?>
GTX0 NewestRepliesHottestMy Active
NIFE UpdatesRoadmapRequests | HelpDiscuss Game Worlds


Biology and Culture
Posted: Posted January 19th, 2007 by fmra

I resurrected this paper to bring to light something that may not have been thought of when planning a culture for your conworld. For the Ksu of my world, I took great pains to find reasons why the culture evolved the way it did and found that the biology of primitive Ksu would have a great influence over the development of basic cultural structure. Notice, though, that there is still a great flexibility in how these biological contraints could produce a variety of cultural differences. In the following paper, I discuss very briefly only the skeleton of a culture. Though, for the paper I decided to concentrate on only one biological function, any number or combination could be used to base the beginnings of a cultural fabric on.

------

Sleep Circles: Fourierism, Guilds, and Ksu Society


What forms the foundations of a society? Is it the ideals of the people that somehow coalesce into the patterns of social life? Or is society a reaction to the environment? Many theories abound on the origin of culture. Some claim that intelligent life progressed on the social scale as a natural process of learning. Others, like Marvin Harris, attribute cultural development to more basal needs of hunger and reproduction and the attempts to satisfy them. What if society was based on the trust that your neighbor would wake you?

It could be said of any two cultures that there is one factor above all else that made a difference during the evolution of culture. The reason the Aztecs were cannibals whereas the Plains Indians were not could be attributed to the lack of large game in Central America after the Mesozoic Era. The reason the people of the Middle East are forbidden to eat pork, whereas the people of Europe are not can be found in the competition for food with domestic animals. What then would be the difference in cultures between a people who are at the top of the food chain, and a people who are not?

Sleep and the Environment:

The primitive Ksu faced many dangers on a daily basis, not the least of which was defending against predators. Early in their evolution, the Ksu formed a herding instinct to aid in their protection against falling prey to other creatures. During the day, the fear of predation was slim, since the size and power of a single Ksu was enough to drive off potential threats. But at night, biological factors played an important role in bringing together the individuals into a group.

Sleep and Biology

The Ksu differ from humans in that their senses are dominated by their sense of hearing and their sense of sight is poor in comparison. While they have a much more acute sense of hearing, they must fold up their “hearing-arms” close to their bodies at night to protect the delicate membranes, rendering them virtually deaf. During sleep, the Ksu don’t close their eyes; instead they remain open, scanning the environment unconsciously for movement. The limitation to this precaution is their field of vision. While their eyes are able to rotate to a much greater degree than humans, their neck must be turned to provide a full 360 degree visual field, and while they are sleeping the head muscles are incapacitated. It was in order to fill in these blind spots that the Ksu began sleeping in groups.

Fourierism: The Beginnings of a True Social Structure

As the primitive Ksu developed into sentience, the beginnings of society and culture were laid out. The closest human ideology to the Ksu’s culture would be Fourierism. Fourierism bears a strong resemblance to Socialism in all but two aspects. The first is that by definition, Fourierism is small scale. No nation could ever be fourieristic because the size limitations restrict it to small communities in which everyone is directly affected by the decisions of their neighbors locally. The second difference of Fourierism in respect to Socialism is the lack of a separate government body. Decisions are made for the community in Democracy-style votes. This social structure can be directly traced back to the need for security and the trust invested in one’s neighbor to wake you from your slumber when a predator was spotted.

Sleep and Resources

Until the invention of the condom in recent times, mankind has been plagued by unwanted births. We do not “suffer” the limitations to breeding that many other animals have. Human females do not go through an estrus cycle to limit reproduction. This uncontrolled procreation has many times led to food shortages and a general strain on the environment and its resources. Ksu females, on the other hand, do go through estrus, which limits procreation. This doesn’t necessarily fair much better in an environment that is low on resources to begin with. So, with such limited resources, how can everyone eat? Again, the communalism initiated by sleep customs ensures cooperation in securing food. It’s a feast or famine situation in which everyone must work to keep the entire community alive.

