28
$\begingroup$

Yttri are an odd race. Like many species on their planet they can selectively position themselves along the r/K reproductive strategy spectrum. r species are those (like some species of frog, fish or insect) that throw out thousands of 'expendable' but cheap children in the hope that enough of them will survive to adulthood. K species are those that instead focus lots of resources into a small handful of offspring, so they stand a much higher chance of surviving. The Yttri have evolved so that in times of dire need they can adopt an r style strategy, while in times of plenty they instead opt for a K style strategy.

Yttri females, when first impregnated, have hundreds of foetuses in their womb. They then gestate these for a minimum of two months, after which they can opt to give birth to a whole brood of small, weak, ravenous children that are capable, but ultimately expendable. Or they can delay the birth. The still-gestating children will begin to consume each other over time (in ways facilitated by the mother and also quite literally eating each other). At any point up to about a year (when only one child remains and preventing the birth is no longer an option) the mother can release the children in to the world.

Now, the children that stay in the womb are demonstrably larger, stronger and smarter than those that are born earlier. A brood of a hundred children that were born after two months and then had a year to develop will never physically or mentally match up to a child that gestated for a year and then had two months (though they will eat more). This is an acceptable tradeoff for almost every species on the Yttri's home planet, as it lets them deal with a wide variety of seasonal changes. Well fed creatures (or those in positions of security) have fewer children, while those living in uncertain times or climates 'fire and forget' whole broods in the hope that some children will survive the lean times and make it through to the other side alive.

But the Yttri are (for want of a better word) industrialised. They have advanced medicine, agriculture, engineering, robotics, science etc. They are very much at a technological and social level equivalent to that of a modern day first world country. In such a world there is no need (unlike in their early industrial period, where more children meant bigger earning potential) for Yttri parents to need or even want large broods of dumb, weak children when they could instead give birth to one or two smart, strong ones. There is a strong social stigma attached to abandoning one's children, so 'fire and forget' is even less of a sensible option.

Given that the mother can always choose to delay the birth, why would a Yttri parent still opt to go down the r reproductive route rather than sticking with K?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild 2 days ago

24 Answers 24

31
$\begingroup$

It is tough to be pregnant. Get it over with!

It is not easy to be pregnant. It is physically taxing and draining. Sentient females given the option may choose not to become pregnant at all. There is some thought that some phenotypic human traits (e.g. concealed ovulation) evolved to make it harder for women to predict when they would be fertile, which made it more difficult to avoid being pregnant, and consequently there was higher genetic fitness and those traits spread.

Many (most?) people choose what is best for themselves, not for their society or species. Because of biology your Yttri might have great difficulty avoiding becoming pregnant. Pregnant females might rationally opt to get pregnancy over with as soon as possible - which means the r route.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I can confirm this is true, but I’m not sure that having to deal with a hundred screaming broodlings is easier! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 14:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs - true if she intends to deal with them. I could imagine the broodlings, being evolved for crisis mode, might be able to fend for themselves to a large degree. In a crisis there is no guarantee mom will be around for the duration. $\endgroup$ – Willk Mar 24 at 18:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Sure, they can, but socially mum is still responsible for the little horrors. Imagine you’re suddenly responsible for looking after 80-100 puppies, and you’re fresh out of puppy pads... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 19:13
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs the r/K reproductive strategy would be expected to apply for resources spent on offspring after birth as much (or even more) as for resources spent on them before birth. The whole concept of (a) being responsible for them; (b) looking after them; and (c) even expecting most of them to survive, much less thrive - that's K strategy, like for homo sapiens. In r strategy having the majority of offspring die because you neglected them is perfectly reasonable, that's the whole point of that strategy - invest resources into spawing more babies, not into taking care of previous ones. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Mar 24 at 21:20
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs - this would become social commentary high SF, but what if the species did not consider those r babies fully sentient and worthy of the term "baby". They are just little feeding machines, uncomfortable reminders of the Yttri's animal heritage. Officially dumping r tadpoles would be frowned on - but the basis of Yttri society is the large oppressed underclass that the unwanted r grow up to become. $\endgroup$ – Willk Mar 25 at 13:45
22
$\begingroup$

Religion.

