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I am envisioning a space faring species, evolved from an obligate carnivore and apex predator.

The obvious concept to me is a tiger like species with prehensile tails that became increasingly adapted to tool use. However if you want to create an answer based on a different origin that is fine, as long as the origin remains an apex predator that once hunted using first and foremost speed and strength. If it is at all workable according to your theory, members of the species should enjoy hunting and still be capable of it in it's original form.

An ideal answer will address

  • Traits of social groups
  • Likely forms of governance (or why there wouldn't be any)
  • How they might be able to become space faring despite (or because of) the above
  • Moral foundations/principles
  • Religion(s) (or why there wouldn't be one)
  • Anything else that you expect to be an interesting outcome of this evolutionary background

Edit: A point of clarification since a common response is along the lines of "This isn't plausible". Firstly I'm aware it's not plausible, the question is not about the plausibility, but is a what if type of question. Secondly, if you are not satisfied with a solitary society, neither am I, the question states Evolved From solitary - not - Still is solitary at point of societal formation. Within that framework, whilst it's more interesting to me for them to remain fairly solitary, answers that invoke a reason and time period for better societal cohesion are fine. I hope that clarifies.

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    $\begingroup$ Solitary carnivores aren't much for socializing. I'm not sure you would see anything we would recognize as civilization, given that they would largely keep to themselves outside of reproductive reasons; this would probably involve a breeding season when they might go looking for one another, but not necessarily. I'm not even sure you'd see anything resembling a normal family structure here. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Feb 11 '17 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ Are your apex predators pursuit predators or ambush predators? Are these feline predators for sure? (I really like where this question could go, I just need more detail.) $\endgroup$ – Green Feb 11 '17 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Niven's Kzin are this. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kzin $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 11 '17 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ @DubberRucky but the intelligence is tricky, too. My understanding is that human intelligence developed to the extent that it did primarily through social co-operation and competition. Otherwise the energy cost in being much smarter than your prey (as opposed to merely somewhat smarter) just isn't worth it. $\endgroup$ – Ben Millwood Feb 12 '17 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ Being solitary is a really big no-no towards society - you need a social species to have any kid of credible civilization. The most intelligent creatures - in earth and otherwise - are those that can exchange knowledge with others around them. The social capability is what enable gorillas, dolphins, elephants, dogs, etc to learn stuff. Just look at cats - the more feral they are, the dumber they tend to be. The most social cats are also the smartest ones. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '17 at 12:39

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It's a pretty broad spectrum, but some traits may include:

Sexual violence as a norm: When males and females meet, if the female is in heat then the males are going to do their damnedest to breed, consent or no.

Infanticide: Killing the offspring of another male may be looked down upon in some circles, but I would imagine that behaviour would follow through from the early evolutionary pressures on non-social predators. Scents passed down the male line could be used to identify family lineages (with the interesting side effect that paternity tests are irrelevant)

Protective mothers. To a point: Mothers would be highly motivated to keep all of their offspring alive, up until the point where their offspring are capable of dealing with the world, at which point they will walk the hell away.

Given the elongated childhoods of sentient species (OK, I'm working with a sample size of one here) these three traits could lead to some strange family behaviours, such as children running and hiding when nearby males come around, or perhaps entire groups of nearly adult children being defending your mother's honour from a passing male. Mothers would be the nuclei of family life, fathers would be a distant threat.

Communication spots: Often passed rocks, cliffs, vegetation or even patches of ground will become spots where messages (pheromonal, written or more complex) will be left. Some of these messages will cause responses in individuals to work toward projects that are for the communal good, leading to a highly distributed 'society' with a huge latency for communication. This would lead to communication technologies that, similarly, aren't based on real time communication. It simply doesn't interest this species, the only time real time communication happens is in a family unit (where the children are basically sub-units of the mother), breeding or fighting.

Slow species development, but high individual competency: The distributed nature of society means that group efforts (like a space project) would take a long, long time. It's not in the nature of these creatures to work together, so it's more likely that a series of highly intelligent individuals would create technologies by bouncing off each other's accomplishments. I would imagine that automation of technologies would be a natural technological progression for this species. Rather than working on division of labour (where co-operation is required) individuals are more likely to focus on ways to increase or improve their own productivity. An individual fighting another individual might progress from the early biological 'fighting for mates' into fighting for technologies, knowledge or ideal sites for experimentation.

Space?: Well. It's possible that a series of individuals working on ever more complex automated systems could create mechanisms capable of creating space ships (this would be a complicated process involving treachery, backstabbing and lots of fighting for superiority over the project). If an individual holds onto this system long enough then they end up with a spaceship. Again: This isn't due to co-operation, really, it's due to a lot of individuals building on the bones of their predecessors. This would require individuals of your species to be brilliantly smart in order to grasp the principles of their predecessor's work.

So: Society is less of a social effort and more of a hugely complex and chaotic mish-mash of individuals, but each individual would be brilliant enough to make it work overall.

Unlikely, but weirder things have been posited in works of fiction.