Sleep and the Definition of Family

What does it mean to be family? Are your closest friends considered family? Your coworkers? All of your blood relatives, or only those on your father’s side? The Ksu definition of a family depends on place of birth, or more correctly plant of birth. Communities grow up around the Sopa plants, which are needed to successfully reproduce offspring. These plants form the basis of the family structure as all children that come from a single plant are considered siblings. Since children are gestated and born separate from their mother and father and raised by the community, there are no parent-child bonds formed between the biological relatives. Family in general is defined by the entire community and specifically by the “plant-lines” from which all are born.

Guilds: In Whose House Will You Sleep?

As communal society matured and grew from small groups of 10-15 to larger groups of hundreds of people, the occupations of society stratified into guilds (something like castes). This structuring increases the efficiency in which resources could be harnessed and utilized, providing that the membership of each guild was truly qualified for that occupation. Children, from the time which their initial education ends to the time in which they are placed into a formal guild, are tested to see which talents they excel at and where their labors would pay the biggest return to the community. No system can guarantee that everyone will be happy with their place, this system included, but there is reward for work well done, as well as punishment for the less than satisfactory. The guild system provided efficient means of labor division, and also, as architecture improved to the point where the physical need to sleep in groups for safety diminished, the guilds provided another facet to the definition of family. The coworker based family.

Commensalism vs. Guild Interests

How can a socialist-type system, which purports the equality of everyone, coexist with a guild system that stratifies people in different groups? The simplest answer is the realistic answer: Everyone isn’t equal. At least not in all respects. Some people are talented in certain areas where others lack. It’s a simple truth of nature that not everyone is equally qualified for everything. But everyone need not be equally talented if they can command the same respect despite their field of work. The Ksu treat the doctor and his janitor with the same respect, as both their jobs are required to maintain a smooth running society.

Now, how can this still operate when guilds have historically proven to be machines for the creation of inequality in wealth and status in a society, as well as provided the birthplace of capitalism? The answer isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. If the power base has always lain with the community as a whole and station is permitted by this same group, then building personal wealth and power is difficult. The conspiracies, secrets, and Machiavellian machinations become more difficult still, if not impossible. One other factor also contributes to the restricting of power within the guild system, the potlatch.

A Full Belly and a Warm Place to Sleep

How does a society measure wealth and status? Is it the money in your bank account? Or is it the number of cows you own? What mechanism distributes social status to those deserving and provide the “carrot” to motivate? The Ksu mechanism for social climbing is the Potlatch. A potlatch society measures wealth, not in how much you have, but how much you give away to others. AHD defines potlatch like this:

A ceremonial feast … at which the host distributes gifts according to each guest's rank or status. Between rival groups the potlatch could involve extravagant or competitive giving …as a display of superior wealth.

Thus a guild's inherit ability to separate and stratify society for power is neutralized by the actual gaining of power and prestige. A rich man could hire a thousand thugs, but never gain from it. On the other side of the coin, if the guild strives too hard for power, it would be broken and out of business. This forces a balance to be achieved where the guild can still gain in influence with the community, but is restricted by its actual ability to accomplish and its generosity.

Sleep and the Law

As we’ve seen, the instincts to sleep in groups for protection have had a great influence on the building of a society. But instincts do not always rule when pitted against an intelligent mind. How then can common good be maintained when higher personal priorities may outweigh them? The fear of being alone in the dark hasn’t faded into fairytales by any means, and the laws use the threat of this fear to maintain order. The highest punishment that can be afforded by Ksu Law is not death, but something much more terrifying. A serious breach of law will have the offender exiled from the town and the safety of numbers. Alone in the wilderness, a lone Ksu is an easy target for predators of every color.

Sleep and the Psyche

The Sleep Circle guaranteed safety and peace of mind because it was a solution in which everyone watched and worked together. If one saw danger and was roused, he shook his neighbors awake and everyone stood to fight off the intruder together. If one man failed, then all had failed and doom was only a matter of time.

The Ksu, as mention previously, are deathly afraid of being alone in the dark. Interestingly, they fear neither being alone, nor the dark, as long as both are not present at the same time. Many Ksu work at night to keep the society chugging along, but they never leave sight or hearing range of another Ksu.

