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I'm imagining an intelligent race of beings with only one major difference from humanity: that they share one mind.

Biologically speaking, they're identical to humanity, and their world is, by all practical means, identical to Earth as well. However, each of these people have access to every memory and thought of every other person of their race. This is essentially the same as this race being a single superorganism that shares a mind.

In practice, there would be no war in this race. No cultural differences, no conflicts, no need for things like "rights", and most importantly: no need for communication technology. Exploration technology and transportation would also become less important. Things like cameras or entertainment also wouldn't be useful.

My question is in asking "What might this race focus on developing technologically, without our human limitations?"

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    $\begingroup$ What is the distance this hivemind can bridge? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 8 '17 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Do members of your race necessarily care more about the others of their race than people do? If not, then conflicts will still occur, and rights will still be an issue. In human history, people have oppressed others with knowing how bad it is (i.e. slavery), so I do not believe that they would be immune to those things just because they can see each other's thoughts. $\endgroup$ – Jarred Allen Apr 8 '17 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Mormacil just assume that it is essentially infinite. And, simply for the sake of this question, it is also instant. $\endgroup$ – A. Forty Apr 8 '17 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ With the question about the hivemind bridge distance, have you perchance read A Fire Upon the Deep? If not, I recommend it. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Apr 9 '17 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ There is (in people) a difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy - many sociopaths have cognitive empathy which lets them understand the people around them, but lack the emotional empathy which would let them care. So a hive mind might well find any of its constituent minds disposable. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Apr 9 '17 at 2:07
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One goal of the hive-mind might be growth. This growth could be in two ways:

  1. Quantity. The more drones the hive-mind consists of, the better its survival chance. Even better if they are spread out over the whole planet, so a single natural disaster won't cause much damage. So the hive-mind will have its drones mate as much as possible to create more and more of them and have them spread out geographically.

    In order to keep all these drones healthy and well-fed, it will have to acquire resources. First food and water, then material for shelters and clothes and energy for heating in order to colonize the less ideal climate zones. In order to do that it will need to develop agriculture.

    When the hive-mind colonized its whole planet, it still won't be satisfied. It will want to expand vertically by increasing the population density. That means it will have to develop more advanced technology in order to tap all the available resources of the planet. That means that the hive-minds scientific interest will focus on industrial resource exploitation and processing. When there is no room for improvement here, it will figure out interplanetary spaceflight in order to exploit the resources of other planets.

  2. Quality. Maybe unbound expansion isn't a valid strategy for the hive-mind. Maybe its natural resources are too limited to sustain a population of more than a few million drones. Or maybe its thought processes have an upper limit on how many drones it can control. If it breeds too many of them, it risks to fracture into multiple independent hives. In that case the solution is to not create more drones but to create better ones.

    In this scenario, the hive-mind will focus on biotechnology. The hive-mind will do selective breeding experiments in order to make smarter, stronger and more resilient drones. It might also try to create drone strains optimized for specific tasks. By evaluating its breeding methods, the hive mind will discover genetics and might develop the technology to replace manual breeding with direct genetic manipulation. This leap will allow the hive-mind to create highly specialized organisms capable of duplicating feats other civilizations can only achieve by using machines. The motivation behind developing spaceflight (likely in form of fully organic ships) might be to find other lifeforms as an inspiration for developing even better genetic traits.

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Your species will likely have little value for life. As a single death means nothing to the hive. Why do we fear death? Because it's the end of our existence. When we will live on in the hivemind that fear is removed. It's interesting what that would do to religion. Perhaps the hivemind will feel alone.

Without talking, there will be no script, no writing. The hive will remember everything. However I see that as an obstacle to exploring higher math. When you never explore written numbers, how can you get to equations?

Couple that with another issue I see. Survival is the mother of invention. Wether it's another man coming to kill you or nature itself. Without adversary there is no drive to invent. For the hive it's hard to die, the insentive isn't there. Sure it would make progress, after it exhausted every available resource. And then it will go slowly I think.

Hiveminds are considered smart, because they overcome problems for the hive. Each worker does his tiny task for the greater purpose of the hive. If the hive is all, why would a worker ever be 'smart'?

Anyway, with no math, no writing you have no 1's and 0's. How do you come to a computer without script? And that, that severely limits your species.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see why they wouldn't develop math. As for computers who would need a computer when you have to power of a billions human mind. That's more computing power and speed than anything we could build our current technology. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Apr 9 '17 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ The workers themselves might not be "smart" the hive mind itself would be more intelligent than even smartest computers. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Apr 9 '17 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ Survival is not the only motivation for this discovery quite a lot of discoveries were discovered out of curiosity or even just a sense of boredom. Not to mention finding ways to make tasks easier. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Apr 9 '17 at 5:05
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I think the first technological development, perhaps equivalent to humans developing language, will be methods to interfere with or cut the hive-mind into smaller clusters.

Because survival.

As a single group, as a single species, the hive-mind is, nonviable. Much of history has been, well, less conflict for the sake of conflict and more a struggle for resources. All people being equal (as your question has it) will simply mean everybody dies, when there isn't enough for everyone, and no mechanism to treat people unequally to decide who would go without, who would die for the others to have a better chance of survival.

Looking at hive species, ant colonies or beehives, two things are very clear - one is a very clear hierarchy, those crucial to survival (like, say, queen or other necessary-to-survival-and-reproduction individuals) are elevated above others who are merely drones... and so, when there is not enough for all, those expendable are sacrificed to maintain survival of the whole hive. Your human species has no queens, no way of designating essential-to-survival individuals, and any attempt to force unequal treatment of otherwise equal beings will lead right back to conflict and struggle.

