Emotional development in long-lived fantasy races

sknox

Member and remember
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
1,060
Location
Idaho
For myself, I care less about what is scientific than what is interesting. It may or may not be scientific that a long-lived race would still mature within the first few decades. Answering that question isn't particularly interesting.

But what if the periods were stretched out proportionately? What if childhood lasted a century, adolescence another two? What if a decrepit old age lasted three hundred years? Now build your culture, your practices and institutions, your perceptions of short-lived peoples, and so on. That's where things get interesting to me as a writer.

IOW, it's the fantasy worldbuilding that's interesting, not the science world building. Which is why I write fantasy rather than SF.

For Altearth (not that anyone asked) I have a simplistic take on a simple principle: smaller lives longer. So my long-lived peoples are pixies and sprites. Giants are shortest lived. I haven't worked through implications yet, but it percolates.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
4,152
Location
Edinburgh
Now you did it. You provoked me to regurgitate long debated musings of my own mind. :eek: So you might want to skip this ;)

Just brainstorming, but what if, what are often called 'gifts' such as having an almost instinctual ability to work out mechanical problems, work wood, create art, mathematics, etc.-- or precognition-- perhaps even some forms of insanity (schizophrenia) and so on...were not just un/lucky combinations, but, memories and knowledge handed down from prior generations?

IOW, at the moment of conception, all of the knowledge and experience of your parents 'at that point' were encoded into the DNA (or whatever) that formed you. Along with it is the knowledge and experience they gained from their parents up to the point when they were conceived, and so on going back to the dawn of time.

Skills and abilities passed on and built upon by each subsequent generation. Precognition/déjà vu/instinctualy knowing who to avoid or how to react in social situations, not so much some magical ability, but millennia of experience allowing you to subconsciously 'guess' or predict, calculate, what is going to happen to even having knowledge of previous similar events or places. Certain forms of insanity, where those memories, thoughts, and so on, push their way due to a defect into your conscious mind either confusing or conflicting with current reality.

Naturally, not being knowledge you could directly draw from, that forefather experience and skills would reveal itself through 'inspiration.' You don't know why, nor have been taught, yet, you seem to just know. I would also suspect that over time that access to such knowledge degrades or is veiled as we heap on our own experience and knowledge tending to look to them for guidance instead of letting that of this passed down experience flow freely.

Clearly as we see with dementia and alzheimer's patients who regress drawing out long forgotten memories that we actually forget nothing, just stuffing it away. So there is the ability to shield (not eliminate) impertinent 'formative' information. Leaving the only question of, could it be handed down genetically?

If so, then I would say "yes, the human mind could hold thousands of years of information." I suspect that knowledge is not limited by the constraints of a physical size (number of cells, size of your noggin (your avatar regardless), whatever).

I warned you not to read that ;)

K2
Very Dune-esque ;)

I think at the time Herbert was playing with similar ideas they were discovering/puzzling about the huge amounts of junk DNA, hence, I believe, his speculation that they held the 'data' of previous lives.

I believe that how memories are made, laid down and then stored in the brain is still fundamentally a mystery (although we are always making advances in neurology, so would love to hear from someone at the cutting edge on this topic), but I would disagree with your assertion that 'knowledge is not limited by the constraints of a physical size' - assuming that you meant that we are talking about information, instincts and memories that one brain can maximally handle. I would assume that, even although we don't really know exactly how it's happening it does involve neurons and how they interact with each other. And that there is a certain number (albeit connected in an astronomical number of ways) suggests to me there must still be a fundamental limit. Unless you have another mechanism that touches the infinite? :)

But let's look at it from an evolutionary perspective. We as animal in the millions of years of hunter-gather existence probably could expect a lifespan of 40-50 years - at least that's what I believe Homo Sapiens a hundred thousand years ago could expect. Why would we evolve brains that could handle lifespans of thousands?

