I’m writing a humanoid race with perfectly symmetrical bilateral anatomy. This trait is shared by almost all complex life on their world and has shaped the way they reproduce; via mitosis. I’ve already solved how this works so no need to criticise the concept (just assume it works), but what really really interests me in this question is how this change in biology affects the cultural development of a species. How different would their worldview be from ours?

Biology: Human organs are asymmetrical but theirs perfectly mirror the other side. They have at least two of each organ. Because they are sexless they have no genitals or dimorphism between males and females nor do they have nipples and bellybuttons. Since they procreate by fission their reproductive organ could be considered to be the thin line that separates their two halves. Reproduction is involuntary and regulated by hormones. Once the time comes they must eat to grow then they split apart into two fully functioning adults (new organs grow in the midsection like a caterpillar as a chrysalis). Each new half isn’t identical, genes randomize traits to get diversity without a partner. There’s always one half older than the other but since they reproduce like cells they are biologically immortal, they just split every once in a while (which could be considered an individuals lifespan). Disease, malformations and injuries which would hamper their ability to split would be the same as a womb being damaged. Individuals who can’t recover don’t split (infertile).

Edit: They're born adults. They remember everything as information is shared between halves. They reproduce yearly when isolated, when population density increases their reproduction slows down proportionally, at most to once a decade. They can distinguish individuals like twins can. They are omnivores like us. They live in houses like us. Infertile individuals can live to forty years old. If they don't eat the splitting stops or they starve.

I ask again: how does this affect their cultures development?

  • $\begingroup$ For those wondering, the image is a panel from Franken Fran - A very gory manga about a Mad Doctor doing mad doctor things. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Sep 2, 2021 at 17:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do they have a childhood? How much information is retained after the split? How often do they reproduce? What is the level of intelligence? Are they capable of distinguishing individuals? What do they eat? Where do they live? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Sep 2, 2021 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ If individual is infertile does it still age, and if so how long can it live?. If a individual does not eat during mitosis what happens? This will be important if it culture has a population that doubles each week. Will it stop the split or kill both? $\endgroup$
    – Kezat
    Sep 2, 2021 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ @T. Sar I'm pretty sure I mentioned where it was from in the question, although I do really like your summary. To everyone else: They're born adults. They remember everything as information is shared between halves. They reproduce yearly when isolated, when population density increases their reproduction slows down proportionally, at most to once a decade. They can distinguish individuals like twins can. They are omnivores like us. They live in houses like us. Infertile individuals can live to forty years old. If they don't eat the splitting stops or they starve. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2021 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ I recommend reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin. There's a whole book out there about a similar issue (well, they're not completely asexual, being technically hermaphrodite - but in fact asexual most of the time). In general, it is very similar to your situation. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2021 at 19:52

5 Answers 5


Experiences make up a huge part of who we are as a individual.

Over time the experiences of the cloned individual will make it unique from the "parent" copy. A newly created copy will diverge (mentally) from the parent over time. Or put another way the older an individual is the more different to the original it becomes. Now if you have older beings make a copy of themselves you now have a further split from the one true original.

This divergence will never again reconnect, a mental lineage of individuals will forever be divided, with no way to ever recombine all knowledge and experiences in to one being again. The individuals sense of self would become a mix of self (as we understand the word) and lineage. You would have your own uniqueness plus the uniqueness of your parent at the time of "birth". Over the years you would still be similar to your parent clone yet still yet could be very different from another individual from another mental lineage line. You(as a clone) might refer to your sense of self as "we". With the "we" being your most recent lineage and you.

Just after mitosis both individuals would be both the copy and original, and this feeling would be all to familiar to them. Unfortunately the life of the common individual would not be highly valued by others of the race or outsiders. With a doubling of the population every year the numbers are quickly going to get out of hand.

The number one goal for this people would be to control the mitosis and reduce it any way posable. In the beginning that could even include killing one of the two clones immediately after mitosis. Aside from the moral implications from the individuals perspective it likely will see this as a 50% chance to die during every mitosis aka every year forever..... However it might not be as bad from there perspective, while factually accurate it will be with the lifetimes of knowledge and first hand experience that life will go on, even if its not the same "copy" in that moment. A species that has "normal" methods of reproduction understands this to a degree but for the mitosis replicating species this knowledge would be first hand and in recent memory, it will be part of what defines them. Memory and consciousness will be preserved.

