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It seems that most of the technological development of humanity is dependent on our ability to form a society. The sharing of ideas and building on the discoveries of others is how we have advanced. If an intelligent creature on another world tended not to associate with others of the same species, could that species have technological advancement beyond fairly simple tools?

I would think that a solitary creature, that only interacts with others for mating purposes, would not. I think that there would need to be some amount of communication for such a thing to be possible. However, there are many different degrees of sociality. How much socialization is necessary? Is caring for young until maturity enough? Or dwelling exclusively in family groups?

How would technology develop in less-social populations, and is there a limit to how much advancement is possible for them?

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    $\begingroup$ Scientists and engineers seem pretty antisocial... $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 26 '15 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel, but we talk about science and engineering with each-other all the time. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Feb 27 '15 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Yes, I know we do. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 27 '15 at 1:44
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The challenge of building up any technology is that scientific knowledge is a cumulative thing. Today's scientists stand on the shoulders of yesterday's scientists, relying on earlier discoveries to provide the building blocks for new experiments which in turn lead to new discoveries.

In the absence of society, another method of information preservation and transferal will be required to facilitate the accumulation of knowledge.

A racial memory could serve this purpose, allowing the child of two scientists to be born with complete understanding of their parents' disciplines. This child could then work in isolation on advancing his parents' discoveries until rather late in her career, she meets and mates with an equally qualified child of two other scientists. The grandchildren which they create would be born masters of four disciplines and their great-great-great-grandchild might just know everything :^).

But if that g-g-g-grandchild died before bearing a child of their own, all that knowledge would be lost until some other child with an amazing pedigree came along and rediscovered it.

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    $\begingroup$ So, it could work if they were a race of Bene Gesserit, or if things were run by Abstergo Industries. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 27 '15 at 3:24
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly! and +1 thanks for the Abstergo reference. I'm not a player of AC, but the alternative history that I just read on their website was great fun. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 27 '15 at 3:59
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I'll go from an evolutionary standpoint...short answer is quite a bit of a social nature is required for intelligence to arise in a species let alone technology.

Our intelligence felt a few selective pressures to increase...not simply on an individual level, but on the species level. Quite simply put, my survival is more-so dependent on others intelligence than it is on my own. If you are watching my back and I'm watching yours, then 'your back' and it's preservation per-se is dependent on my intelligence and ability to recognize danger...your only influence on this was choosing me to watch your back in the first place

Non-social intelligence doesn't have this pressure on it. Yes, the individual creature becoming more intelligent helps it, but the species gaining intelligence actually comes at the individuals detriment. If you and I are competing for food, living space, mates, etc...the less intelligent you are, the better off I am (possibly). As such, the selective pressure on intelligence for the entire species just isn't there.

So there's my tipping point...when the socialness of the species reaches a point where each individual is dependent on each other for survival more than an individual relies on itself for survival, then you will see a population that can begin on the technological development path.

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It is said that dogs might be able to smell in color. Imagine taking these ability to the next level, where you're scents can tell entire rich story, and entire book in a chemical message.

Now take that and apply it to territorial animal, like a quasi-society of wise bears. While they don't love each others company, they'll leave these complexe messages on their borders, for their neighbors to read.

This philosophical bears could learn a lot about each other and the world by "reading" these books. Eventually, you're bears will have to learn to work together, to build stuff that no one bear alone can build. Perhaps they can specialize, with smith bears and weaver bears and potter bear and beekeeper bear (lots of those around), fisher bear and so on.

Some tasks will geniunely require many bears in the same place, but perhaps they can learn to tolerate each other for short periods, no?

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, my spelling is not perfect.. $\endgroup$ – tachael Feb 27 '15 at 1:44
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To eliminate the requirement of communication, you can eliminate the need for communication. My favorite planet - living ocean which inhabits the whole planet as single organism.

I am afraid that other than that, better society will result in better knowledge production and sharing, and faster technological progress.

It is entirely plausible that language (and community) is what enabled civilization, and was crucially important even before technology: such a weak animal (with weak teeth, little claws, no strong armor) was able to survive only in teams/tribes, and even hunt big animals to extinction - except in Africa, where such animals co-evolved.

So even maybe community might not be crucial when you have technology (all these mad scientists), but is IS crucial to get to the stage when you can start developing technology.

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