I have talked about collective consciousness. The basic run down is that a collective consciousness species replaces cells, tissues and organs with ants, specialized ants and groups of specialized ants (or really any small colony animal; termites, bees, wasps, etc). A large problem with this design is that they are basically immortal, the 'cells' simply are able to endlessly reproduce, allowing the creature as a whole to never age. There is also the problem that since the creature is made of many other small creatures, I cannot think of a way for them to reliably die of unnatural causes either.

This of course creates the problem that overpopulation would be reached very, very quickly. So, how can I avoid this species overpopulating their world? How can I make sure that they are guaranteed to die eventually without involving aging?

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    $\begingroup$ If the collective consciousness has control over the individual lifeforms, then it's much easier to prevent overpopulation than in the case those individual lifeforms were not part of the collective consciousness and could do whatever they wanted. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well... starvation and predation? It's really the main limit here on Earth as well. Aging isn't much of a factor, really - it's not all that common for animals to die of old age in nature. True, some of the deaths may be connected to complications related to aging (e.g. weakening, deteriorating senses etc.), but that's simply because weakened animals are available in the first place. In your scenario, these would be the "animal-cells" of your collective organism, which still age individually. If conditions are bad, you're organisms will be smaller or outright "die". $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ When I feel that my cells are starting to overpopulate my body, I put it under artificial stress to trim the excess. So, the solution to your hivemind is... well... a Diet & Exercise routine. $\endgroup$
    – UIDAlexD
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 13:51

6 Answers 6


I can't address immortality as a problem. I'm too far from the cradle to ever see more life as a problem. I can however address the issue of overpopulation.

Why can't your collective consciousness practice birth control? Make it smart enough to determine whether there are enough local resources to feed more cells. If there are, it can choose to spawn or assimilate enough new cells to match the available resources. If there are not enough resources, it can choose to practice safe sex with itself and kill off any would-be assimilation candidates.

If the amount of available resources unexpectedly declined, leaving your collective consciousness with too many mouths to feed, it would do what all living things do in such situations. It would starve. Cutting off supplies to a part of its component parts would never even be considered. That would be like a hungry man chopping off his arms and legs so that his brain can get more of the remaining nutrients in his blood. It is a thought that would remain un-thought, no matter how hungry those brain cells got.

What a staving collective consciousness can do, which mono-bodied victims cannot, is spread out. If resources are scarce in one area, it can send parts of itself in all directions in the hopes of finding food. Those parts which find food would guide all the other parts to it and those parts which dies along the way to their next meal, would be mourned as a starved man mourns the loss of the strength and vigor which he enjoyed in pre-depredation days. It wouldn't be a conscious thought that led some parts to die, just an inevitable result of a situation which might otherwise have been fatal to all.

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    $\begingroup$ You cannot grow back arms and legs, so chopping them off means an irreversible loss of the benefits they bring to the individual. Why shouldn't replacable parts be killed off, even to feed the others, should the need arise? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ The human body does eat up all of your muscle mass after it's run out of fatty tissues. It's just that it's way more efficient (and easier to repair after the fact, and prevents blood loss) to do it from the inside than to chop off a body part and toss it to the (atrophied, by then) digestive system. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 7:44

This is simple and complex question, at the same time.

  • but overall, what you describe as small small aliens, keep together is ordinary multicellular live

Environment and lack of food will kill them efficiently, without limitations, but if you wish just limit colonies by size.

In case queen, which is only one who reproduces and because of that she is bottleneck for growth(eventually at some point, speed of how much units it may physically make, will be equal rate of death), is out of equation by 'cells' simply are able to endlessly reproduce , but it still may be a moderator of that collective consciousness, with limited range by distance as example, size of living place, or by size of colony literary. Bees not only enjoys queen smell in general - but they transmitting smell by touching each other and queen. Queen have escort they touch queen and redistribute she's smell among others, escort also rotates one bee come other go. And such way they are able to determine size of colony, which triggers bees to make places for new queens, divide family and so on.

  • let say group have one source of tokens of some sort. Size of that token may be known, or may be not known. Aliens have believe, law etc - which says you may keep that token for year and gods(who else) are happy if you reproduce in that year, but after year you have give that token for any random member (as they are dumb, they can't distinguish members and falsify results - it will be some random member). If it needs 100 of aliens to build that source and it is limited in production rate - this will set some population limit.

Swarm logic algorithms working in determination of sizes, no one have to be smart there for doing it.

So any cell outside the reach will let's say loose will to reproduce, and probably this will itself and ability to, have to be triggered by belonging to that collective consciousness, and presence or queen or such.

In real live, with bee's as example, situation is reversed, they all have ability to reproduce(except drones, which usually is small portion of them, for short time), but they do not do, until queen not dies or flies out from hive.

Queen is produced not as ordinary unit, and it needs collective work of may bees, it needs more resources from bees, comparing to ordinary units. That means just single bee is not capable to make new hive.
It not only needs more resources, but they just not capable to make it to happen without cooperation of many bees. Just because few bees not capable to build place where queen have to be born

  • actually they can't build anything without cooperation - that's long story. But as example how they determine vertical lines to build honeycomb(they have to be vertical because honey is fluid and if they do that horizontally it will flow down, and they have to build twice more to store same amount of honey) they use them self's swarm as level, they making hanging group of them self, and that determines vertical direction.