This psychological fear has shaped everything, from cultural habits, to the architecture of buildings, to the very course of progress. The human fear of the dark has lead to the invention of artificial light from electricity. For the Ksu, this fear eventually led to the discovery of runic light magic and its constant use to ensure safety (calm fear).

Conclusion: Loyalty, Trust, and The Common Good

Abstract ideals are easily described by mankind, but are rarely the basis for his actions. Humans find it hard to sacrifice the possibility of gain for the principles of ideals, unless their life is hung in the balance. Sometimes, not even this risk is enough to sway them. Of the many faces of mankind, only a few groups stand out as having the ability to maintain a society founded on the wispy notions of honesty, loyalty, trust, and other noble ideas. These people have always been the ones living closest to death’s blade, forced to cooperate or perish. Had the environment of Hlěpegra been kinder to the Ksu, or had they found clever ways to subdue their fear, they may have turned up the same selfish, greedy lot that mankind has. What began as simple solutions to their present situation evolved as they did and embedded itself in their race. With the advent of the Modern Ksu Era and the discovery of magic, the Ksu are entering an uncertain time in their evolution.

There are 14 Replies
Page:
1 2 Load all posts
settingsSettings

What do the Ksu look like?

What you have here is pretty interesting.

Posted January 21st, 2007 by Molly the Living Planet

Fascinating stuff! Keep up the good work/play.

Posted January 21st, 2007 by simon.clarkstone

Should others post their own here, or did you just want to spur some ideas? (Just asking really)

Posted January 21st, 2007 by bloodb4roses

Sorry for the delay in responding...

Molly: I don't have a picture, so I hope a text description of Ksu physical form will do...

Their torso and abdomen region resemble a vertical cylinder (similar to a human's, but more rounded). From the base of the abdomen four legs sprout at roughly 45, 135, 225, and 315 degrees. The regular stance for a Ksu looks similar to a spider, with a deep bend at the knees. At the terminus of the leg there is a single articulated toe, somewhat wider than the previous section of leg (an adaptation to living in a marshy environ).

About a third of the way from the top of the cylidrical torso, four arms sprout (in relative position to the legs). The two frontal arms are similar to human arms in the manner in which they articulate and end in small hands. The hands have five fingers (three fingers, two opposed thumbs at either side of the hand). The rear two arms have adapted into ears. Where the upper and lower arms still exist, a membrane has formed along the entire arm, starting at the wrist and ending at the shoulder. Vestigal hands remain at the end of the arms, but are really useless for any practical reason. The membrane, when stretched taut, acts like an ear and gives the Ksu excellent hearing (far surpassing humans in range). These ear membranes ar delicate and are fold against the body during sleep or possibley damaging work. In this case their capacity to hear dwindles as the arms are retraced and is reduced to almost zero when the arms are tucked against the body.

A short, stocky neck rises from the top of the torso and connects to the head, which is ovid; wider and flatter than a human head. The mouth, nose and eyes are relatively larger than humans. The eyes, though, provide much poorer vision than human eyes. The eyes blink non-simultaneously (don't know the word for this).

Their skin has a waxy quality to it and is greyish in color. They do not have hair.


blood4roses: I wanted to spur some ideas in others, so if you have anything relating to how evolution of your ppl has affected their culture, please do post it. While I love the ego boost of being told of a job well done, I'd really like to get others thinking and filling in the blanks they may have missed :)

Posted January 22nd, 2007 by fmra
fmra
 

I haven't really thought so much about these things with the Djed-khala. My general idea was that they evolved from pack hunters. All Djed-khala still participate in hunts and will often eat raw meat off their kills as they bring them in (their stomachs are much stronger than human stomachs, and with more resistance to diseases and parasites, they can easily handle raw meats other than fish).

I suppose communal eating could be used as a society-builder, although after the creation of the cloning lines and subsequent caste system would make it largely ceremonial.

One thing I have thought of is the idea of what constitutes as an "armed" individual. Human beings must have some man-made tool or special training to be considered "armed and dangerous" or "lethal" as far as the law is concerned.

