While many like(/try to) to compare the hive minds of stellaris to other examples found in other fictional sources (to varying degrees of success) let’s take a look at the actual nature of these unique entities in game. This is a look at hive minds in general which also takes a look at the actions that the player can take. This is a look at hive minds as the rule not the exception (so sorry in advance to you tall peaceful hive mind players out there who may or may not use mods). Also I have refrained from using other science fiction sources and solely used the lore in-game when making this post. And be warned this is a rather long post.
The Hive mind, Autonomous Drones, And Drones
“Hive Minds operate as a single organism more than as a state. The population has no free will, and act as an extension of the Hive Mind itself – much like the limbs of a body.“
- Hivemind Authority description
When looking at a Hive mind you must do away with the notion of queens/other leadership castes and worker castes found in primitive arthropods (or other species that have a similar social constructs) in addition do away with the notion of individuals who are willing a part of this collective. While such subspecies could be found in a hive it should be noted that not all hive minds have them. No when looking at a hive mind you must understand the three parts of it The Hive mind, The Autonomous Drones, and The Drones.
“We are one, We are all, Our unity cannot be shattered”
- Hive mind Adviser
The Hive mind is a single vast gestalt consciousness this entity itself has no physical presence as we would understand it as the drones are its physical presence. For simplicity sake think one mind many bodies. This Hive mind is in fact a psionic entity but this entity is the result of a biological evolution/adaptation and does not come from the shroud. Its entirely possible for the Hive mind to occupy a space or dimension near the shroud for example the Unbidden and the other extra dimensional invaders do not actually come from the Shoud but they have mentioned that they are close to it. The Hive mind is linked to its drones and is a symbiotic relationship which to outsiders looks more like master and slave. The Hive mind directs the species while developing/designing the technologies with the help of the Autonomous drones that the drones use while the drones are the labor that maintain the “civilization” and build the tools and designs provided by the Hive mind. Now in order of communications not its too difficult to imaged the Hive mind directing lesser Autonomous / or complex drones to give the orders to the menial drones. However no matter their relationships with other empires whether positive or not as a rule ALL hive minds are concerned with its survival and when cornered it’s not surprising it becomes more aggressive as its growth is curtailed as the larger the hive becomes the greater it becomes.
“Semi-independent units have proved critical to the success of the greater whole“
- Autonomous Agents technology
The Autonomous Drones are unique Drones that you could say serve as the leadership caste below Hivemind. These Drones are more mentally advanced then the complex and menial drones in that they are independent enough to be comparable to leaders found in other empires and are capable of formulating their own thoughts and making their own choices, however this independence should not be confused with individuality as these Autonomous Drones are still subservient to the Hivemind and can never or will ever betray the Hivemind. With these drones its best to think of them as more focused portions of the consciousness which are used when more than just instinct is needed to solve a problem. Which is why we see Researcher Drones conceive the technologies needed to maintain the Hive, Governor Drones who are more focused on maintaining their sectors, and General/Admiral Drones who lead the warrior drones/strains into combat with tactics that are more than just swarm the enemy and can out-think their opposition.
” This species is made up of semi-autonomous individuals slaved to a single, unfathomably vast consciousness“
- Hive-Minded trait Description
The Drones complex or menial make up much of the physical presence that is the Hive mind for without the drones there is no Hive mind. While collectively you could just refer to them as the drones (with 2.2 stratas coming I thought I could elaborate more on them) there are differences between the two. Complex drones are the ones who maintain the hive with the creation of more advanced resources, controlling deviancy among the drones, helping the mind in conceiving more advanced technology, and in general tasks that require more thought to them. The Menial Drones on the other hand are the resource gathers gathering the raw resources needed for the creation of more advanced resources and providing the labor needed for the creation of buildings, void-craft or some other task needed to maintain the hive. Without the presence of the hive mind these drones will go into a comatose state which they will slowly die from the lack of maintenance (take care of their bodies) unless something is done to remove their psionic link. another thing to note is by default drones tent to attack/hunt anything that does not respond to the commands of the hive which is why no matter how much biological mass a contingency agent wears the hive nor the drones will not be fooled.