Some fraction of Yttri society has been infected by one or more memes that boil down to "every child should live" -- and intentionally delaying birth and allowing the fetuses to eat each other amounts to murder.

Not all "first world" Ytrri will think this way, of course -- but it might well be that the reduced reasoning ability of those who were born from a large litter makes them more susceptible to "thinking by meme" or "sheep mentality", allowing a charismatic leadership to continue implanting the "delayed birth is murder" meme in successive generations.

Over enough time, this coupled with a preference among "single birth" Yttri for more intelligent partners could lead to speciation, or at least development of a subspecies, but in the short term it might prevent that outcome by setting up a Marching Morons situation, where the reproductive advantage of dropping big bunches of offspring in an environment where many of them will survive leads to simply outbreeding the "single birth" lines.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Forehead smack. Religion. I only went and forgot about religion! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 12:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This could also quite nicely set up a 'fall of society' type situation, where the religious followers simply can't understand why the systems that they rely on to survive are failing to support their sheer numbers, and they can't do anything to arrest the failures. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, hence the Marching Morons reference. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 24 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ Not a reference I recognised, but now I know where Idiocracy came from and I've got another short story to add to my never-ending reading list. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 12:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also, in this case, escaping the religion might be nearly impossible, because the "clutch birth" lines just plain aren't smart enough to reason their way out of the logical fallacies. The "single birthers" could have a real problem on their hands within just a couple generations. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 24 at 12:23
22
$\begingroup$

Frequent natural disasters, aggressive neighboring countries, plagues, short lifespan

  1. Frequent natural disasters: If there's a lot of people lost to each disaster, maybe because of severity, there's always need for mediocre people to clean up and rebuild. Few smart people to lead but many to do the job.
  2. Aggressive neighbouring countries: Training soldiers is hard but because our neighbors have lots of soldiers, we need lots of soldiers to replenish the loss of life.
  3. Plagues: Frequently mutating viruses, dangerous bacteria post-disasters etc... may cause population decimation. This encourages higher birth numbers.
  4. Short lifespan: If the species lives shorter lives, even prolonged by medicine and technology, they would value each year more and require higher population count to survive.

Also, maybe all of those?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Natural disaster fits perfectly into their evolutionary history, and war fits perfectly into their more recent history. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ But that's not very first world, is it? $\endgroup$ – UTF-8 Mar 25 at 12:00
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ None of the abovementioned issues disqualifies a country from being a first world country. Especially if the other country also has a steady supply of cheap, numerous soldiers and a claim on your land. $\endgroup$ – Gensys LTD Mar 25 at 12:18
19
$\begingroup$

Caste - only some Yttri are allowed to produce the healthier, more intelligent offspring

By long-established tradition, members of the ruling caste are expected to produce only the most superior of children, while other castes are required to produce lesser, or even primitive children. Sure, there's no biological reason compelling the lowest castes to choose to produce large, unintelligent broods. But between social pressures and real threats of legally enforced violence, those offspring who are obviously more developed than their caste justifies do not (generally) survive to adulthood.

The levels of development will likely correspond to established social roles for each caste, like in ancient India, Plato's Republic, and Brave New World.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This could be a great story about social injustice. Plus it can vary from Nation to nation. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 9:19
15
$\begingroup$

Entrepreneur/industrialist driven race. May work in a part of the universe easily accessible to expansion.

