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)
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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