Over time effective ways would likely be found to control the mitosis. Lineages will become more specialized for tasks and jobs. Mitosis would likely be regulated in some way, be it from a government like entity or social norms, or both. A typical employment interview would likely value your past lineage the most. The decision to create a new individual will likely be closely linked to a specific need that needs to be filled.

One major problem that might arise from this with such value placed on the past lineage some inevitably will get left behind. From the very beginning you would soon see differing opinions and factions or "houses" as an apt description. For better or worse the houses would gain immense power knowledge and wealth, after all its members live forever. Effectively this will become something akin to a royal bloodline, with the very real benefit of all the memory of your predecessors.

Years in the future the people may still have a lingering essence of the true original but whos to say that's any better/worse or different then another species defining attributes or essence.

  • $\begingroup$ About having to kill the clones: Populations control themselves naturally, it's just natural selection at play. Think about it, if they reproduced out of control they'd be a shortage of food very quickly and they'd die. Cells in the body stop dividing once the body is fully grown and metabolism slows down after a certain size. Again if they reproduce too little, they'd go extinct. That's why high populations inhibit their division rates. $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2021 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ Normally yes, but do you still have a natural selection type of influence with a people that can clone themselves every week for the startup cost of a little extra food? $\endgroup$
    – Kezat
    Sep 2, 2021 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ If you had a 1000 humans left in the world this would be a huge problem. But if you had 1000 people left that can double its population every week with no growth stage this would not be a issue to recover. $\endgroup$
    – Kezat
    Sep 2, 2021 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ Your argument is yours, but when you say “people that can double every week” you’re referring to Franken Fran, not the rules I established. I specifically chose once a year to mimic the duration of a pregnancy (nine or so months). $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2021 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ Edited to reflect year not week. I feel this does not change my answer. Great question btw. $\endgroup$
    – Kezat
    Sep 2, 2021 at 21:39

As Robin Williams said in "Dead Poets Society" the purpose of language is "to woo women." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dh8C_HHE2g

Huge swathes of culture are about the sexual relationship. They are about doing something that potential mates will find attractive. Or that will make one feel confident in order to follow that pursuit. Clothing styles, music, architecture, painting, poetry, makeup, perfume, etc. and etc., are all at base motivated and energized by wanting a potential mate to be attracted.

Why do you brush your hair and teeth in the morning? To be attractive. Attractive to whom? To potential mates. Or to rivals for potential mates to scare them off and make you feel more confident.

When we imagine things like magic and sorcery, we project onto that the desires we have. Why would a young nerdy guy want to study sorcery?


Even things that seem to have some other apparent motive are heavily affected by this. Consider the drive for power. That includes politics and militarism and so on. One might suspect that the drive for power would be sufficient on its own. But why does somebody want to be powerful? As Al Pacino tells us in "Scarface": First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q77o5OJhGXc

In other words, the bulk of our existing culture would not exist. And the parts that did would be massively less colorful, less flamboyant, less stylish.

The only possible parts of culture that might still exists would be the parts where the individuals needed each other for some reason. Cooperation in production and division of labor for example. So there might be culture around symbols and traditions to indicate the baker the farmer the blacksmith the scientist and so on. These would probably be fairly utilitarian, possibly no more than a badge of office and a title. These would be designed to be memorable rather than to be sexy.


We first need to take a look at how real-life human reproduction affects real-life human societies:

  • Gender roles (based on biological sex in most cultures)
  • Norms regarding acceptable and unacceptable sexual intercourse regulated by laws and religious doctrines
  • Controversies surrounding abortion
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Marriage, family structures, and divorce

We also need to note other differences between your humans and our humans:

  • Your humans are biologically immortal unless they become infertile
  • Your humans retain the memory and personality of the original human after splitting
  • Your humans are "born" with adult intelligence and never experience a childhood
  • Your humans reproduce yearly until population density increases (which I would assume is caused by some form of drug people have to take because you said that they can't naturally choose when to reproduce)
  • Your humans don’t experience the effects of aging as they grow old

Taking note of this, let’s take a look at how society would work in your world.