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    $\begingroup$ Umm. I wonder if the first two points would be valid. In many carnivore species, the females are larger and more aggressive than the males. That's specially true for birds and reptiles. Female tigers don't get manhandled by male tigers. In fact sometimes the female tiger in heat dominates and dictates the behavior of the male. Also, while infanticide is indeed norm in many carnivore species, solitary apex predators almost always have claims over large areas in which no other of their kind is present. In these circumstances, there is very little chance of trespassing and infanticide. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Feb 11 '17 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ I based my answer off he behaviour of mountain lions and assumed a reasonably high population density in order to allow for any kind of social interaction. In other species the behaviours may differ. As far as infanticide goes: regardless of the chance of an adult encountering an infant, whenever an adult encounters a non related infant the result will be infanticide was my point. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 12 '17 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @YoustayIgo Earth II BBC series... see episode on Mountains... notably, snow leopards... covers this exact situation. The female is seriously injured during the breeding. She survives but, wow, exactly NOT enthusiastic consent! $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Jan 28 '18 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM: That piece of documentary was in the forefront of my mind when I wrote this answer. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 29 '18 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @YoustayIgo If the female is larger, I see no reason it can't be reversed $\endgroup$ – Sydney Sleeper Jul 18 '18 at 4:50
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While most of what I was going to write has already been covered by thestarchyninja, I would try and add some more detail. Keep in mind that the answer is written for species after it has evolved enough intelligence to form the concept of clans and groups and social life has taken root.

1- Solitary apex predators are solitary

Yes. One aspect of being solitary apex predator is being solitary. This means that communication would be limited to conveying vital information. You would not expect a language with vast vocabulary. The language would particularly lack in conveying emotions and personal thoughts. Body language and gestures would be key to understanding the underlying message of one's statements. Sentences would be short.

2- Social hierarchy would be very strict

This is usually the case with warrior nations. Social hierarchy (who commands who) would be very well defined and any disobedience would be punished immediately by death or severe physical torture. Clans would be small and members would be very loyal to their clans.

3- Religion would be simple and gory

You would expect an authoritarian religion, justifying every decision and action of the supreme deity (and in turn, the clan leader). Religious myths would include gory tales of heroes ripping open their enemies. A major aspect of the religion would be based on sins/crimes and their punishments.

4- Intelligence level would be high

Brain is the most calorie-burning organ of the whole body and pound for pound, meat contains far more calories than plant tissues. This is why predators almost always have a higher intellect level than their prey. You would expect the individuals to be quite intelligent, as compared to other species in their environment.

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    $\begingroup$ Intelligence also needs society to develop, not only a good diet. Just check the most intelligent creatures on earth - almost always they are the social ones: humans, dolphins, elephants, several types of primates, etc. Society is the primary drive to intellect development. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '17 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there is a huge difference between herds and societies. Cows and Bison group together into herds - just a bunch of individuals together, without a complex social structure. The type of social structure that is usually present on the most intelligent creatures push them up in the food chain by a lot - that's why I would put my bet on a dolphin instead of a shark. The Dolphin has friends - literal friends, that will come to help him kick the.. butt(?) of that meddling shark. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '17 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ You are ignoring the fact that most of the creatures mentioned in your list are carnivores. Humans, dolphins and primates. While elephants do show quite complex social behavior, I wonder what would be their IQ for solving problems. Stating that cows and buffaloes/bison form herds and not society is a circular statement. You are only saying that intelligent creatures bunch together to form societies while lesser intelligent ones form herds. The point is: does living together invariably increase the intellect level of the species? The case of cows and buffaloes suggests it does not. @TSar $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Feb 15 '17 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ There is a difference between "obligate carnivore" and "omnivorous". Humans and primates are the latter. From my list, the only obligate carnivore is the dolphin. Also, "Living together" doesn't form a society, but social behavior does. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 '17 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Also, about Elephants and problem-solving. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 '17 at 15:59
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I'll have a crack at my own question.

Initial assumptions and justification for them.

I will be making the assumptions that tool use, and written language develop, but spoken language does not.

I am basing the idea that there is no pressure to evolve speech among species that want to hold large territories. The cellular separation of lineages as distinct and not friendly in most scenarios, means that it would be less useful for communication.

I am basing the evolution of written language as initially pressured by a need to encode more information when marking territory. Perhaps initially deeper claw marks suggest a stronger animal, but with tool use deeper claw marks are imitated. Marks become ornate to suggest intellect , transitioning to crude depictions of threats, and even bargains. Finally a pictorial language could begin to spread due to the the advantage it provides to any individuals that can, if not co-operate, co-exist better by making bargains.

Addressing the points of the question

Traits of Social groups

Most people are suggesting that social groups don't exist I think they would emerge. In prehistoric times the closest analogue to a friend might be a nearby territory holder who keeps bargains, or a mate who one mates with more frequently.

However since I have to explain how this species can become space faring, I'm going to paint myself into a corner by leaving society there.