The Djed-khala do not make this distinction, as, while artificial weapons often have longer ranges and can do more damage, the Djed-khala themselves still retain formitable natural weapons which are formidable on instinct alone. Wing-claws and talons can tear into you and cause serious damage, and their strong beaks can crush bone and sometimes deliver venom and nasty bacteria. (Think of the neurotoxins of a poisonous snake mixed with the nasty, bacteria-infected saliva of the Komodo dragon.)* Hence, every criminal is automatically "armed and dangerous" and every assault is automatically "assault with a deadly weapon". As another quirk, Djed-khala hunters never use artificial weapons to hunt food, believing that they damage the meat too much, just as human hunters that hunt for meat don't use assault rifles (or even shotguns if they are unnecessary).

The same sort of ideas about guns also exist with vehicles. Because they can fly fairly far on wing-power, Djed-khala do not use artificial transportation unless they must leave the atmosphere or go to another universe (for those of you who haven't seen some of my stuff, Djed-khao interdimensional travel does not require one to leave the atmosphere). This also has something to do with limited rescources, but generally Djed-khala prefer flying if possible, and are often impatient with races that cannot fly for whom they must provide artificial transportation.

Hmm, well. I guess I haven't explained the origin of their society biologically, but I guess it does give it a few quirks. It should be noted that the strict population control and Communistic nature of their genetic engineering programs does hold society together with genetic and cultural suppressions of individuality, criminal tendencies, and other things associated with self-interest. The Djed-khala never evangelize this system, and even discourage individualistic races from following in their footsteps, believing that it isn't really a pheasable system for all races, but they managed to make it work for themselves, possibly because of some innate grouping instincts that they were able to isolate gentically, though they don't let much of that information be known.

*NOTE on venom: I haven't really decided how effective the venom will be. One of my ideas includes vestigial (or possibly engineered) fangs that are only good for biting one's own tongue, with some difficulty, making it the equivalent of a Cold-War spy's suicide capsule.

Posted January 22nd, 2007 by Anonymous

So they are pack hunters, but live in a communistic-style culture...

Were the hunting pack like wolves, with an alpha leader, or more like dolphins, which don't keep a concrete leader?

what effects have pack mentality had on the culture? Obviously, it seems, it helped lead to a tight community. What has it affected on a smaller scale? Family structure/life, social hierarchies (employee, boss), titles and formal etiquette (if any)?

Very good ideas overall, try to find the threads that link it all together.

Posted January 22nd, 2007 by fmra
fmra
 

So they are pack hunters, but live in a communistic-style culture...

Were the hunting pack like wolves, with an alpha leader, or more like dolphins, which don't keep a concrete leader?

what effects have pack mentality had on the culture? Obviously, it seems, it helped lead to a tight community. What has it affected on a smaller scale? Family structure/life, social hierarchies (employee, boss), titles and formal etiquette (if any)?

Very good ideas overall, try to find the threads that link it all together.


There are all things that I need to work on. Their current social stucture also has the influence of the genetically-engineered castes, which allowed for a much more stratified and hierarchical structure than would have developed otherwise. Before their tehnological and genetic revolutions it is believed that Djed-khala lived in small, warring tribes constantly competing for territory, and living much as the Breeders live now (small clan-units closely resembling the hunting packs of their ancestors. I'm thinking probably a matriarchal structure with a matriarch leading the clan and males being sent away to mate in other clans.) What actually drove the unification of the planet is at the moment unknown (and I may keep it unknown).

It's very interesting that you mentioned ettiquette, as some of their old instincts affect their greeting rituals. When two Djed-khala meet and one is "authorative" (ie capable of giving orders) to the other, the authorative will spread its wings in a show of power and the subordinate must fold its wings and bow low. Two Djed-khala of equal status may bow to each other, but if two Djed-khala spread their wings and squawk at each other loudly you can expect a fight to break out. This evolved out of territorial combat gestures though they are now mostly ceremonial. Though Combatants will often spread their wings when presenting themselves to the enemy as an intimidating display. (The Combatant caste includes bodyguards and "police" as well as footsoldiers, generals, etc.)

As for your other comments, family structure among Breeders will probably end up the way I described above. Among the 'cloned' masses, family units are replaced initially with the nursery or incubator group, headed by a Nurse (Note: I need a native term for that subcaste) and later, generally by co-workers or somesuch (for a Combatant, it's their unit, for an Elite it can be either a staff of their own or a staff that they're a part of, and for Commoners it's generally a work crew).