Society and Government:

As soon as people are born by splitting off of their “parent,” they retain all of their memories. As a result, all descendants of a person are likely to work in the same field of employment as their parent since they have all of their memories and expertise. This would likely result in a caste-like system developing since everyone is born with expertise necessary to perform a certain job. Liberal democracies with greater amounts of social mobility would be hard to justify and unlikely to exist because education is not necessary to survive.

The traditional system of absolute monarchy would not work in your world because it is impossible to choose a single hereditary successor with this form of reproduction. We would likely see a "government" class of people who descend from one another perform government functions.

People would likely receive a home of their own as soon as they are born, given to a member of the appropriate class. Private home ownership would likely be replaced by communal ownership of homes because people need a separate home as soon as they are born since they don't have a childhood.


One of the first aspects of culture that would change is clothing. Human clothing would obviously not fit your people because their shape changes as they develop before splitting. They would likely wear some form of loose clothing similar to a wrap dress that could adjust to their changing size as they undergo mitosis before splitting:

Wrap Dress on Woman

Other aspects of culture would certainly be affected. There would be no portrayals of childhood or aging, since your people don't naturally age or grow up. Instead, they would be born into the world with a purpose and exclusively die of non-aging related causes.

Religious beliefs and rituals would be significantly altered in the absence of a nuclear family. Religions could not tell their followers to “be fruitful and multiply,” nor could they forbid premarital sex. They also could not give their followers advice on raising children.

Marriage would obviously not involve raising children. It would instead be a lifelong commitment made to another person to live together, like a partnership between two soulmates/close friends. Societies would likely regulate marriage to people of the same caste to justify kleptocracy.

Technological Development:

While basic technological developments like the printing press, the steam engine, and the computer could still exist, they would play a different role in society.

The use and development of machinery would probably be structured around hereditary castes of scientists, scholars, and machine operators. Since people are born with all of the knowledge that they need, a talented scholar could "give birth" to many more talented scholars who could carry on their research for them. This could result in faster technological progression in the post-Industrial age.


Very tribalistic

While there may be some genetic mixing, your clone has to be pretty much the same dimensions as you. I'd imagine most phenotypes would be shared between the two. More importantly, if memories are carried over it stands to reason that dogma is transferred over from birth. Wrongdoing from generations ago could carry over as what feels like first-hand memories, but with much more time to diverge from the truth. While in the real world children are taught who the enemy is in this world everyone knows from birth. At the same time, everyone from the other tribe also carries memories of traumatic events (albeit likely very different from yours). While most people consider it wrong to harm children for the wrongdoing of their families no one in this world is ignorant of history and everyone in a lineage may be considered responsible.

Fewer, but more intense taboos

We're all adults here everyone is mature enough to curse and talk about reproduction. That said if something is taboo everyone already knows from birth taboos never need to be explained or discussed unless of course, you aren't part of our lineage. A very big difference from humans is that people could potentially remember their birth perhaps the moment of splitting. This could be a more celebrated moment like human birth or something done behind closed doors like sexual reproduction. Either way, there would likely be all kinds of ritual and taboo surrounding it.

Highly optimised, but less revolutionary

It's diffuicult to say how the tasks of a person are delegated to the two new people however it's very likely that they would pick right where they left off. Perhaps the siblings will work together or perhaps they will take on different interests (finally get to start that rock band!). Because memories are kept, there is no training needed for a newborn to get to work which will allow larger projects to be completed faster and with more consistent vision. If the siblings work together they would likely have great synergy starting off with the same amount experience (built over generations) and an intimate understanding of each other.This combination of expertise and solid teamwork would lead to highly optimised products and more success in feilds like math where problems can take generations to solve and many years to even understand. That said with such levels of experience, it would be hard to break into a field or industry which can cuase stagnation. Siblings could prevent this by tag teaming. One works and the other goes on a sabbatical then when the working sibling burns out they switch places to bring a new perspective while minimising the amount of time need to learn the ropes. This can be extended to the whole family tree with a variety of degrees of involvment that regularly changes in accordance to experience, and fresh perspectives (which are somewhat opposed and both inherited) like a royal bloodline however it would be built on experience and knowledge retained making it more utilitarian than human bloodlines. This provides plenty of opportunities for factions and rivalries forming feeding right back to tribalism.