I propose that at some point farming is bound to emerge, with a large enough territory, intellect, and tool proficiency. It seems inevitable that at some point "farming" of prey species may begin, initially by trapping a herd of herbivores in a large area using a fence.

Farming like that can provide more easily hunted prey and thus it becomes easier to raise more children. The advantage is so great that it spreads farming lineages. Adaptation to farming brings groups closer together, with less resource competition a nebulous family unit can form. Evolutionary pressure now begins to favor larger families that defend their farms. These families will eventually become too large to hold social cohesion at perhaps 5 - 20 members with intelligence it's more optimal to split by mutual agreement, but in areas with less resources, this will often be a bloody affair.

At this point, trade becomes of relative value, and is a simple extension of written bargains made earlier. Communication in person via writing becomes common.

Society will more or less stay as it is from this point onward. Loose knit families that communicate with others via bargaining, threats, and trade. Each to their own would be a defining attitude even within families.

Governance or lack of

Family units will have direction from the strongest members, other than that no governance can emerge

How can they become space fairing

As an intelligent trading species, ideas become a valuable thing to trade, as we leave prehistory some of the most closely guarded possessions of the family unit will be written ideas, leading initially from concepts like fires and cooking onto more advanced ideas, such as animal husbandry, better weapons, simple vehicles, advanced vehicles - you get the idea, technological progress can emerge as a trade-able resource.

Better ideas would be guarded for long periods of time, and probably lead to dominance of a family in the case of significant weapons advances. Since ideas must be written theft of these ideas will be extremely valuable.

Just as rocketry emerged from gunpowder one could expect the same.

Morals & Religion

As stated in the other answers, you can expect a lot of brutality, rape, and infanticide, this wouldn't really be seen as wrong.

Perhaps morality would be very contractarian, owing to the initial bargains and threats of the earliest society. With the punishment for breaking a contract being a fight to the death, leading to a kind of modified contractarianism, enforceability based contractarianism, in which contracts become weaker if one party has less power.

If you want to really push contractarianism, religion becomes a useful answer, if you believe the theory that religion develops to make sense of the inexplicable, and allow the weak and intelligent to control the dumb and strong, then a great big contract god in the sky who punishes those who break a written contract both makes sense, and is useful in terms of worldbuilding.

Anything else

Why would they bother with space faring

A competitive species wasting that much effort on space? Why?

On earth rockets were originally decorative, and then weapons. On this planet they would almost exclusively be weapons. Fine tuning them to be more and more effective at killing competing tribes is a good first step. As technology advances more and more time and technological ability goes spare, after all it doesn't really make sense to kill anything that doesn't threaten you, and doesn't have any resources you want

As an intelligent species whilst brutal they are still going to be inquisitive. Heading for the stars is natural once they can afford it.

Further thoughts

I would love to figure out whether this species would engage in war for resources or not.

I'd also like to consider what technologies are the most likely to emerge. I guess they would revolve around aggression and defense, but I am unsure.

Comments appreciated on these thoughts (or anything else).

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    $\begingroup$ I think a spoken language is just so more more useful - even just within a family group - than written that it's hard to see how it wouldn't develop. It's longer ranged and non-directional; you can have a shouted dialog over a much longer range. And it's a LOT faster than trying to draw a conversation. (And it makes explaining things to the kids a lot easier), Not sure you can develop much advanced technology without cooperation either... similarly, you need large cooperating groups if you want wars rather than small scale individual fights, $\endgroup$ – JerryTheC Feb 11 '17 at 23:23
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Social Services

I would expect services like public health, public education, food/shelter assistance, etc. would be less popular and less available in this society. More predisposed to "Oh, you're a weaker family line. tough crap for you." and less disposed to "Let me help you survive". I can see this happening up to and including debtors being forced into slavery/forced labor for the higher classes.

Rigid Class Structure

I would expect this species to embrace a rigid class structure as "weaker" bloodlines are intentionally cut out of society's greatest perks, leading to ever-weakening family lines over time. The best breed with the best, the weakest breed with the weakest, leading to lower castes that literally cannot compete with the higher castes as generations of genetics plays out. Downward mobility through loss of honor/status would be far easier than upward mobility through the castes.

In fact, it literally might be impossible to rise in station. But losing station would be devastating and common enough for crimes, losing face, failing in combat, etc.

This may lead to inbreeding. Perhaps military service (or some other "honor path") allows lower castes to rise up, thereby bringing fresh blood into the gene pool? Maybe sometimes people challenge for the right to rise up to a higher caste, probably by combat?

Combat

I would expect this species to highly honor combat and combative arts above all others. People who are incapable of defending themselves are weak, inferior, and should be put down for the greater good. Duels and trials by combat would be a part of society or would have been up through much of their history. The military arts would be a part of the highest castes. Leaders of the society would be those born to higher castes and who succeed as military tacticians/strategists. There might be compulsory military service for the castes that aren't slaves. And those unfit for combat for whatever reason are probably looked down on, even if they're vital in other ways.