One idea you've given me: I need to work out some more on who dominates different social groups. If they started with an alpha-female sort of system with the packs, they probably have a distinct leader in any efficient unit, possibly with a hierarchy on up the line. So far the only "social group" I've really dealt with in detail is a ka'kadja team (ka'kadja = "first contact"), which initially consists of a Diplomat (or yela'kadja) and his four bodyguards, though the Diplomat can dismiss those guards and work alone if necessary. It's really more of a temporary "party", probably similar to hunting parties of their ancestors, though the leader of this party (ie the Diplomat) clearly isn't the strongest and most combat-worthy of the bunch.

I guess what I'll probably end up with is individual pack-like stuctures within an over-arching global structure resembling a hive, taking into account both natural and artificial influences on the society.

Posted January 22nd, 2007 by Anonymous

Hmm, Fonori/Ollock, it seems great (or not-so-great) minds think alike. The Djed-khala as similar in many ways to my Kigdatsi. I shall intersperse, though this slightly off-topic for this thread. If someone asks I will move it.

My general idea was that they evolved from pack hunters.
My premise fails at the start: the Kigdatsi were created to be living weapons, a backstory I nicked from Panzer Dragoon.

All Djed-khala still participate in hunts and will often eat raw meat off their kills as they bring them in (their stomachs are much stronger than human stomachs, and with more resistance to diseases and parasites, they can easily handle raw meats other than fish).
I don't think of the Kigdasti much as hunters, though they would enjoy a bit of it, depending what they were hunting. Their populations are too concentrated and their energy requirements too high for that to be a major food source though. Their digestion is similarly robust and they might not bother to chew things.

I suppose communal eating could be used as a society-builder, although after the creation of the cloning lines and subsequent caste system would make it largely ceremonial.
Ditto. The Kigdatsi would not generally view eating as a social occasion unless the acquirement of the food was through some co-operation. They are not cloned though and do not have castes.

One thing I have thought of is the idea of what constitutes as an "armed" individual. Human beings must have some man-made tool or special training to be considered "armed and dangerous" or "lethal" as far as the law is concerned.

The Djed-khala do not make this distinction, as, while artificial weapons often have longer ranges and can do more damage, the Djed-khala themselves still retain formitable natural weapons which are formidable on instinct alone. Wing-claws and talons can tear into you and cause serious damage, and their strong beaks can crush bone and sometimes deliver venom and nasty bacteria. (Think of the neurotoxins of a poisonous snake mixed with the nasty, bacteria-infected saliva of the Komodo dragon.)* Hence, every criminal is automatically "armed and dangerous" and every assault is automatically "assault with a deadly weapon".
The Kigdatsi are also deadlily armed. Their telekinesis can be instantly deadly, but they are OTOH "programmed" not to use it in anger. Plus they all have instinctive skills in a semi-martial-arts style of fighting, though they have no chemical or bacterial forms of attack.

As another quirk, Djed-khala hunters never use artificial weapons to hunt food, believing that they damage the meat too much, just as human hunters that hunt for meat don't use assault rifles (or even shotguns if they are unnecessary).
The Kigdatsi would be like that too, but because hunting for food would only be done as a more entertaining alternative to their normal food sources, so using extra weaponry would be counterproductive.

The same sort of ideas about guns also exist with vehicles. Because they can fly fairly far on wing-power, Djed-khala do not use artificial transportation unless they must leave the atmosphere or go to another universe (for those of you who haven't seen some of my stuff, Djed-khao interdimensional travel does not require one to leave the atmosphere).
Where can I find details? I am not sure how the Kigdatsi do their (currently experimental) inter-universe travel, though I do have some details about what that actually is.

This also has something to do with limited rescources, but generally Djed-khala prefer flying if possible, and are often impatient with races that cannot fly for whom they must provide artificial transportation.
No problem there then, though the Kigdatsi are (AFAICT) rather larger than the Djed-khala and hence find flight a bit harder.

