I recently saw an article (not a particularly proven, scientific one, mind you) which stated that the octopus could be the dominant species on the planet if they were more social, due to their intelligence.

Now, regardless of the truth to that statement, it still does raise to me an interesting question: could a society potentially exist where every member was extremely intelligent but antisocial? Make the following assumptions:

  1. Everybody is extremely intelligent, with an IQ of 200 or more.
  2. Because of the above point, menial labor has been all but eradicated. Everyone made their own robots to do their own thing.
  3. Everybody lives together because it is safer, rather than because they like the company.
  4. Nobody works together, or works for each other. Everyone works alone. The idea especially of working for someone else is extremely unacceptable for these people. They'd literally rather die than do that, because to them it'd be the same.
  5. They is a form of 'governance', where there are dedicated 'societal decision makers', who make sure that everyone contributes a little bit to keep society working.
  6. These 'Societal decision makers' came up with the idea that everyone should make their own 'farmer robot' which works on a communal farm, maximizing farming efficiency so that no one needs to care about finding food.

Assuming all the above points to be true and already in place, would this society function? What would be the potential pitfalls and strengths of such a society?

EDIT(1): As pointed out by the first 2 answers, there does seem to be a bit of a paradox in this question. So, I'm changing it a little: this isn't 'no society', this is a society with minimal to no social/obligatory ties.

Also, new point:

  1. Children are artificially genetically designed and raised by robots. A person may have 'genetic' parents, but they will in no way be connected or raised by them in any way.
  • $\begingroup$ I think you can make everyone less empathetic towards each other through controlling one anterior insular cortex. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 4:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solaria. Sometimes I love Asimov. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Wow, that is interesting! I'll see if I can find a copy to read... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 1:16

6 Answers 6


As defined by wikipedia, a human society: "is a group of people involved in persistent interpersonal relationships, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations."

On a purely semantic note (even abstracting away "humans" and looking at it as as society of intelligent beings), the question is a bit contradictory. However, I think the major piece to think about here is natural:


You describe a world that could most readily be imagined as a collection of individual beings who neighbor each other, and know each other, simply because of proximity. However, reproduction is a necessity for this species. Even if this cluster of beings reproduces asexually, offspring must be "raised" to some extent. Even Octopi nurture their young. This process of raising offspring has some very critical social effects, and the notion of a family fits the definition of society quite well. What you're describing therefore seems to be less of an aimless cluster of non-societal individuals, and rather a collection of beings that try their hardest not to interfere with other mature members of the species.

Could this type of being exist? Perhaps, but you're likely to find more of a societal structure than you might be expecting. Based on family alone, there is a basis for interpersonal relationships that you need to cut off somehow, perhaps as the children "leave the nest". Another problem, based on the parameters of the question, is space. It doesn't matter how well I've taught my son to build and tend farming robots if he has no land for them to farm. As a group of beings grows larger, even if self-sufficient, more and more land is required and the distance to create one's livelihood grows wider. Indeed, looking at the historical development of the human race, we started largely as hunter gatherers, migrated to individual agriculture, and slowly increased population density by improving farming techniques and thereby reducing the number of farms required to feed the population.

Ultimately, based on parameters 5 and 6, you do have a society. If points 5 and 6 stand, point #4 is largely invalidated. If decision makers exist, then their authority must be respected (or there is conflict to equalize the problem). If they ensure that everyone contributes "a little bit", then everyone else is held accountable by them and, to some extent, they "work for each other".

At the end of the day, cooperation begets some form of society.

  • $\begingroup$ Very well thought out answer, perhaps better thought out than my question - thanks! You're right, there is some kind of society. I need to rethink this a bit. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 3:13

The short answer is no...but here's why.

  1. An organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

Full definition

Item's 4, 5 and 6 all necessitate society. In this case you could say it is a minimalist society but it still qualifies.