Honor-bound

I would expect these beings to place a great deal of stock in honor. Much like feudal Japan, where a major loss of honor might lead to suicide or death. Their society would have very strict rules about honor; how it is gained, how it is lost, how gains/losses are to be dealt with.

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A society based on solitary carnivores social standing would be based on the strength of the carnivore as in most situations where solitary carnivores are in direct competition they will fight for the right to do something, e.g. mating rights or food. They would also not have family groups as most carnivores abandon their children when they get old enough to live and hunt by themselves. Some male carnivores will sometimes kill the cub if it is with the mother whilst the mother is in season. The religion would also be a violent religion and probably not have a moral code of which to live by as solitary carnivores won't meet each other enough for there to be a need for a moral code. As you don't usually get large groups of carnivores living in one place you would probably have no major form of governance because their territories are so large that the only time they live is to defend their territory or to mate.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow. Truly insightful answer by a newbie. +1 for that! Welcome to site, thestarchyninja. While most of your points are completely valid, could you consider editing your answer and adding in some detail and explanation? That would be very helpful for OP (the person who asked the question) and other people who have similar questions in mind. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Feb 11 '17 at 19:19
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The word solitary means that they don't form societies. That makes your question rather difficult to answer. Without societies you can't have governance. And morality is just one manifestation of the instinct to form societies, so you can't have morality in a naturally solitary creature.

As you mentioned in a comment, creatures can in principle band together not because of any social instinct, but because of the coldly rational computation of advantage. But if that situation persists long enough to be called a society, it would be an evolutionary advantage to have a social instinct and the creatures would develop one. And then the question is about the society and morals of a species of social hunters, and we already know how that turns out.

A solitary creature could perhaps develop the ability to use simple tools. It's never happened on Earth, but I don't see why it's impossible. But improving beyond simple tools is really hard without sharing ideas. An idea is lost when its host dies, unless it's been communicated to someone else.

It might be interesting to think about the situation where your creatures make simple tools, use them, and then leave them behind. Other members of the species find them and can make use of them. Then, if one individual improves on the design, others might find the discarded tool and learn how to do it themselves. If this goes on long enough, major technological advances could occur. I'm not sure this really answers your question though, because I can't imagine that this would get very far before the advantages of cooperation would give rise to all the usual social instincts.

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  • $\begingroup$ Imho this is the only correct answer. $\endgroup$ – Burki Feb 13 '17 at 13:09
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The "Starfire" scifi series makes a good pass at answering this question.

Mating between mammals is always social and offspring are in the norm cared for by the parent. Ergo the vast majority of mammalian solo hunters are social when needs be.

The ability to communicate consistently changes many things.

The evolution of 'greater than animal' intelligence means that said animal becomes able to predict abstracted outcomes from known and speculated situations and choose to alter their behavior accordingly. It follows then that it can be shaped in any way it's reason and circumstances moves it.

I'd propose that it would take (a lot) longer for such a species to develop verbose language, being as the first requisite for language is the ability for signals to be understood and that (normally) requires repetition of particular consistent signals (unless telepathy) which clearly becomes less likely with less exposure to other individuals.

In fantasy and science fiction most authors (in my experience) opt for 'stoic and honorable' when 'uplifting' such species, the reasoning (when given) being much-like the "giant in the playground" big kids often learn to control their use of force precisely because they're naturally effective. If everybody has razor sharp claws, well-honed combat reflexes and teeth that turn a bite into a one-shot killing blow...violence within a community quickly becomes extinction.

This gets reasoned into a species that is (within their own community) less violent and prone to risking conflict than animals that only do 1d3 nonlethal on unarmed attacks.

As with Weber's 'Starfire,' many such place loyalty (and essentially chivalric values) in high regard.

If we think of a timeline:

Apex Predator[AP] is Apex Predator.

AP intelligence expands.

AP-I population expands.[Apex Predator-Intelligent]

Prey populations decline.

AP-I population expands to the point where offspring cannot find their own hunting territory without guaranteed conflict.

Prey populations red-line. AP-I is not AP-Idiot, AP-I attempts to eradicate non-bloodline competitors to reduce load on Prey species in nearby territories. Cooperation becomes obvious benefit to AP-I.

Cooperation creates (at length) and benefits from communication and regular contact.

Regular contact begets regular conflict for reasons other than inbred solitary nature. [See: humans]

Regular conflict begets regular conflict, social norms evolve to limit conflict. [Wars, I'd expect, would be greatly fewer than our human example, simply because the last thing a naturally solitary creature would 'evolve' is the mob mentality that wars require.]

Conundrums:

Faiths I could see being many and varied. Religions and social organizations though, one would expect to be rare in the extreme, at least compared to humans. It is not in the nature of this solitary hunter to follow, unlike humans it's youth and natural cycle is geared to learning how to be independent[parent to self], not how to change who you're dependent upon[from parent to society/boss/bank manager]

As a result, whilst interpersonal direct relations might have more of the "I'm stronger than you" about them, they would, in my estimation, have less of the "you have established superiority and that means I kowtow."