Hmm, well. I guess I haven't explained the origin of their society biologically, but I guess it does give it a few quirks. It should be noted that the strict population control and Communistic nature of their genetic engineering programs does hold society together with genetic and cultural suppressions of individuality, criminal tendencies, and other things associated with self-interest.
Yup. The Kigdatsi are more liberal with their genetic changes. Since they were created (form scratch) by GE, they have no concept of "genetic purity" and upgrade their design slowly. They are performing experiments with different sorts of minds, dispositions, and cultures, in an effort to see if other viewpoints will be helpful (and that plotline is blatently nicked from the conclusion of the book "Dark Side of the Sun"). Such experiments are kept apart from their own population, which harbours little-to-no harmful selfishness.

The Djed-khala never evangelize this system, and even discourage individualistic races from following in their footsteps, believing that it isn't really a pheasable system for all races, but they managed to make it work for themselves, possibly because of some innate grouping instincts that they were able to isolate gentically, though they don't let much of that information be known.
The Kigdatsi know that their system only works because of genetic control of the population, and have a slightly better idea of how, because they have documentation and source code. And "pheasable" is spelt "feasible", because AFAICT it comes from "feat".

*NOTE on venom: I haven't really decided how effective the venom will be. One of my ideas includes vestigial (or possibly engineered) fangs that are only good for biting one's own tongue, with some difficulty, making it the equivalent of a Cold-War spy's suicide capsule.
Oooh, plotline generator (iff there is any likelihood of murder).

-----


The most major societal difference I can see is that the Kigdatsi try to control things centrally less that the Djed-khala and have more unregulated experimentation with many things, in the hope that chaos can find useful things that a central control couldn't. See here for something like (not exactly the same) what I am trying to get at (or more briefly, compare: analogous to the Djed-khala way, analogous to the Kigdatsi way, though they form an exaduration), though the writer is a known evangelist of what he promotes there.

-----

Finally, keep an eye on this thread, where I should post at some point.

Posted January 22nd, 2007 by simon.clarkstone

<lots>


The parallels you're drawing are very interesting. The details of the gaa'akakhaoda and how it works are rather secretive, and possibly entirely unknown. It requires a certain type of Djed-khao crystal (some info can be found at http://gtx0.com/merge/post/252#252) I unfortunately do not have a website, nor have I presented everything that I have in my head here on the forums. I'll have to work on some formal presentations of all this crap so that I can explain everything simply by links.

Posted January 23rd, 2007 by Anonymous

Danpyr are nocturnal, and tend more towards being lone hunters than group hunters. In fact, it is their tendency for most of their life to live and travel alone or in small groups of two to four. This is the aspect I'm working with right now.

Posted January 23rd, 2007 by bloodb4roses

<lots>


The parallels you're drawing are very interesting. The details of the gaa'akakhaoda and how it works are rather secretive, and possibly entirely unknown. It requires a certain type of Djed-khao crystal (some info can be found at http://gtx0.com/merge/post/252#252) I unfortunately do not have a website, nor have I presented everything that I have in my head here on the forums. I'll have to work on some formal presentations of all this crap so that I can explain everything simply by links.


It’s conworlds.fun now.

Posted May 7th, 2018 by eldin raigmore

<lots>


The parallels you're drawing are very interesting. The details of the gaa'akakhaoda and how it works are rather secretive, and possibly entirely unknown. It requires a certain type of Djed-khao crystal (some info can be found at http://gtx0.com/merge/post/252#252) I unfortunately do not have a website, nor have I presented everything that I have in my head here on the forums. I'll have to work on some formal presentations of all this crap so that I can explain everything simply by links.


It’s conworlds.fun now.

Posted January 5th by eldin raigmore

I just re-read this thread; and found it very interesting!

I’ll be back, to post some about my conpeoples and concultures and their biologies.

Posted February 19th by eldin raigmore

How I wish this were re-activated!

Posted May 14th by chiarizio
Load next page Load rest of pages
Reply to: Biology and Culture
Enter your message here

Site Rules | Complaints Process | Give Feedback Facebook Page
GTX0 © 2009-2019 Xhin GameTalk © 1999-2008 lives on