This happened in humans, too, with some cultures giving most food to hunters (even if it means the sick, weak, or elderly die) because they have to be strong to get more food for everyone, other cultures privileging warriors (because being overrun by predators or outfought by competiton is the end), in other cases it might be healers, or wise-folk, or leaders, who got the nod as essential enough to be worth preserving at the cost of other lives. Though I guess, in a human body, we can't really sacrifice individual bits - oh, wait, we do. Sacrifice extremities to frostbite to protect the core, sacrifice fat cells and then muscles to starvation, to allow the major organs (heart, lungs, brain) energy enough to survive longer, throw up an arm to intercept a blow to the head or curl around tender organs to protect them at the expense of the sturdier musculature. No hierarchy means everything dies together, instead of some lasting long enough to find a way to survive.

The other thing that we see in hive species, that is missing here, is multiple colonies. Because a too large colony cannot sustain itself, and two colonies too near each other are in competition - its likely only one is going to win, and the other may not survive losing. If the distance the hive-mind can reach is practically infinite, then they will all act together - so there's no backup, no way for any survival of the species given any failure of the hive-mind. It would only take once for equal distribution of the food to leave everyone starving because hunters don't have enough strength to hunt or everyone vulnerable to predators because the warriors don't have the energy to fight, for the hive-mind to learn about the dangers. But, with only one hive-mind, well, it loses and there's no second chance to be had.

If the hive-mind survives those first, crucial failures - I expect it would be by physical isolation of a group/tribe/family, which was not close enough to distribute resources and starve together, or was not vulnerable to predators when they came, or something. So the hive-mind splits up into tribes, which are self-sufficient-ish, and physically separated so resources are not overtaxed.

Except then there will be competition for resources when tribes get too close, or too big, and unequal distribution, and those tribes closer or more individual (who can think of the survival of their tribe rather than the other tribe or the greater whole) will survive much better. Mental distance, not just physical, as a survival mechanism. And, thus, either natural evolution towards smaller distance/multiple hive-mind clusters, or the rise of mental technology (like meditation, probably, remember the parallel technology is language) that will let a fragment of the hive-mind slowly learn to cut themselves out, to close itself off from the greater whole for the survival of one tribe over another, or bring specific outsiders into a group for assimilation or expansion.

Thus my prediction that communication technology is going to be vital, even if in the opposite direction, interference rather than increased communication. Of course, once interference in the built-in hive-mind communication has been explored, technological adaptions may rise in significance again to bridge the new gaps.

Beyond that point, depending on the evolutionary triggers and mechanism of the ability, we might see either evolution towards a loose coalition of minds instead of total merge, that is, individuals (and then mostly human technological development), or towards discrete hives with adaptation towards classes of distinct, hierarchical roles. In the latter case, there is a small, outside possibility of one hive out-competing others too the point of, eventually, assimilating or eliminating any other hives.

If that happens, then we are nearly back to your original question

But, in this case, the hive would not be of individuals nearly identical to our own species, it would contain separate classes physically adapted to specific roles. This will have a not insignificant impact on how technology progresses.

I would expect somewhat slower or lesser use of domestication or tools for certain tasks, with the gap being filled with those classes or castes which were already adapted to those tasks. Each class or caste would probably develop its own technology nearly independently, since they are looking for things specialized for their own task rather than broad applications. It might be harder to initially cross-adapt discoveries or techniques, since each caste (and thus the hive-mind) will think of their discoveries only in terms of their own work - though once any cross adaption is discovered for a technique, other adaptions will probably spread rapidly across the whole hive as the hive-mind thinks about looking for any other possible uses.

Additionally, with the high value of specialization, I think the hive would be somewhat better at finding a single answer or solution to a problem or thoroughly investigating all variations of a tool or theory, rather than broader and more abstract discoveries or intuitive jumps. Still probably lots of both, but a bit more of a conservative lean and tending towards steady progression rather than large or luck-based jumps. Lots of people working in concert and with full knowledge of each other's work, instead of off on their own making all sorts of individual jumps and trying things others deemed unlikely, with unexpected success.

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Anything and everything. With no effort wasted on fighting, they can apply their efforts to whatever advancements they choose. They might not choose technology and science, but religion, art, or collecting beetles.

Without communication tech needed, they won’t have servers and huge databases available remotely. They might not develop this synergistic technology, which holds them back in other ways.

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Oh so this is the human species where the group is the individual.

Well this hive mind is still human it still has the human desire to know things and to Explore that may motivated it to discover new technologies maybe even space travel given enough time. Some technologies though they would not need to develop

Technologies it wouldn't develop

  1. They would have no need to develop computers there a hive mind made up of billions of people. A billion human working perfectly together can outpace any computer we've yet developed.

  2. A communication technology that would have no need why would you need to communicate with yourself that's what this hivemind essentially is it's the human species if where the group is the individual.

  3. Writing again no need for it see above.

Technologies it would still need to develop

Transportation: maybe a hive mind but it's still a human hive mind so it has human emotions such as curiosity and I need to explore. Even without this it would still need to gather new resources as hivemind members grew. So it would need ways of getting to places faster then just walking.

Construction Technologies: still needs shelter as its members are still human.

Art base Technologies: as mentioned earlier this hive mind is still human and has human emotions it still has a need to create things and a sense of beauty. So would still the art and the tools to create art.

Scientific instruments: Again as stated earlier this is a hive mind but it is a human hive mind, it's not a robotic hive mind. Assuming that the human brains that make it up are mostly the same as our own the hive mind probably has the same emotion is that we'd have. This includes our desire to understand the world around us and how it works so it would still develop scientific instruments and maybe even the scientific method.

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