Hiveminds Morality/inter-species relationships
“The others have strange minds. They react more strongly to a single drone being publicly dissolved in the digestion vats than to thousands killed by orbital bombardment. This kind of selective terrorization is effective at cowing their resistance “
- Hivemind Supremacy Tradition Submit or be Eaten
“The promise to absorb servant hives into our unity does not seem to comfort them. They instead offer to support our star swarms in exchange for preserving their fragile, lonely individuality. This puzzles us.“
- Hivemind Domination Tradition Thought Control Symbionts
While as an intelligent being that can form good relationships and federations with other empires hive minds can understand morality quite easily. However Hive minds by their nature are not moral beings and are often confused by the actions of non-hive mind species. While a hive could allow a species to live within its borders as livestock this is the best as a none hive minded species can hope for within the hive or the hive just displacing said species without just outright killing or eating them. The reason for this is the hive heavily to relives upon the psionic link to communicate with the drones that it cannot trust another non-hive mind species to do the tasks it commands. While some could argue that the hive could just enslave a species or possibly cultivate a young group of non-hive minded species to do the tasks for it but it will not.
The concept of Slavery would just be silly/or foreign to a hive mind as it has no history of slavery and the drones are not slaves as we know it and are far more willing to do the tasks and for slaves there is a chance for an uprising as livestock have shone the capacity to retake their worlds from a hive. While livestock in the game’s context are slaves the fact of the matter is the hive mind could just place these populations into areas that they cannot escape from and are self contained. But since such populations are treated as prey even the prey can turn the tide against the hunters. while allowing them to be able to take self reliant to replenish their numbers. For the cultivation of youths its far easier/more efficient/faster for a complex drone through its psionic link to relay the information it has learned to the mind than a non-hive minded researcher telling a drone the information it has gleaned. In addition any normal person who comes in mental contact with the mind normally go mad but the hive mind gains some interesting insights from an others perspective though none of the morality. It should be noted that advanced hive-minds do have the capability of assimilating other species into the hive completely suppressing the person’s identity and individuality in the process. With such assimilating a hive can easily comprise itself of multiple species all working towards the survival of the hive. In short while the guiding values of a hive mind is whatever it deems them to be the only species that can enjoy the full “rights” of “citizenship” within a hive mind are hive minded species.
If a hive wishes to be friendly while not erasing the identity of independent species they can most certainly uplift and enlighten primitive empires and species though with any primitives they uplift they must assimilate them or drive them away or such creatures will be little more than livestock for the hive. But most Hive-minds however will just invade a planet and displace or make prey out of the indigenous lifeforms. When it comes to trade hive-minds will trade resources (raw or manufactured) which they are lacking however opening say a branch office on one of their worlds is pointless. As the Drones have no need of money or trade goods, and they can easily create their own tools.
The Incompatibility with Psionics, Cybernetics, and Synthetic uploading
“Evolution is a single-minded beast that follows a single path to its inevitable conclusion. We cannot afford to limit ourselves thus – let us explore all paths simultaneously.”
- Evolutionary Mastery Ascension Perk
While many could argue that due to the hives already psionic nature it and the drones could easily or should show psionic powers and that cybernetics are simple and can provide a vast array of improvements to the hive. But we must remember that hiveminds are deeply biological beings and their psionic link comes from their unique biology not the shroud and other empires do show in their histories legends of mystics and sorcerers hive minds do not have such tales or history. As for cybernetics it is quite possible that such cybernetic enhancement could interfere with the hive mind’s ability to communicate with its drones. While hive minds can research positronic implants it should be noted that these are limited in scope and do not replace large portions of a drone’s own biomass. In the extreme case of synthetic uploading it simply would not be possible as you are not uploading individual person but an entire mind possibility the size of a galactic arm or larger. It might be possible to upload the mind into something as large as a Dyson sphere but doing so would kill the hive mind a we know it and make it more a machine intelligence then anything else. In short a hive mind will not take any actions that would threaten its ability to control the drones.