Any governance or just cooperation in general, however much it is disliked, qualifies as a society.

Now, your specific questions can be answered a little more specifically.

  • Would this society function?

Yes, with some caveats.

  • What are the pitfalls

There should be no long-term or particularly powerful threats from without. A society this loosely organized would likely crumble in the face of a threat from an organized attacker that works together.

Reproduction...unless they have some serious tech they kinda have to interact from time to time...you know...baby making, usually takes two. Oh...you also have to then raise the child...don't forget that.

General support...things like medical help, maybe you need surgery or are just sick.

Education gaps. Not everyone is an expert in everything. To get to the point of robotics you are going to need some kind of cooperation.

  • Benefits

Well, the only thing that comes to mind is a generally peaceful society as a lack of interaction would likely lead to a lack of conflict.

  • $\begingroup$ True enough... I'll need to rethink some of these points... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 3:14

You can't build a robot on your own

On a more practical note, projects can take hundreds of thousands of man hours to build. Any kind of major construction, whether it's a new type of robot, a large building, or just making a road will pretty much require strong social interaction and commitment in order to make the plans and follow through on them.

The same thing goes for maintenance, which requires people to share how things work and to get together on fixing issues. Robots are notoriously bad at repairing things.

Without collaboration, large scale projects simply aren't feasible. And without large scale projects, a society that has everything done for them automatically isn't feasible.


Slight technical point: what you're describing is asociality, not antisociality. Asociality, as defined by the almighty Wikipedia, is a "lack of motivation to engage in social interaction, or a preference for solitary activities....Asociality is distinct from but not mutually exclusive to anti-social behavior, in which the latter implies an active misanthropy or antagonism toward other people or the general social order." Just to get that out of the way.

From what I understand (read: my high school biology course that just ended today), mammals get their intelligence from learning by example. That's why mammals have mammary glands: while the babies are nursing, they watch the mothers. Thus, in your make-believe world where people are as antisocial as possible, how can they be super-smart? (Unless you want to say that everyone has autism. They're known to be pretty smart yet asocial.) If everyone wants to ignore everyone else, why would they ever write books and the like so that the nerd society can be self-taught like the introvert geniuses of our real Earth?

Be that as it may, there's another fundamental flaw with your asociety. (Totally just made that word up there.) It's good that you gave your society some form of government, but if nobody wants to be with anyone else, doesn't that mean that the governors want to make their laws and go home as quickly as possible? That could lead to some extremely biased and/or prejudiced laws. Your society is based off of reality's humans' needs, less their need to be social. That means that they still might want a law that could benefit them more, and since they don't care about others, they won't care if someone gets hurt in the process. You never said that your society is above bribery. All in the name of getting away from people as quickly as possible.

"Alright everyone. I just want to get things over with so that we can all go home. Here's $1,000,000 for each of you, just let me decide the rules all by myself."
"Hear, hear!"


Inheritance is heavy

There is some loop-hole in your world. Perfect that now, they have robots to take care of farming, and educating their children, and so on, but in the past?

Basically, forming relationship and grouping together was a way to get more protection and develop themselves. Some were hunting, other cooking, other taking care of children so that if one of the previous died, someone could replace them. It is a basic management or resources.

Those societies, due to the high intellect of the species, could evolve quite rapidly to the robot building ones, but even that took a few centuries. And the member of the species would be used to that form of living by the time they actually develop the technology which replace the needs.

"Promising" Future

But now, I'd present how one could get from a society not so much different than today (except with cleverer humans), to a society with minimal inter-personal interaction, which I think is what you are looking for.

No-needs Society

So now your societies has reached the point where robots are taking care of the basic needs: farming, building houses, raising children, distribution of food, etc. This takes care of the basic needs.

If we get it as an utopia, the services are provided to everyone for free and thus, removing also the need to actually work. People are left with plenty of leisure time.

Artificial procreation methods have been developed, which suppress also biological needs.