To make system more robust, they have to be depended on each other - it's made by specializing types of work one units can do or by their size and such, or by age, or just because they really can't do something complex alone from things that are vital for them. As example bee do different critical tasks at different ages - and that helps them be small and dumb, they are just too dumb to be able do different tasks in same time and it makes them be more efficient and allows to learn stuff first etc etc.

  • I would say like humans, same stuff here

In real live with bees there is nothing that happens just because or for fun - literary anything is done because of some important reason, and there is a lot of such reasons, but goal of them is one - survive and prosper.

All that reasons forming system of equation which allows them to stay one hive, work as hive. But this is also weak point in their adaptation mechanism, it's very hard to solve that system of equation in another and same time useful way.

  • single unit important for coordination, it do not makes orders, it is just signal : All Quiet in Baghdad
  • vital living structures, which can be build together only
  • reproduction rate of one unit may and can be regulated according food availability and size of swarm or swarm needs, system needs
  • differentiate specializations
  • fight other colonies (star systems planet etc)
  • if no wish to fight, just feel boundary of other hives, it will be border of expansion.

as note any multicellular organism is perfect example of system which regulates itselfs, it's just a question of implementations of negative feedback to the system and it's members. And being collective consciousness does not mean absence of such regulation. And it's not important made this regulation naturally by evolution or vitro. As Ultimate factor for resticting size is just lack of energy and matter for growth.

Determining size of hive does not need one center-queen-etc, it can be done p2p style.

But if they can reproduce until natural boundary, there is no reason, at least at space stage, for them to limit themselves. On planet stage may be, it may help selection work faster, so for speedup reasons, but space stage not really.

Make hive be not a one big homogeneous structure, but collective consciousness from collective consciousness - binary tree, grid, p2p - it will help to optimize structure as whole

  • like human society do.
  • $\begingroup$ Could you fix the grammar here? I know there's a good answer here, but I can barely get what you're saying $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b yes, sure, I'm falling a sleep and feel like it's horrible, but I'm exhausted with English today. I'm always happy if someone fixes grammar, it helps me to learn english)) $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ oh, okay I've done that before. $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent Answer. One other thing multicellular organisms have is programmed cell death: A cell can be signalled to kill itself. I see no reaspn why this could not work also at the colony level. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:45

What you could do is make a slight change for your colony. Changed it to a hive mind and not a collective. You may wonder what is the difference is let me explain. In a collective there is no single individual that severs as the collectives "brain" instead the each members brain serves as piece of a collective "brain". In a since it would be like if your brain was scatter along every cell of your body. Odiously a collective can't die of old age, but a hive mind can.

A hive mind unlike a collective has one central controller or "brain". picture your hive mind like a body. You have one member of the collective that serves as the brain and the rest sever as the arms legs and mouth. In in the case of the hive mind if the central controller (the brain) grows old and dies the rest of the colony will also die like a body with it head cut off.

  • $\begingroup$ So... Your solution to ending overpopulation in a collective consciousness is to... Not have it be a collective consciousness? $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b dose sound so good when you put it like that, but remember that hive mind and a "collective" are almost identical. In fact most people use the both words to describe the same thing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b What I am say is that what you want is impossible for a collective, but possible for it almost identical sibling the hive mind. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:56
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    $\begingroup$ Okay, I get your answer (though other answers have proved it wrong) and I am happy that, unlike most people, you're able to tell the difference between Hivemind and Collective. But I am still looking for answers on collectives. $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:59

Hope it helps in finding ways to kill immortals.. ;)

Being a collective consciousness the first priority of the species will be its survival rather than reproduction. Being immortal as explained in the question only means just able to survive long without any physical damage. Psychological damages can still apply.

Assuming each organism can enter or leave from the collective consciousness, we can simply limit reproduction to the organism outside the collective consciousness. Since those within the collective will think of themselves as a single individual.

Those who are not a part of the collective consciousness won’t be able to survive for long due to the food/water/resources gathering will not be effective/possible as the collective. And those who are a part of the collective will be able to survive long but no longer due to psychological stress involved in it.


Given that your collective consciousness is an anthill, the "cells" are not able to endlessly reproduce; indeed, they are not able to reproduce at all. Only the queen can reproduce, and that certainly limits the number of ants the colony can produce in any given time. Therefore the size of an ant colony is already naturally restricted.

Note that this is very much unlike multi-celled organisms like ourselves, where indeed every single cell is able to reproduce, and it can only work because they have evolved to have an explicit mechanism limiting that growth. The failure of that mechanism is known as cancer.


You really only have 2 options here;

  1. Culling. If the ant-hills feel that they are overpopulated, they either exile the weak, old and ill or they kill them.
  2. Resources. Newborns born in a area whose resource-population limit has been reached die naturally.

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