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So I have a species that has a life expectancy about half that of humans. In antique times, they mostly die around the age of 30 once they’ve passed the challenges of childhood. Their development is halved as well. It turns out they’re also about half the height of humans. True halflings in a way.

They live on a planet which is basically earth but slightly hotter (think just before the Eocene-oligocene glacial), not that I think it matters much.

I’ve not planned on having them breed seasonally. They have an œstrus cycle around 38-40 days.

How likely is it that they developed complex civilisation? They’re still at the Bronze Age, I accounted for about as many generation as humans from the development of fire and basic tools (which was influenced by a creator species which then disappeared and left them alone).

I remember reading about how shorter lifespans would make it difficult for any kind of civilisation because of the lack of specialists, but in the end they are fully mature around the age of 10 or 12 (as opposed to our 20) which still leaves them around 20 years to develop mastery.

Is there any major challenges you can think of? I could not find any in about an hour of research. The most I could find was the difference of mindset in long-lived species like elves as opposed to humans.

Note they are also mostly matrilineal and matriarchal. I had initially designed women as bigger and more of the fighting type although I question that but they are definitely the leaders. I always, however, come back to the issue of dramatic drops in childbirth if women were fighters.

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    $\begingroup$ Normal earth humans can develop mastery of their craft at the age of 5 if well trained, and they are able to reproduce at the age of 12. Twenty years old is considered maturity because it's when most people end their studies or drop-off school. $\endgroup$ – user76358 Jun 14 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Humans managed to build civilizations whilst dying young, 200 years ago you were expected to have a job at the age of 6. Things didn't change much since then, my first job was when I was 14. The world you live in was built by young blood and sweat. $\endgroup$ – user76358 Jun 14 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ The two greatest religions on the planet have a 14 years old girl birthing the Messiah or a 8 years old girl marying the Messiah. $\endgroup$ – user76358 Jun 14 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ Education requirements keeps staking up over time, look at how old a First Year Doctor or Engineer is. Also some skills are experienced based, a long lived king/doctor/ scientist has lived through a lot more lessons on the job. Not sure it prevents progress, I think Alexander the Great was 21. $\endgroup$ – Commander Nirvanah Crane Jun 14 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @LiJun actually no in prehistoric times just like in medieval times, the life expectancy once you reached 15 years old was about 55 to 60. It's the same reason chimps in captivity nowadays live to around 60 years old. Child mortality lowers the overall life expectancy incredibly but it doesn't change that most adults will reach 60 years old if they aren't killed before $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 14 at 10:12
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The major obstacle to civilization is the loss of knowledge and the relentless need to transmit it. Basically, they will have to do it at double human speed in order to accumulate enough knowledge for civilization. The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich details many cases where humans have lost technologies of vast importance to their cultures because of the loss of their practitioners.

So if they are to develop civilization, they need better ways to save and transmit knowledge. They need to learn quickly, have few obstacles to teaching others, and ideally, easy ways to record knowledge so it can be relearned. A social structure that does not support guilds, trade secrets, or other ways of keeping knowledge private (where it can be more easily lost).

Note that this can easily play in the matriarchal structure -- women don't fight, live longer, and know more.

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  • $\begingroup$ This would actually fit with the idea I am starting to workshop. I've always though males would go and join the group of their wives but I realised today… what if they didn't marry an individual… but literally INTO THE FAMILY. That way it's accepted for them to breed with any woman of childbearing age and the other women help raising the child. I already thought I'd have cousins through a mother's sisters be equivalent to siblings but if they're literally half siblings it works even better. And that frees up sons to be essentially canon fodders while women are leaders. $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 14 at 0:37
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I think such a species is definitely possible, however the rate of development would probably be a lot slower than it is here on Earth. With such a short lifetime they might be less willing to spend as many years studying as we do. The might also be more impulsive, restless and impatient than we are (on average).

