Saturday, March 3, 2018

Science Discussion: What is the Cost of Sentience?

Judy Hopps Sketch (Colored) by Ruffu

Hello, everyone!  This is eng050599 (though Greg works too) with the next Zootopia Science Discussion Thread! 

In the past, I’ve hosted several discussions on topics ranging from public health in a diverse society, to medical and genetic research, to the viability of hybrids in Zootopia (I’ve got bad news for those who want to see fox/rabbit hybrids in the future). It’s a fun mental exercise for everyone involved, and the questions that have come up have been a real pleasure to answer…or try to answer, at least.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a biologist IRL (being called Doctor is still really weird to me), and my research is focused on molecular biology and comparative genomics.

What the heck does that even mean?

I’m interested in understanding how species change over time, particularly how their genomes evolve. When we look at a society like Zootopia, it’s utterly unique in that such a broad range of species are not only fully sentient, but they also interact on such a deep level, and this factor seems to be a part of their society since prehistoric times.

Trying to figure out how such a unique world could come to pass, and how their history and ours could be similar…or completely different... is where the fun truly lies.

Note: I should probably warn everyone that my definition of fun has been irredeemably warped by years in the lab.

Regardless, today the focus is going to be on children and child rearing, and we’ll be delving into what kind of biological and sociological factors are utterly required for Zootopia to work. This was by far the most requested topic after the previous discussion, and without further delay, I welcome you to take part in this discussion:

The Next Generation: From Conception to Adulthood, What are the Costs of Sentience?

As part of this topic, I’ve gone through and made a few overall points that we can cover:
  • r/K selection theory: Would civilized mammals put all their eggs in one basket, or go for quantity over quality?
  • Placentation and gestation: How would the medical community deal with such wide variation among mammalian species?
  • Growth, development, and maturity: What time frames make sense, and how would society deal with the variance?
  • Neurological development and education: How schooling and education can be handled in a heterogeneous society
  • The implications for hybrids: From genetic compatibility to social acceptance, is there a future for wide (or narrow) crosses?
This time around, things can really branch out, as this topic not only deals with the biology side of things, but also includes elements of social science. There’s an old saying, “A child does not grow up only in a single home”, and this would be even more true in a society like Zootopia.

In our society, we are all one species, but have different cultural and behavioral norms that work in concert to influence children as they grow. Just look at how something like basic education is handled around the world. Everything from the topics that are included, to the performance expectations for each child vary wildly. For Zootopia, the variables are exponentially greater.

So please, join us Saturday, March 3rd at noon EST! There will be a text comment threat over on the Zootopia subreddit, as well as a voice chat through Discord, where the main discussion will be taking place!

Bring your questions, put on your thinking cap, and get ready for some fun musings.  Hope to see you there!

(Note: If you can't make it, ZNN will be recording the discussion to upload to YouTube later.  However, the more people are involved, the more fun it will be for everyone!)

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