Also yes we are getting 'experience' from our forefathers and mothers, but I think it's because of our social bonds and needs, language, and our evolved abilities to learn very quickly and adapt, not from any mysterious memory source.

On the other hand, there are some very interesting cases of people who seem to be able to remember everything. But I wonder if they remember a limited set of data (what the weather was like every day, say, or what telly they were watching at every hour of every day) and then believe they have firm memories of everything else around about that, but is it in fact mostly filled in by their mind by supposition and logic? To be fair, some of them seem to be prodigious in their abilities, but I have only stumbled across a few articles on such conditions, so I'm only putting it out there for the moment as fascinating. :)
 

-K2-

mƎ kn0w dUm!
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
894
Location
Nirvāṇa
On the other hand, there are some very interesting cases of people who seem to be able to remember everything. But I wonder if they remember a limited set of data (what the weather was like every day, say, or what telly they were watching at every hour of every day) and then believe they have firm memories of everything else around about that, but is it in fact mostly filled in by their mind by supposition and logic? To be fair, some of them seem to be prodigious in their abilities, but I have only stumbled across a few articles on such conditions, so I'm only putting it out there for the moment as fascinating. :)
That very aspect I'm applying from real life example to my current protagonist. Though I'm intentionally being vague, imagine a person who for a number of formative years, the first ten, is limited to very little external information. For the most part their only social interaction is with one person they seek to avoid. There is zero conversation except again, that which they wish to avoid. Their world is limited to a single spartan room, and eventually, a barn and a small area outdoors. There is no TV, radio, books/magazines (not that this person could read, or even understand most words, yet the point being pictures).

Up until 10, that person only has personal experience to draw from when they think or dream. So, they begin a habit of rehashing this minimal world and events, over and over, in that there is nothing more. At 11, it expands to the wild outdoors for a year. At the end of that time, due to their habit of rehashing directly experienced moments, it is so reflexively ingrained that a few minutes watching a clock with a second-hand and a 'tic-tocking' noise from a pendulum... they then can precisely state the time to the second due to that 'subconscious' image and sound perpetually advancing. Not just minutes later, yet years.

From 11 years old till roughly 15, though their experiences expand, new people and extremely limited surroundings, but, similar conditions and experiences of their first 10, they firm up that habit of ONLY rehashing directly experienced events to occupy an idle mind...OF WHICH...their time is made up of long stretches of idle, zero stimulus time, broken up only by similar-- brief, unpleasant experience. Finally, as you can imagine, once that person is exposed to out-of-their-experience stimulus, TV, radio, pictures... for a while they intentionally disregard it being so overwhelming and confusing.

The real trick for this individual, was to teach themselves how to consider and integrate the vast number of outside of direct experience exposure into creatively thinking. Once they did, then their ability to remember in exacting detail became less defined as emotion and free thinking began to dominate how they remembered, clouding new direct experience. However, in times of stress, they still revert to reflexively rehashing events, sights and sounds, even going back to day one.

That is a real individual's evolution/growth of thinking... not just conjecture, fiction or fantasy.

K2
 
Last edited:

Jesspica

Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2016
Messages
5
So it occurred to me last night that surely longevity must come with some form of trade-off, especially when it comes to fantasy races.

The obvious point would be a slow physical development process - so a race that might live for a few hundred years might spend the first few decades of their life effectively like a child, not hitting adolescence until humans would be reaching midde-age - I think Tolkien may have specifically related something about that with Hobbits and possibly also elves.

But something I don't recall is slow emotional development - that this may be particularly slow, resulting in long-lived races acting in a manner that may seem unduly childish by comparison to humans. Again, this may be featured in Tolkien, especially with regards to various meetings of elves singing playfully in the trees.

However, I don't get the impression that any of this really comes across in modern fantasy fiction.

In which case, is it traditional in literature for long-lived races to show relatively childish characteristics, and is this carried on into modern literature?

Just thinking aloud. :)
I think it's the same, in fact the two mirror each other. One triggers the other.
 
Top