Multiple births over time:

  1. the leaders first - to be educated
  2. the workers in the next ones. Can be tuned in sync with the degree of intelligence required by running the business (the very late ones may even produce better specialized leaders, with all the intrigues in Dallas type soap operas; or you just can trim it down to something reasonable)

Adaptation to a "closed world" scenario: compulsive inter-clan wars.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Very sensible.. have a few very smart kids then later just brood a load of dumb ‘kin-helpers’. Could lead to some interesting social dynamics. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 24 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about the order. When expanding, it would appear that there's a benefit to first raising a lot of workers. They'd take care of food, shelter and other basic necessities. Only when the basics are in order would you raise a cohort of leaders. Can't send them to school until there's a school built ! $\endgroup$ – MSalters Mar 26 at 9:52
15
$\begingroup$

Voting: Rather mercenary, but if it's one being one vote, then having more kids and indoctrinating them into "your side" (whatever that might mean) would be a winning strategy. "Vote breeder" could even be a job. (And if this gets to be too unpopular, it could be banned, which means it becomes a black market job that is allowed and encouraged by those who benefit...)

Straightforward survival of the fittest -- more of your genes survive if you have more offspring, so those who choose more children are more represented. I'm not sure it needs anything else. Also consider the strategy of "first have lots of kids for the genes, then have a few smart ones for the memes."

Micro-caste system where you reverse the above: first have a few smart kids, then a bunch of dumb younger siblings to do their bidding.

Organ harvesting: don't mind me, just thinking out of the box. Be glad I didn't say food (delicacy) for the privileged class.

There's also the possibility that it becomes standard to alternate sizes between generations: if you want lots of smart offspring, the most straightforward way would be to have a large generation of single-child breeders (with the same father for both generations), and you only let the grandkids out into society. There could be major cultural effects depending on how well the post-reproduction breeders are treated (it could get ugly).

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ ‘Lots for the genes, few for the memes’ is the kind of catchphrase you’d see on a poster in a family planning clinic. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 9:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also organ harvesting is brutal but entirely plausible. If you expect half your brood kids to die, why not make use of it? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 9:21
9
$\begingroup$

Collectivism.

You don't form nuclear families if you spout a thousand young. These folks have an instinct to breed, and a strong solidarity towards society, but they don't specifically have a drive to nurture their own brood.

You breed, you spawn, and they're not your kids, they're society's kids, perhaps living together in something a K-style species would call "an orphanage", run and funded by society. Yourself, you're happy to have them out of your womb, and assume some of them will make it. Most won't, but your society will survive, so nothing's lost there.

Going K-style, well, that's a lot of work invested in producing a handful (or, perish the though, a single) offspring. You'd only do that in the face of a complete societal collapse, where you'd have to take care of it entirely by yourself. Doing it in times of plenty - well, that's almost like saying your brood for some inexplicable reason is more important than everyone else's brood!

In response to OP's comment:

This industrialised society will look quite a bit different from human, Western civilisation. It'll be more like successfully implemented communism, I guess. (I'm a big fan of the Culture novels in case you wondered 🙂 )

I also assume that "childhood" has to be quite different from what human (K-species) childhood looks like. Perhaps you're born a larva, rather than a baby, that lives independently but quite differently from adults. You'll spend a year or two or three (depending on your time in the womb) in a communal "pond" for this particular purpose. When you've developed enough, you emerge from the brood pond, and the workers there will make sure you're taken care of, put into the education system, etc.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Neat way to turn the r/K reasoning on its head. Doesn’t lend itself well to a functional industrialised society, but it’s certainly a point to consider! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs for your entertainment I developed my answer a litte :) $\endgroup$ – gustafc Mar 25 at 14:33
6
$\begingroup$

Breeding up with the Joneses

Imagine you could pick the most attractive features for your baby. Or rather, that you can produce babies until one pops out with the right combo of attractive features, then mate that one with another attractive one and make them produce a K-brood for you. This results in a strong, smart, attractive baby that you can easily love and nurture!

