Sunday, October 11, 2015

Deliberate Speciation – Part I

In the recent blog on the classification of alien civilizations depending on their attitude toward star travel, the first two were divided on an obscure point. The A1 category represented those who felt strongly about their species, and wanted to preserve it, and perhaps diffuse it over some part of the galaxy. The A2 category represented those who felt strongly about the accomplishments of their civilization, and wanted to preserve that, possibly diffusing it as well.

A civilization is a mass of citizens living in cities, having established a way of life and all the other factors of daily living and long-term change that are possible. A species is a group of organisms which are capable of interbreeding, and have some distinguishing features. Species are ensconced in taxonomies. Civilizations rest in histories.

The difference between these two is that the citizens of a civilization do not have to be members of one species. It may help the imagination to consider what would have happened if two different species of primates became intelligent at the same time. Suppose also that they somehow overcame the urge to kill each other, and instead, at the complete other end of the spectrum, settled into cities together. Since they could not interbreed, the division of species would be by breeding units, but there could be some of type 1 located nearby some of type 2. Alternately, there could be two sections of the town, where one was mostly type 1 and the other was mostly type 2. These two extremes could extend to interactions, where in the first example, the two species lived, worked, traded, and socialized together. If they ate the same foods, they could eat together, and even go to each other’s parties. In the second example, where maybe type 1 lives on the east side of a river and type 2 on the west side, there are places where interaction takes place, perhaps formalized or perhaps informal. Either way, we have one civilization but two species.

In a series of previous posts, the situation where there evolved two intelligent species on different continents of one planet was portrayed. There, the idea that one would exploit the other was presented. That might be a more likely situation, but since we are only imagining here, a peaceful, equitable world can be imagined easily. Perhaps the two species very early on became symbiotic, and in order for the civilization to function, both of them had to be present in all of the cities, filling the roles that they had carved out long before.

A second type of situation exists where one civilization can involve two species. That is where the division between the two is based on time, not location. Imagine instead that there is a civilization which is currently passing through the grand transition of genetics, and where they create new members of the civilization industrially, in gestation machines, with no use of the evolved methods of reproduction. This is the latter part of the genetics grand transition. Then, as the genetic engineers become more innovative and more expansive, they propose to eliminate the ability of the latest version of members of the society to breed with the previous ones. For example, they change the number of chromosomes for some intricate reason related to longevity or damage resistance or whatever. This is deliberate speciation. Before this point in time, there was one species in the civilization, the one that had founded it. Its genetics had been improved in the genetic grand transition, but at this cusp of time, the next improvements do away with the species. A new species struts onto the stage.

There might not be any visible signs of the change. If the genetic change had changed longevity, for example, this might have no external indicators. If the genetic change had reduced the rate of genetic transcription errors, this might have no external indicators as well. There are countless other changes that would have none. So looking at the cities of this civilization, there would be no visible change. It would all be down at the cellular level. It could be that type B has a better immune system than type A, and in order to make it work, it needed a major change in some chromosome. The only visible difference would be that sick wards would have less of type B’s than type A’s.

This type of speciation, deliberate speciation, is conditioned on the ability of the civilization to create new citizens by industrial means. If these means produced 100% of the new citizens, the change could happen over a period of time equal to the lifetime of the type A’s. At one instant in time, they stop making type A’s and switch over to type B’s. Type A’s initially represent the whole population, but after some time their numbers diminish, as the older ones decease. Little by little, the type A species becomes extinct, and to be very clear about it, voluntarily extinct. The civilization as a whole simply decided to change their species. Members of type A might have some feelings about it, but by and large, it simply happens. If there are noticeable signs of type B’s, the type A’s would notice that there were more and more of them, and less and less of their own species, type A. But would they care much at all about it, or instead, would they be happy to be replaced by something better?

It is a little hard to grasp how such a situation would affect the type A citizens. Are they thinking: “I am happy we are all dying out as we will be replaced by some creatures with better immune systems, better longevity, a better layout of internal organs, faster neurons, less likelihood of broken structural members, or something else, or all of the above. I don’t mind that my species will disappear for all eternity, because we weren’t as good as the replacements. Improvements must be made, and my species must pay the price of that.”

The change is actually happening over a generation of citizens. This might lead to a social separation between type A citizens and type B citizens. The feeling of inferiority and superiority that the two would experience might lead to a lack of desire for socialization together, or even sharing the same spaces. It is possible to imagine the city being divided into a new citizens’ quarter and an old citizens’ quarter. Type A citizens would be experiencing a transition of position, in that when they were younger, they were members of the champion species, but when they were older, they were part of a cast-off species on its way to oblivion.

It is useful to think through these feelings, as the alien civilizations in category A1 make the decision to never to do this, and to keep their species intact, even at the cost of missing out on some genetic improvements. Alien civilizations in category A2 concur with the changes, and then implement them. Since the behavior of these two categories of alien civilizations could be quite different if they successfully engage in star travel and begin to colonize exo-planets, it would be useful for us to try and understand the details of how an alien civilization might assess this very fundamental and in a sense, monumental, decision.

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