Not into cuteness or dating

Childhood and parenthood are incredibly important to forming familiar bonds. Without childhood, relationships in this world would probably built on generations of interaction more along the lines of a fellow countryman. There would be no maternal instinct and no sense of cuteness so say goodbye to Hello Kitty. Without sexual reproduction, there would be no biological drive for romantic relationships. That's not to say there would be no romantic relationships just that they wouldn't be common and may even be frowned upon. Romantic relationships are unlikely to be codifed with concepts like staying faithful or being committed so each relationship would be unique in it's expectations rather than falling into defined categories like dating, boy/girlfriend, and married. It's also important to remember that eventually your significant other will split in half if they don't die first so dating is either short lived or very open. I'd like to mention that people would probably have a weak sense of individuality since they carry the memories of past lives and know that their body and mind will be split and morphed. A sense of self is very important to forming personal relationships so they wouldn't be very common. Overall, the lineage comes first.

Hope this helps best of luck!

  • $\begingroup$ Very helpful, thanks! I didn't think about the lack of a concept of cuteness. I guess since they swell and split they'd like large round animals. There also wouldn't be a concept of ownership over pets, since their owners would split after a while. More like a neighbourhood cats. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 10:42

I like Galactic's take, however I don't think one can predict that precisely how the given society would look like. There are a lot of different possible core believes that could form a society like that, possibly in your world different cultures would exist in parallel -

This is rooted in political core believes - the political right believing in hierarchy and order, the political left believing in equality and progress. The very conservative and hierarchy oriented culture Galactic describes in one country. In another country however equality could be a highly treasured value - keeping the memories from your ancestors could not only result in a high degree of expertise in one field it could also spark the ideal of a holistic person who is universally educated, resulting in a community very keen on sharing knowledge and genetic individuals devoting their lives to learning something entirely different from their "parent" to add to the knowledge reportoire. While in the caste society it would be likely for genetic individuals to stay among themselves, in that society individuals might leave their "parent" as soon as they are born to look for a group of individuals capable of teaching them something new. Long story short - to determine the structure of a certain society you'll have to figure out their core beliefs and go from there. How is a community of 4 million buildt? Is it 4 million versions of the same individual or is it 2 million different people that are there twice each? Do people enjoy being with their clones because they are similar to them or do they rather avoid them because it's boring and unproductive to stay with them? Does everyone think the same about this or do different individuals have a different attitude about it?

As for everyday life - a lot of social infrastructure like kindergartens, schools or old people's homes didn't need to exist. So if we have a modern society organized in a state money would be free to invest in different things - research, housing, high culture... Every society can decide what they value.

Culture would depend on societal structures and interpersonal relationships. Again depending on values of a community friendship or platonic relationships could play a way bigger role, after all we need emotional support, stimulation, distraction, help. Forms of living together could largely vary - possibly partnership would be a more varying number of people living together because why would it be bound to only two people? Maybe some communities rationalize interpersonal relationships though, reducing it to functionality, possibly living in assigned groups of people... It always falls back to core values...

High and pop culture of course would lack one of their big topics but act as a way to process emotion and therefore deal with whatever interpersonal relationship are like. In a very rational and rather cold society art could still be about aesthetics or about psychological and medical effects of music or the choice of colors.

I assume that overall lower gender roles and less rivalry for partners would lead to less impulsive aggression, making aggression rather instrumental if there is aggression in the society. However people could become quite aggressive defending their genetic twins or loved ones from danger though. Maybe that also depends on the individual.

Personally not having to worry about sex and sexual relationships would probably set free some resources that people could chose to use on work, education (or boycotting society's expectation for self perfection by doing something entirely pointless) - the possibilities are endless.

Nudity would not be a taboo, so if it's not too cold clothes would probably be none, or if the climate requires just something regular not-gendered.

As for religion fertility is often an important element. So mitosis might be considered holy and there might be rituals built around it. On the other hand reproduction might be taken for granted aswell- maybe rather centering knowledge aquisition for a religious cult or not being very religious.

So societies could differ a lot within that species, I disagree that it would automatically be a lower developed culture, since there is a lot more to people and their motives than sex and sex alone.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with your point about core beliefs. While we're focused on "love" as a central metric of happiness theirs would be about "fraternity" instead. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 10:48

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