Yttri families are always looking to improve their genetic stock by selective breeding. It's a measure of success and status to have the most attractive offspring. A "society" mom's life revolves around "The Market", short for the various trade shows, auctions, brokered deals and private gatherings where r-babies are traded. She's always trying to find the perfect mates both for herself and for her favored breeding offspring and selling her own to finance the purchases.

The traded offspring are made to breed again, with particularly favored ones told to produce K-offspring that will become the next generation of the main (K) family. Not all of these are successful, as intelligence is hard to measure in the r-brood. That's why K father and mothers also produce their own K-offspring to have a few very intelligent offspring in the family.

What happens to all the ugly useless r-babies is not really suitable for human sensitivities, so I will skip that here.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Holy eugenics batman!! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Yeah I considered using that word, but decided it invokes too much of a human morality that probably doesn't apply to a species that can pop out litters of disposable grunts when desired. That of course would have been a dream come true for certain fascists from Earth. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Mar 25 at 14:31
5
$\begingroup$

It depends on how extreme the intelligence difference is, and how socially advanced the country is. However, it seems really unlikely that anyone would choose full brood, in reasonably modern first world country.

However, if the Yttri are a bit more pragmatic than humans, then it might make sense to stop before the "one smart one" point. We could assume there's some negative feedback on this intelligence growth thing (if we imagine the brain as a network of processors, then as we add more elements there will eventually be a point of diminishing returns, because more effort is spent on communication between nodes than actually computing). We could also assume there's some random variation in intelligence -- there is in real life after all. So, maybe being the "one smart one" puts you in the 120-100 IQ range, being in the last two puts you in the 110-90 range, being in the last 3 puts you in the 100-80 range, and so on.

If the Yttri mother is trying to assure that she'll have someone to take care of her when she is old, then there's a reasonable tradeoff here. If you wait for that last one, maybe you end up with a kid that has a 50% chance of being successful in a really well paid field. Maybe if you end at 2, you get kids that have each got a 30% chance of being successful in well paid fields. Now you've got a 51% chance that at least one will be successful, and a 9% chance that they both will. Not a bad deal!

You can play around with the probabilities to get whatever result you'd like. Model it is a binomial distribution (you'll have to pick the probability of success for a given development level using your gut).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_distribution#Probability_mass_function

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent point about trade off. Also ties in well with socioeconomics and class, as that could change the balance point from one family to the next quite drastically. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 9:23
4
$\begingroup$

1: economic incentive. Just because you arent as smart does not mean you are worse off. Lower intelligence jobs might be numerous and too boring for higher intelligence people to perform. And if the high intelligence market is saturated you are better off with hard working low-intelligence.

2: long-term planning. If you get many dumb children now, those children are likely to survive long enough to get their own children in a modern society. Those dumb people (or their mates) would still carry your DNA and be able to gestate longer in order to get smart children. So after 2 generations you have many many more smart grand children than the person who went for intelligence right away

This type of planning actually has a lot going for it. The smart generation does the smart things like run a company, the dumb generation (assuming you dont add a smart generation by having more kids) would work in many area's of these companies (making bread, painting, carpenting, cleaning or whatever). Then these dumb children get a smart generation that takes over from their grandparents and start their own cycle.

3: why would they be dumb with modern help? The gestation period used to give smarter children as more energy and food went into the children before birth. In the meantime if you had many many children you were unlikely to feed them all causing more development problems. But with modern food and medicine all your children would be able to develop fully (without having to canibilize each other in brutal competition for resources!). So the intelligence gap is smaller or non-existant.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Lower intelligence jobs .." Cue Brave New World reference :) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Mar 24 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ I was about to advise OP to read Brave New world. Your "dumb" children can take menial jobs and support your family while you focus yourself on your one or two of your elites children. Then can also be some kind of servants/slaves. $\endgroup$ – Echox Mar 25 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ One problem with point 2 is that dumb parents may not be able to give their children the education they need to live up to their (biological) potential. Families that opt for such a strategy might see a reversed Flynn effect. $\endgroup$ – Jan Mar 27 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan the question assumes high technology so I'm assuming a 1rst world country. I'm from a country where much of the school system and studying is paid through taxes and student loans rather than weird systems like in America where the parents are expected to pay most of it putting an unnecessary pay wall between the poor and an education. So I would assume that the intelligent would have a solid system in place to educate everyone at their level of intelligence. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 27 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan: I am also from such a country (Germany) and it is generally accepted that in my country, there is a rather strong correlation between educational success of parents and educational success of their children. This is usually interpreted as a social phenomenon rather than a biological one (i.e. schools are not able to sufficiently remedy the problems that may exist in some families).. $\endgroup$ – Jan 2 days ago
3
$\begingroup$