I think Starfire gets the societal structure thing kinda set acceptably though, 'King-by-another-name:' important for overall social cohesion and internal conflict avoidance. Positions-by-merit being respected by all. (As before, the capacity for damage-by-conflict is arguably the greatest protection against said conflict) ("He would have peace ought gird for war.") and beyond those it's clan affiliation and personal reputation.

Essentially I'd see such a species as evolving into good conservatives, not making up a new code of ethics every other day, not pretending they're responsible for everything that happens everywhere etc etc.

Charity would be a personal thing, not an imposed tax. Yanno, all good stuff :)

Important: Social evolutions only really need to happen once, if they're effective and good people or society at large seems to recognize the benefits. One might say "Species x is disinclined to this" but if it occurs once and survives, it is much faster to propagate than genetics, and unlike genetic evolutions, can be raised from the dead without any more complex a technology than oral tradition.

Further:

We have two general reasons why a solitary hunter might remain solitary after 'uplifting.' The first is that the instinctual behavioral patterns are still strong.. that is to say that there is an actual innate physiological/neurological response that is maintained in the (now) social (to some extent) creature.

The second is is potentially just as effective, and that is the sheer lack of exposure. Most animals are clumsy in new circumstances, even if the circumstance doesn't make them actively frightened or recalcitrant. Not only can this make any given social interaction awkward in and of itself, it can leave the individual with a marked distaste for repeating the experience.

Social norms arise from individuals, thoughts and feelings spread. If a mother likes a particular type of social interaction, her children will learn of it one way or another and be informed by their mothers actions and reactions. Likewise, if they see their mother rejecting any social advances, they will also be informed by this.

Say we have a species that has no problem at all with cannibalism, indeed it's their goto choice for population control and conflict resolution.

This species' society (assuming we do not subsume those more combative traits into learned behavior) could probably be given some rules.

Communication does not require close contact: Creatures whose entire psyche revolves around threat-annihilation might evolve language somehow, initially almost certainly as an outgrowth of mating rituals. Ex: Ambush arachnid language grows out of basic & then gradually elaborated 'plucking' of another individuals web. Advanced version of this could be that individuals 'lay' a communication pipe(web construct) between hunting grounds for the primary reason, rather than ease-of-use and at-need availability.. it removes any need for other individuals to encroach on each other's territory.

You might end up with a species that is perfectly friendly so long as it can kinda fool it's 'lizard brain' (so to speak) by not actually directly sensing the individual provoking threat responses. Or one whose individuals constantly conspire in each other's destruction,

These creatures wouldn't build cities, clearly, but likewise spiders can be equally at home at ground level or at the top of a tree...and don't much care if somespideyelse makes their web above or below them.

Tool use is a really interesting problem, because the creature in some question needs not simply have the ability to make tools, but the motivation. People often mis-characterize each other with such descriptions as "likes everything to be just so..and never change a thing." but even those who this description fits most perfectly would often LOVE a thing that helps them keep things..just so..and that equals a desire for change, albeit in narrow in scope.

The motivations of alien psyches are normally absurdly simplistic "just wants to eat" aliens that somehow find the time to travel across entire galaxies. Yanno...

"How does (and to what extent can) socialization override inborn behavioral traits"

People tend to think nowadays, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against it..that people are much and much the same. What makes us seem more similar than we are is socialization & the shared patterns of behaviour that this creates, at least on the surface.

Then you have the question of the process of social selection, that is to say that the very existence of a social context changes the weighting of previous mate-selection criteria, the strongest, hardiest hunter might be so because he is driven to dominate, to accept no equals, which naturally will create conflict in a social context quite plausibly resulting in the relatively quick extinction of that particular heritage for the very reasons that make societies in the first place..numbers do confer a quality all of their own.

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There are many social exclusive carnivores here on earth:

  • Lions
  • Hyenas
  • Dolphins
  • Orca Whales
  • Meerkats
  • Wolves

Humans are also apex predators but NOT exclusive carnivores. With a 98% meat diet, the extinct Neandertal and living Inuit would be the best hominid examples of the types of early social carnivore societies that could evolve into space-faring ones.

Natural Selection and Technological Innovation

Both Neandertal and Inuit life required extreme intelligence to survive harsh environments, predict the behavior and location of very large prey animals (whales and mammoths), develop weapons, tools and strategies to take down large prey, and most importantly, work together like lions to ambush said large prey. We can safely assume that our extraterrestrial predator societies live in a very harsh environment with extreme pressure from natural selection due to climate, prey size, overpopulation, or a combination of these factors.

The combination of high intelligence and extreme environments drive natural selection and rapid technological innovation. The Neandertals were likely the first to invent fur clothing, hafted weapons, and levallois technology, while the Inuit are considered the most advanced pure hunter society to have ever existed, with complex toggling harpoons, oil lamps, sleds, boats, kayaks, waterproof clothing, and sunglasses. However, a highly advanced pure predator society could not technically be considered a civilization, as it would lack agriculture or animal husbandry.