So people are left without any needs to do anything, and plenty of free time to do whatever they wanted. This would tend to separate the people from each other.


Of course, people are used to have some form of relationship. And even "worse", have evolved to favour a social behaviour. So even without needs, people would tend to gather for social reasons (a lot of people genuily like to work, albeit less hours and more fanciful jobs, sex, restaurants, films, etc.) as they always had. Having a lot of free time, mean they have plenty of time to dedicate to social meetings.

And those factors have nothing to do with pure intellect.


What could actually help, are on-line social networks. There are numerous studies which tend to indicate a link between the Facebook activity and off-line social life (IRL, for those old enough ;-)). So basically the advance of such services would mean that more and more people could just fill their need of social relationship without moving from home. It is advantageous, no physical risk involved, a confort of a home, no risk of judgement based on looks, clothes, income, etc.

As time passes most people would tend to stick exclusively to on-line interactions. Which will create some distance between the people and progressively lower their social skills: a certain clumsiness to walk, move, behave in a social group.

Though quite moral, Surrogate is a film which tries to see that increasing distance between actual humans, as they live through their surrogates, which are remote controlled avatars representing them in their daily life.

It might be that as time passes, people will develop other interests that merely chatting on Facebook-like systems, like watching movies, playing games or reading books.


From that point on, I would say that absolute minimal interactions would be hard to achieve. But it is possible to limit them to on-line/distant interactions, and with which your society might still function. Maybe the future will tell us.


I'm a little late to this part, and somewhat confused by the question. Has this society of octopus people (I'm taking liberties with the premise) always been "asocial" (as mentioned by Doniel), or did this trend develop over time? I ask, because there's a few interesting problems depending on how this situation is meant to have developed in the first place.

Robots and genetic engineering require a high degree of organisation over time for people to be able to build upon their collective knowledge. And while you could conceivably have say, a big library where a bunch of introverts go to contribute, manage, and use it on their lonesome, more foundational things require people to... well, want to spend time with other people. Indeed to use the library at all properly they will have to have some sense of community; to establish and follow protocols. If they are completely asocial why would they bother contributing to something they don't feel ownership over? But I guess this is what robots are for. So if this collective emerged, where you have almost atomised families, based on voluntary association. You sort of have anarchist feudalism.

Your edit suggests anarchist politics: a society with minimal to no social obligation through free association. However yours is different since this isn't just a power dynamic, it's the people's tendency to want to be alone. And I would think this will cause issues... depending on just how much along the anti-social to asocial spectrum they exist.

Stephen Pinker's writings about the decline of violence over short and long term in The Better Angels of our Nature discusses the origins of civility in feudal systems, where disputes between aggrieved parties were mediated by a representative of the king enforcing the king's laws (a "shire reeve"; became sheriff). This helped to disrupt aggression by settling disputes peacefully, otherwise it was reasonable to escalate violence. If they stole your cow, what's to stop them doing worse tomorrow? Best kill them. Without people being willing to settle via mediation, and without the sort of society where individuals were willing to submit to higher authority, violence would not likely decline. Especially if they are anti-social (read: antagonistic) instead of asocial.

This would be especially true if the octopus people needed their space, and population growth led to higher population density, and violence as the individuals sought to find a balance they felt comfortable with... like a box of spiders; there won't be many left after a while.

But if we're ditching the octopus people thing, and the people are more or less human, they still need friends and family and lovers. Being an introvert doesn't change that. So it's unlikely that their collective would be that much different from how society developed otherwise.

The points you speak of are viable, but somewhat problematic. In that robots are kind of not simple to make, so how can individuals or small families be expected to make them? They have to have some sort of a communal factory. And when you say "live together", how? Over what population density? It could just be like a modern city, people go about their modern lives but actually are not as social as they used to be. In this case, perhaps it's just that, exaggerated, on a planetary scale. And they're more like neighbours in the Australian outback.


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