Have a look at your own nieces and nephews.

The glue eaters and mouthbreathers are easy to entertain. Any screen playing the latest colorful, retarded cartoon on a loop will keep them enthralled for hours so that you can go around doing your own stuff. In 2020 the latest one is Baby Shark.

But the intelligent ones - you gotta keep stimulating them mentally for them to stay put. A book will only give you so many hours or days of peace. Paper and color pencils? They will get bored after a while. TV has got nothing on them, and they finish their homework too fast to fill the afternoon.

Any parents that don't have the patience and the resources to keep a couple smart kids will prefer scores of dumb ones.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Social stratification: We can see this at work in the real world. Even in a first world country like the USA, there are millions of people in dire poverty, both rural and urban. The world the poor live in is not the same as the world of the rich.

Given endemic violence, food insecurity, limited opportunities, and menial jobs, poorer Yttri might be quite justified in pursuing an "r" strategy. There's just too much danger or likelihood that one favored child won't survive/thrive.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Your premise is a little vague on two very important sociological details:

  • Do the individual Yttri who opt for r over K know that they are opting for r over K? Is it a conscious choice they make? Or is it more like, say, homosexuality in humans — where it clearly has implications for reproductive strategy, and yet, it's not like anyone's out there looking for rational reasons to be homosexual. I mean maybe r-ness just happens, and even Yttri scientists don't really know why.

  • Assuming conscious choice, do the Yttri who opt for r over K need rational reasons to do so? Do their reasons need to bottom out in some kind of evolutionary advantage, or does it suffice to say "They're choosing it because they're stupid" and/or "They're actually doomed by choosing it"? A mutation, even a complex one, doesn't need a human-comprehensible reason to exist.

"Irrational" reasons for choosing r behavior might include:

The Amish/Mormons/Hasidim. This is just what their subculture does. Call it "religion" if you want, but it doesn't even have to be in service of some higher power; mainly it's carried on for tradition's sake. Tradition!

The Paleo dieter/home birther. Science now knows that our ancestors, millions of years ago, followed the r strategy. Our bodies evolved to deal with the r strategy. The K strategy may be easy to follow today, but our bodies are actually happier with a plain old-fashioned "quick birth."

The Marie Antoinette shepherdess. So an r strategy makes sense only during a natural disaster? Well, nothing is more fun than role-playing at calamitous poverty! Having a huge batch of babies is just what upper-crust Yttri women do, the same way they might send the servants home early and bake a cake from scratch by following a YouTube tutorial.

The anti-vaxxer. Haven't you noticed the gradual increase in undesirable mental traits lately? Concomitant with the rise in K-babies? Our family follows the r strategy consistently, and none of our surviving babies have any undesirable traits. I don't pretend to understand the science; I'm just saying, maybe you should consider doing the r strategy for your next birthing.

The nail-biter/hoarder/road-rager. At the extreme, maybe the root cause of r-behavior is simply what neurotypical Yttri would call "mental illness." The genes for r-behavior are present, and some unknown factor — nature? nurture? — has flipped the switch and sent this Yttri into a spiral of frankly unnatural behavior. But once they've had their brood, what can you do about it? Child Protective Services can't take on 10,000 youngsters. By the time it's reported, it's probably more humane to just let nature take its course. The survivors will be remanded to foster care and the unfortunate mother institutionalized.