Religion and Morality

A high-tech hunter society would likely evolve toward agnosticism or a dark version of panentheism, as the general population would maintain a much higher IQ than individuals in an industrial agriculture society who are largely free from the pressures of natural selection. A high-tech, high IQ hunter would recognize the Universe as it is a -- hyper-violent place where we kill and eat everything, bacteria eat us, black holes eat stars and everything else, and plants feast on the ashes.

The very act of hunting would probably be considered the highest form of communion with the Universe. "Morality" as such would consist mostly of a celebration of life, pleasure and adrenaline. To achieve a mass society, killing relatives would likely be frowned upon, but honor / revenge killings, warfare might be acceptable or even encouraged. Other than incest taboos, a pure hunter society would likely not have many anti-sexual morals -- nudity would be viewed as normal and natural in warm climates or indoors and both males and females would be inclined to have more than one sexual partner. In fact, to build the kind of mass society needed to cooperate on space projects, sex might serve as the primary social lubricant to reduce innate predator aggression, which is precisely what we see in huge dolphin societies that work together en masse to trap fish in "bubble nets."

Social Structure

The most striking difference between human civilization and a space-faring carnivore society might be the near total lack of the concepts of money, jobs or even employment. There would be no need for it, as the act of getting food (hunting) would be considered the highest "spiritual act" and the only accepted way to feed oneself. The crew of a spaceship would likely be an extended family -- parents, children, cousins, aunts and uncles. Survival and celebration of life, rather than profit would be the primary motivating factor for individuals. Pure hunters, especially high-tech ones, would have enormous amounts of "leisure" time (a mammoth could feed one person for 8 years). All this down time could be spent mining and processing ore and assembling tools and devices.

Another prominent difference would likely be extreme gender equality with a matrilocal residence pattern (daughters stay with mothers throughout life). Although most existing human hunter societies have pronounced gender roles due to a division between hunting and gathering, in a predator society, EVERYONE hunts -- men, women and children. This is seen in all non-human carnivores, somewhat among the Inuit, and is heavily attested to in the skeletal record of the Neandertals -- both males and females bear patterns of healed skeletal fractures indicative of violent but successful encounters with large prey animals.

Plausible Technologies

It takes millions of people and lots of trade to build a single human computer or rocket (all the way from mining ore to making the billions of transistors in a single microchip). It is unlikely that our predator society would take this route -- for one, their technology would likely be more robust, understandable, and repairable (think analog and vacuum tubes). They might use balloons to raise much smaller rockets to the edge of space, then progress under solar sails. However, it is also possible due to their high intelligence, that they might skip the rocket stage of space travel development entirely and discover a form of quantum drive that could send a small ship into space with very little need for mass cooperation in raw material acquisition. They could also simply take the technology of other aliens they encounter, since they would consider them to be valid prey.

The Klingons as portrayed in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 demonstrate many of the traits I have described -- groups based on extended family, lack of desire for profit, lots of leisure time and celebration of life. The Hirogen of Star Trek: Voyager best exemplify the sort of religious exaltation of hunting that such a society would possess.

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Sorry don't have the ability to comment as anonymous user but this is to add on to the OP's answer.

One aspect of religion that you haven't fully considered there is that groups often make gods in their own image but with greater powers (to keep everyone else in line). So perhaps this society would start believing in "The Great Hunter". A being so supreme as a hunter he/it could run faster, jump higher, than any other and always upheld their contracts. Then as extension to that, you could say that this Great Hunter was so great they could hunt legendary prey. Perhaps prey that lived among the stars (in a mythological kind of way). This would give rise to first a curiosity of whether these prey really exist and then a sort of space-race for individuals or clans/groups (as some realize they must work together to achieve something this difficult) to build something to take them to this legendary land where they too can hunt the legendary prey and/or meet the Great Hunter.

I realize it seems sort of strange to base the scientific achievement off of a mythology but if you think of how many scientists were inspired by old sci-fi like Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" and others that posited we might meet something up there, it isn't that far-fetched.

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Lots of excellent ideas here so I don't want to just repeat the same stuff, but I have three comments

Origin - trade and messages
Solitary, cat-like apex predators could become social starting from territory-marking behavior.

Snow leopards (for example) leave scent marks on specific rocks, so that other leopards in the vicinity can know who passed by and when. This could develop into the beginnings of social behavior with silent barter - individual A leaves something he wishes to trade at a fixed position, and later individual B comes along, takes it, and leaves behind something of equal value for A to collect later*. This allows the initially non-social creatures to begin social contact without actually having to interact face-to-face. Written language, as you suggest in your own answer, could develop naturally from this - carvings/etchings/whatever left behind at these barter points. This would allow for sociality to begin developing.

Development - ritual
One aspect of religion and ritual that no-one has mentioned yet (as an aside, I don't really agree with the simplistic 'carnivores will have gory religions' idea) is their role in selecting behavioral characteristics.

