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Octomorph Sociopaths

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PredatoryMollusk PredatoryMollusk's picture
Octomorph Sociopaths
Here's a problem that I've been hung up on recently about octomorphs. Let me start by saying that I think cephalopod uplifts are awesome, they are a wonderful, creepy, iconic part of the game, and I think they belong in it. But I don't feel that enough of an explanation has been given for how they can function as social creatures. There was some talk of it in Panopticon, but a lot of that didn't really apply to mollusks. Octopuses have a weird anatomy, this has been covered in at least one other thread. It's not their bodies, but their minds that trouble me. An octopus, as I see it, has no social instincts whatsoever. They are pure predators, looking at every single lifeform (including other octopuses) as either something to hunt and kill, or something to run/hide from. The only time in the creature's life that this is not the case is breeding, which is extremely brief, awkward, and doesn't seem very pleasurable. A female will also guard her eggs obsessively, but then usually dies (or goes insane) right before they hatch. So, every other uplifted animal in EP can be given the gift of greater intelligence, the ability to speak, the means to use technology, and their social peculiarities are more or less compatible with most of transhuman society. Tendencies toward violence or other kinds of antisocial behavior can be suppressed fairly easily, given the technology of the day, and a dolphin is still a dolphin even if it's urge to dominate through violence and rape is removed. But I believe an octopus, if it was given the above features, would simply become a more capable killer. It's one thing to say that octomorphs are loners, but why would they deign to interact with vertebrates at all, if they have no concept of what another living being is, other than food or something that wants to kill it? Even cats, which I see as nature's biggest sociopaths (I had a really mean cat as a child) have a whole system for relating to each other and to humans. I'm taking too long to reach the point, but obviously the octomorphs of Eclipse Phase will have needed some extra tampering with their brains to be functional members of society. My question is, how might they do it without fundamentally changing what an octopus is? And we're not just talking about changing each individual with psychosurgery, the goal of the uplift scientists would have been to create a new, genetically distinct species that features all of the necessary changes, and can make babies that have those changes as well (if the evil Somatek will allow it). Off the top of my head, I can think of two approaches the pre-Fall scientists might have taken. They could have used extensive grafts on the cephalopod brain that are modeled after humans, giving them many of our own higher thought processes. This seems like a major cop-out to me, and isn't much different than just sticking a human brain into a very different body. I suppose you could also engineer an artificial system for social behavior in baseline octopuses, and then uplift those. In other words, make the animal into a pack hunter first using the same grafting and genetic tampering. This seems a bit more elegant to me, and there are actually other cephalopods that do feature some of this social behavior, like the Humboldt squid. But still, even this would make for a flimsy basis on which to create an intelligent species. Whatever the process was, I think it's safe to say that octomorphs would turn out as the problem children in the uplift family. They have been changed into something that they are in many ways not, and so would probably exhibit a whole lot of antisocial behavior, mental illness, and generally unpleasant attitudes. But at least they wouldn't all be indiscriminate murderers. Until those mercurials crack the hypercorp database of course.
Gantolandon Gantolandon's picture
As I remember from Panopticon
As I remember from [i]Panopticon[/i], uplifts have their brains modeled to be as similar to the human one as possible. They were created by the hypercorps who didn't need intelligent pack hunters, but useful servants and pets to market. Personality of an uplifted animal was intentionally designed to be as humanlike as possible. Most mercurials are bitter about this - they feel they were denied their own way of life. Nevertheless, even octopuses have more in common with humans than their non-sentient cousins.
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
I'm reminded of one of my old
I'm reminded of one of my old creations: http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oaeg-view-article&egart_uid=47e9add0... I have always suspected that many uplifts are more human minds turned animal-shaped than actual uplifts of the original animal's mind.
PredatoryMollusk PredatoryMollusk's picture
Quote:As I remember from
I got that impression from Panopticon too, and I found it rather disappointing. I mean, one has to draw a line somewhere to define what is actual uplifting, and what is just growing a human brain in an alien body. If a team of scientists conclude that they have to redesign or add to every fundamental piece of gray matter, what's the point? Why not uplift sponges? Also, I don't think I was being clear on why I brought up the pack-hunter strategy. The other animals in the setting that were chosen for uplift are social creatures, and their hardwired social instincts can adapt (or be tampered with) to make them functional transhumans. With an octopus, there's nothing to work with, they don't even have familial relationships, sex and attraction for them is like a mental illness. So if they were first engineered into social animals, then uplifted, it might make more sense.