The common factor here seems to be: If it's a conscious choice that the Yttri are making, then you should be looking for memetic factors, not classical evolutionary factors. Our conscious choices are driven by conscious memes, regardless of Darwinian fitness. On the other hand, if it's not a choice (like, say, homosexuality), then you should look for classical Darwinian factors, but at the same time, don't feel like you have to explain it. Nature doesn't explain every single one of her designs, either.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I was primarily after memetic reasons, though biology can’t be discounted. I’m a particular fan of thePaleo and Anti-K’er memes $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 26 at 19:38
2
$\begingroup$

One of the main reasons Yttri still produce large broods is to further elevate the status of their favored small brood children. After all a child with a 100 siblings that are essentially servants will be able to accomplish much more than a child on his or her own.

The large brood children are typically birthed first and raised/trained to care for and obey their soon to come small brood charge in large orphanage like institutions. The large brood siblings then take care of their small brood siblings as nannies which allows the small brood siblings to be raised by their mother and father, but eliminates all the unpleasant aspects of child rearing.

As the small brood children grow up their large brood cadre will transition from nannies to servants thus allowing the small brood children to focus entirely on mental and leadership development, giving them a distinct advantage over the small brood children who's families could not afford to support growing their own servants.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

There could be some kind of welfare payment that increases with the number of dependent children.

New contributor
dukereg is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This is short, but the idea is sound. Is there some way you could expand upon it? If not, it would probably be better placed as a comment. $\endgroup$ – No Name Mar 25 at 0:01
1
$\begingroup$

Cannon fodder Having huge armies that just follows orders and don't think for themselves can be a huge benefit in warfare.

Industry Quick worker assets for jobs that requires following orders and are just repetitive tasks, such as conveyor belt supply lines.

As a mother that perhaps wants her children to take care of her financially you're looking at 100 workers in low level jobs, or 1 in a high level job. The 100 workers will most of the time have a higher generated total after expenses than the single 1. This can be a gamble though as if the offspring could become the CEO of a huge company so would potentially provide a bigger net income. But with 100 workers you will have safety.

But overpopulation is a factor that needs to be taken into account and perhaps choosing is not for the mother to decide, and would be mandated from a ruling government where they need to fill their needs.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Gender inequality

Following the example of our Terran civilization from not so long ago and still valid in most of the world.

Assuming you can determine the gender of the offspring early on and assuming they would generally be of the same gender: Men are the dominant sex (gender, whatever), females are good only for domestic work, sex and reproduction. What's the point in smart and strong daughters, when you have to invest more in them and get much lower dowry (because the K-type daughters are sexually unattractive, resembling males and generally expected to be troublemakers), if instead you can have many dumb, socially acceptable, i.e. "normal" daughters?

An example from Earth of only a few decades ago: a (reasonably) famous female writer recalls how her father offered her extra pocket money for each "Fail" mark during her elementary education. Because he was just not interested in having a smart, well educated daughter. He expected her to work on his farm and then marry someone strong to continue working on the family farm.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Eat the young

"Pandora's Star" by Peter F Hamilton has a race of amoeboids on a planet with little biodiversity. They spawn in massive numbers, and the young are stupid animals, to be eaten without regard. The elders don't take any notice if the young they are eating are their own brood or others'. The young form the middle tiers of the food chain.

"The Legacy of Heorot" by Larry Niven has a similar setup, with intelligent predators feeding on their own numerous young. Big problems happen when human colonists clear out the "dangerous predators" without doing fundamental biological research.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein has elders who disregard the many silly flitting nymphs, and don't mind if they die. Not quite as awful, but it's a built-in callousness.