One explanation** for the prevalence of painful, dangerous, and difficult initiation rites in cultures all over the world is that it artificially selects for certain prosocial traits. To pass these rituals - and so become full members of the tribe with access to the tribe's resources and the right to breed - an individual must demonstrate the ability to put the group first by withstanding unnecessary arbitrary pain and hardship. Individuals who cannot or will not do this are not permitted to remain in the tribe, and do not pass on their genes within the group.

Your carnivores could develop their society in a similar way. Once they have begun to interact and show the basics of sociality, initiations and social rules that regulate breeding (directly selecting for prosocial behaviors) or access to food and resources (indirectly reducing fitness) could 'engineer' the development of more social individuals, better capable of forming he kind of society they will need to form a technological, space-faring society.

Morals and religion
Their morals and religion would therefore reflect these prosocial tendencies. Initiation rites where they restrain their temper, controlling the urge to attack when taunted by other tribe members would probably be likely, good performance leading to respect and desirability and mates. This would lead to restraint and self-control being morally praiseworthy personality traits. Success in hunting and physical prowess would, as others have suggested, be valued also. Particularly, successful group hunting would be valued, as this would have been the original point of social behavior and cooperation in the first place. Both individual and team sports would likely be an important part of culture, as these would both be skills that it would be necessary to practice. Lastly, honesty and reciprocation might develop as a praiseworthy moral virtue from the earlier practice of silent barter.

Murder is unlikely to be as rampant or accepted as others have suggested - it wouldn't be very easy to have a complex society with unrestricted blood-feuding and murder. Instead, it is likely to be controlled and restricted by social codes; the aforementioned selecting for self-control and restraint is connected to this. It is possible/probable that murder and violence are accepted more than is usual for us though - they might be seen as acceptable reactions to socially-condemned behavior such as theft.


*There are refinements possible, e.g. A leaves something, B offers something, A comes back and takes B's offering if it is acceptable, or leaves it for B to add to/change
**The only specific reference I can think of for this is "The Science of Discowrld 2," by Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, and Ian Stewart

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  • $\begingroup$ Really great, it leaves the potential to weave in a way for these creatures to accept others at the space fairing age. Any other alien willing to endure the ritual might be accepted as a near equal. $\endgroup$ – Dubber Rucky Feb 16 '17 at 20:45
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Not sure if anyone touched on this but this is what I would do:

I would have very defined and separate gender roles.

Males would be more solitary then females and the females would be more social.

I would not strip the females of "power" as is often done with races that are very war like. Instead I would have an almost maternal society where the females handled most of the "business" affairs. Most the child raising, education and health.

Males would not be without their place. They would still have the highest positions in society but they would be largely ceremonial roles. This is not to say they wouldn't have power but day to day business would be seen as un-glorified and beneath their status. This would be well understood by both sexes. Most cultural heroes would be male and they would be praised and adored. There would be much competition between males.

This behaviour is not uncommon in large cats.

Government,

The government would tend to be a collection of clans, with alliances mostly made an maintained by the females. Males would be very un-trusting of other males. There may be many secret alliances that are largely in the open but not discussed in the presence of the males. This would tend to keep the sturcture in a federation type, without a powerful central authority.

Clans would be ruled by a strong older male, with only adolescent males having a place. Once males reach a certain age they would have to go out in the world to prove themselves, to gain glory and make their name. Only males that had made some sort of fame for themselves would serve in official roles.

This gives you a sold base for developing education, technology and infrastructure. Which would all be dominated by females.

You also have a large population of young males more then eager to wage war. So you would wind up with this confederation of clans and then many factions that were mainly just young males that go out and raid and cause all kinds of mischief. Males in this situation would be willing to work together but things like in-fighting and outright mutiny would not be un-common.

Obviously polygamy would be the normal marital condition, with males of rank having access to more then their share of females. Well males of low rank or dishonor largely shunned by society.

Official clan ships would be mainly ran by females with a male captain and then a strike force of marines that are males. Females would tend to be better educated and trained in specialized roles, such as engineering, medicine and science. Marines would be males of some rank in society (they could be low rank, but they would have strong clan connection) so these males would tolerate one another because of the visibility of working on a clan ship. What good is glory if no one sees it, and it would be a huge dishonor to their name to behave like some of the rogue males.

They would have a strong honor component but I would not make them honor bound not to the extent that is so overdone in popular sci-fi. Young males would almost never sacrifice themselves for other young males. However they may protect females quite ferociously, there is much much more incentive there. They may behave quite different when females are present then when only males are around. There would be males of rank that would be more honor bound. But even these would be willing to break the rules if the potential glory was high enough. They would be more cautions and conservative, but the base motivation would still be there. They have more to lose so the rewards must be worth the risk. Then there would be almost a subset of the species that were young males of little or no "name". They would live to gain fame an glory. And they would be willing to do almost anything for this including things outside the accepted norms of polite society(raiding, pillaging etc..). The risk is low for them and the rewards are almost infinite.