Hiveminds and War
“We find you others hard to understand. You fritter away your short lives in internecine squabbles over which vision of lonely otherness is superior. You fight apocalyptic wars over which colored scrap of cloth will hang over a planetary capital. We watch, and hunger… ”
- Hivemind Devouring Swarm Supremacy Patient Predators Tradition
While other species view war as conquest or extermination for hives its literally a matter of survival. The Drones having no free will of their own that without the hive mind they will go comatose state and eventually die unless their conqueror has the means of removing their natural psionic link such as empires with a mastery of genetic technologies or cybernetic enhancement. While wars between other hives is not so threatening to the species as the drones will fall sway to the new hive mind however this is a matter of survival for the hive mind not the species while species could survive the hive mind might not.
“Occasionally our unity is disrupted by a rogue drone. This threat has increased as we spread out across the stars. Purging and recycling these units gives them a chance to contribute to the hive with their deaths, in a way they could not with their lives.”
- Hivemind Expansion Tradition Divergence Suppression
While yes we can see a group of drones who have become something like pirates and attempt to raid their parent hive. It should be noted that these drones have develop a mutation that allows them to ignore the commands of the hive but they cannot survive without its presence and have to remain close to your empire. Considering they must remain close they are unable to create their own interstellar empire until they could remove the psionic link which they do not have such a capability. Again these renegade drones are exceptions to the rule as normally drones have no free-will whatsoever, limited free thought in the case of the autonomous drones yes but not the general drone population.
The Brain Slugs
“Happy little brainslugs”
- Distant stars DLC events file
There is a species of hivemind that can live within non hiveminded empires the brainslugs. Your empire will discover them on a world and find that they do in fact have a hivemind however they are unwilling to attach themselves onto unwilling hosts. This is the only instance where we see a hivemind living in a partnership with a non-hiveminded species where the hivemind is not the dominate force in the releationship. The main thing to note is that this is an exception to the rule and just because there is an exception does not mean the rule changes as these slugs are capable of living in a hivemind empire.
Hive mind technologies and tools
“Construction resin, extracted from captured biomass in ocean-sized rendering pools, is more malleable and durable than most inorganic materials. It can even withstand the chill vacuum of space. “
- Hive mind Prosperity Chitinous Architecture Tradition
“We construct the frames of our ships like the skeleton of a living being, then attach whatever components we need as though they were organs, flesh, and skin.“
- Hive mind Supremacy Organic Architecture Tradition
While it’s heavily implied that hive minds and in particular devouring swarms make use of organic or partly organic technologies. Hives in fact manufacture their tools, weapons, structures, and void-craft. Devouring swarm void-craft are assumed to be partly organic as they have better hulls and can regenerate their hulls and armor while normal hive must research the carcasses of dead space-borne lifeforms such as the space amoeba or the crystalline entities in order to gain living hulls or at least ship parts to regenerate the hulls and armor of their ships. The only hive species we have seen that make use of purely biological technology would be the Prethoryn Scourge though their reasons for doing so are unknown. It’s entirely possible that what ever hunts them has the means to disable manufacture technologies or turn them against their creators but this would be a discussion for another time. But its also possible for Paradox to include more hivemind related content at a later date so we will see.
So what do you guys think? Should there be a civic added that allows a hive have a more Rouge servitor play to them? should they be able to gain a ascension perk allows them become a normal empire of individuals with bonus to it? Should they gain a technology or allow the evolutionary mastery perk grant them the ability to create purely biological technologies and void-craft? feel the need to talk about other examples of hive minds outside of Stellaris? please continue the discussion without getting too off track.
Original Link – Continuation of discussion