In each of these cases, intelligence doesn't spark until the creatures are of significant size. They live as animals, whose deaths are disregarded by their own society.

In human society, cannibalism is regarded as the worst sin. Read Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and its many commentaries for other ideas.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can't not mention "The Baby-Eating Aliens"! "First of all," Akon said. "First of all. Does anyone have any plausible hypothesis, any reasonable interpretation of what we know, under which the aliens do not eat their own children?" $\endgroup$ – Quuxplusone Mar 26 at 18:31
1
$\begingroup$

Taxes!

Their government might provide a tax break or tax credit for having more children.

This alien race might want to produce more children to take advantage of the tax benefit.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_benefit

New contributor
Nick Bonilla is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The knowledge of history and ability to relate.

There are many countries that are aspiring to being 1st world. Yet in all of them, some more than others, people suffer from hunger, sickness. They fear what next day, week month will bring.
Some are aware that a war can erupt that will shatter their fragile 1st world into pieces that will be worse than 3rd one because there will be extra chaos.

Chaos that could be only overcome by numbers. When you have one very smart person it take one sickness to take them out. Who's gonna plow the acres? Who's gonna weave clothes? Who will bring water from the well?

Having one child is a naive and selfish from society point of view. After all you basically decrease amount of citizens by two. 100 Yttri have 50 kids. 50 yttri have 25. Oh great, now they fight for mates. Oh great now their dumber less educated country next door invaded and buried them with hats.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

While this is a bit further technologically than your question describes, a simple answer could be that it's a strategic decision. IMO, it's a safe bet that in the near future, quasi-immortality will be bio-engineered (here quasi-immortality means biological aging stops at a certain point and people don't die of old age).

In a society of quasi-immortals (or with sufficiently advanced medical technology), leading causes of death become accidents and violence. This means, that in the long term, cultures that have lots of children will end up dominating because the likelihood of an accidental death (eg. falling down the stairs) is rather similar for "single-smart" or "multiple-stupid" progeny options. Cultures that want to grow would encourage mothers to have as many children as possible and thus out-crowd cultures that focus on single progeny.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Breeding for disease resistance

yeah, I wonder why that thought came to my mind...

The K-brood selection is mostly focused on strength and whatever it takes to "win" in the womb. This has one glaring weakness: The offspring are not at all selected by their immune systems and tend to all have the same traits in this regard.

The next time a pandemic hits, it might take out the carefully nurtured K-brood in one fell swoop. To continue and strengthen the family line, mothers can choose to produce an r-brood now and then and send them to daycare to infect them with as many diseases as possible. Those individuals with the strongest immune systems are nurtured and trained to become studs or mothers, whose only task is to produce new K-offspring that are then adopted into and raised by the main K-family.

The r-brood also make useful servants and emergency food supply, depending on your species' stance on cannibalism, which seems by its nature more relaxed.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Holy... so you send your kids to get potentially lethal plagues from nursery so your grandkids have better survivability. That makes a brutal kind of sense. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 25 at 13:35
0
$\begingroup$

Two ideas:

  1. Class solidarity. It's hard not to imagine a deep class divide between Ks and rs in this society. If you, yourself, are in the r group, you may be motivated to encourage more of that group over the Ks.

  2. Society is organized around clans, rather than families, and within a clan r offspring are a source of cheap labor. Really, the idea of r individuals as cheap labor in general, but I think it's easier to explain the motivation for the parents involved if you talk about clans or large patriarch/matriarch-led families.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Happiness.

The Yttri limbic system is (due to evolutionary factors) biased in favour of getting satisfaction from those large litters. So despite all the rational factors you’d care to name, they tend to gravitate towards having large dumb litters for the sake of it.

Furthermore, the first-world Yttri put more weight on happiness relative to economic advantage than the corresponding humans would, and they want their (surviving, adult) children to be happy too. And it just so happens that the dumb carefree Yttri fry are better at being happy than their overthinking managerial cousins.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.