Obviously their political superiority will be maintained for some time after this shift, with their superior industry, science, education, infrastructure, etc, but even then the breeders will just eventually outweigh them completely.


Why are we assuming that the humans care whether they are outbred or not? Frankly, I think that overthrowing racist future humans is a good thing. Do we really want a future of Lou Dobbs clones as far as the eye can see? I think not.

Assuming that these cool-ass future humans are (far more sanely) worried about exceeding planetary carrying capacities, they probably inform the quote-unquote breeders about these problems and the quote-unquote breeders, being written by me (a cool-ass dude who doesn't believe in genetic determinism and is willing to go for maximum LeGuin) decide to develop means to ensure that they have sustainable population patterns.
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