They could have an almost Jeckel and Hide feel to them, for outside races. Where females would make an alliance with an alien race one day, while males go and raid ships from that race the next. This wouldn't be condoned by the females but it would be almost like "boys will be boys" and in polite company females would probably shun this behaviour while behind the scenes they may praise it. There would be a lot of incentives for males to not get caught, and this would counter the honor thing.

This fits a war like race way better then most popularized views. The strong female component would offer some moderation and stability to reach space faring levels of technology. Essentially this would give a solid base. There would also be plenty of young males ready to go to war to make a name for themselves.

Males that fail or are somewhat shamed in society would provide cheap labor force, almost to the level of slave labor. For example they could secure funding for a raid and if they fail they may be imprisoned or treated as indentured servants by the sponsors, that sort of thing.

So in summery, I would have strong differences between how male and females act. That's not to say that either one is the lesser of the two. Indeed females would wield more power and be a far worse enemy to have. Females would be more pragmatic, more cool and calculating. Males would be more hot blooded, more unpredictable, more eager to jump at spur of the moment opportunities (especially if they were of low rank).

That's all I can come up with right now, I tend to be a bit disorganized in my thought process. So I hope it's not to hard to follow. I am just generally sick of the stereotypical "Klingon" style races. Where males are the most visible piece, females are largely forgotten and honor is everything.

Thanks,

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I have been pondering this one.

Imagine a dragon. They hate each other and have no positive interactions with each other, although they do spy on each other and might try to steal or fight. These dragons are parthenogenetic like some lizards. They are big, smart, long lived and they fly.

The dragons eat meat. One individual starts improving the habitat for prey species. It is copied by its rivals. Over time certain of these prey species become domesticated. I can imagine small, weak but intelligent prey species might seek to live in the dragon's preserve. Occasionally one might get eaten but they are small and overall life is better for them. In return these protected ones with their clever little hands can help the dragon achieve its ends. These might include fortified enclosures to fend off other dragons or weapons to fight them other than tooth and claw.

The dragons rove about looking for treasure. They want to fly farther and higher. With the help of their little minions they start artificially improving their own flight abilities to go farther, faster and higher. Soon they are at the edge of space and from there, a dragon decides to make the jump to explore one of the many moons of its system.

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A bit late to the party, but I my first impression is that they'll end up like John McTiernan's Predator.

The critters start off solitary, hunting for survival. They meet only to mate. The female only allows the strongest male to mate with her. This prompts the males to start hunting more dangerous prey and taking trophies, as a sign of their strength.

This develops into a societal sport/ rite, with gatherings being held to show off recent kills and trophies, and attract potential mates.

A religious sect forms, enforcing the will of the Hunter God. Hunters bring an offering of flesh to the priests, in order to gain divine favor in the next hunt. It becomes common belief that renowned hunters join their god on the Infinite Hunt - their version of the afterlife - with the weak hunters serving as prey. Heaven and Hell rolled into one.

Realizing that cooperation leads to larger/deadlier prey taken, clans form, with the greatest hunter (or perhaps a matriarch) as the leader. Competition between clans would keep them in a permanent arms race, with alliances and mergers happening out of necessity.

Eventually they get bored of the prey on their world. Their prophets or scientists point to the stars as the way to find the ultimate prey (this could be sped up by a space faring alien landing on the planet).

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It is incredibly difficult to envision something that is alien to us, and as a cat-owner I see every day how different cat psychology is from human psychology.

So I'll instead try to extrapolate from human psychology and see where that gets us. Because "solitary" is close to "extreme introvert". I am an introvert (who sometimes forces himself to act like an extrovert). My "ideal" society would be quite solitary:

  1. There would be much more "personal space" and a much stronger recognition of such. Stuff like public transport will never be invented, and boy can you forget about cities.
  2. Any government system would work, actually. This does not depend on the psychology, but on practical considerations. You can justify monarchy (apex predators have a keen understanding of a hierarchy of power) as well as democracy (fighting among ourselves is contra-productive, let's discuss instead and find consensus so nobody suffers the shame of being oppressed).
  3. Social groups would be purpose-driven. Solitary predators would lack the comforting aspect of grouping with others, but so do extreme introverts. When I had enough of other people, I don't want to see or hear them. I can imagine that your solitary cats would be in this state constantly, grouping together only for specific purposes that they cannot accomplish by themselves.
  4. Why they would go to space? For the same reason we humans do: Because we can. Because we are curious. Cats are much more curious than humans.
  5. Life and safety would have a lower value than in human society. Hunters are constantly exposed to the circle of life and death. Other than humans, your cats would not hide from this and try to stay out of it for protection, but embrace it. Human daredevils and extreme sportsmen would be considered careful and cowardly in cat society.
  6. That said, personal safety would replace social safety. Solitary hunters would not expect that society looks out for them, but that you need to take care of yourself. There would be no insurances, warning labels or safety standards. This might accelerate technological process, at a higher cost of cat lives.
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