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Neanderthal had average lifespan of 20 years, early Homo Sapiens had around 30 years, even modern human had average lifespan of around 30-40 years in medieval time. I think your civilisation probably reach Medieval Feudal level with nearly same speed like human civilisation, but it will be much harder for them to advance, because it requires practice - Malcolm Gladwell said you need at least 10.000 hours of practice to achive perfect result in anything. If your "halfing" works 40 hours per week, it will took him/her 10.000/40 = 250 weeks / ~5 years to advance to perfect results. Its unlikely, they will desire to spend 1/6 of their live on practice...

So, i think your halfing civilisation will reach Early Feudal level, with few Newton grade geniuses occasionally pushing them forward.

But, if their short lifespan is result of malnutrition and diseases, and it can be prolonged with proper food and medical assistance (at least to 50-60 years), they will probably advance as fast as humans do.

Also, if your civilisation respects book writers and do not burn books like various nazis do, it will be easier for them to learn and pass knowledge between generations.

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    $\begingroup$ No, that's when accounting for child mortality. Chimps in captivity live 50 to 60 years. The equivalent of chimps for my species in captivity would last about 30 years. $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 13 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ And by that I mean "From 1200 to 1745, 21-year-olds would reach an average age of anywhere between 62 and 70 years" (bbc.com/future/article/…) and back in antiquity this would look more like an additional 40 years of life (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Variation_over_time) $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 13 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ Mean forager age of death at 15 years old: unm.edu/~hkaplan/… (data from modern hunter-gatherer societies) (sorry, for some reason i can't edit previous replies) $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 13 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ Children can become masters of their craft at the age of 5 if trained correctly $\endgroup$ – user76358 Jun 14 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ @VesreiAnswers [Citation needed] $\endgroup$ – Guntram Blohm supports Monica Jun 14 at 9:34
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This reminds me of the Salarians from the Mass Effect franchise. They have a lifespan of 30-40 years, which they make up for with high intelligence, very high metabolic rate, low sleeping time requirements and an extremely driven mindset, which results in them being the most technologically advanced species in the franchise.
Basically they live shorter but also way faster than humans.

The point is, since you have full control over the attributes of your species, you can equip them with the necessary attributes to do what you want. Intelligence, sleeping time, metabolic rate, as mentioned above are all very simple solutions to compensate or even overcompensate for a short lifespan.

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "metabolic rate"? Also, they are supposed to be a species engineered from primates that normally would not develop intelligence. And apart from the initial push of introducing them to tools or fire, I wondered what would be the issues in having them develop a civilisation. I am not sure that the engineers would be inclined to make them especially intelligent as for the sleeping schedule… it's an idea but what influences that? And since my (human) engineers use part of their DNA to make the species, I imagine they would have some metabolic similarities. $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 15 at 20:45
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Yes, I do believe it is scientifically possible. On average, larger animals live longer than small animals, for example the bowhead whale can live up to 200 years old, while a cat can live up to sixteen years. The cause for this, I believe, often has something to do with metabolic rates. Smaller animals usually have higher metabolic rates, while larger animals have slower ones. Because of this they reach maturity at different rates, which affects their lifespan. And in many animals, it makes sense that they would not live very long after they are unable to mate. The point of a species, from my understanding, is to survive, and there isn't much else to it. Making them smaller would definitely make a shorter lifespan realistic, though I would like to point out that having an in-universe justification for their small size might make them a bit more realistic. Finding an outside reason why it is better for their species to remain small instead of growing to the height of humans might better solidify them, but of course that's just my opinion and definitely not necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ My question was more about the challenges such a species would have in developing sentience and then civilisation as shorter lifespans affect technology and all that. The reason for their being small is simple: they come from a smaller species. I kind of used ring tailed lemurs as a basis but the species may have been as small as 50 cm tall. Chimps can reach 1.7 m tall and generally go around 1m and I proportionally based myself off the chimp/human comparisons, so… $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 14 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, sorry about that (: I'm definitely not qualified to answer that XD $\endgroup$ – Zenith Jun 14 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ Marginated Tortoises grow to 35 cm and live for 100 years. $\endgroup$ – user2617804 Jun 14 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ @user2617804 and cheetahs reach 3 meters and rarely live past 25 years old in captivity. My species is based on primates that are shorter and happen to only live about 30 years at maximum. That's just it. $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa Jun 14 at 10:18

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