Norn Soap Operas

From correspondence between myself and Geat_Masta. I may edit this into an actual post later. But for now, a lot of this was stuff I meant to bring up in a post anyway, and I figured it may be of interest to others besides us, especially Intyalle and Savannah (the other people currently testing the brainedits for me.)

"BTW, my running hypothesis as to precisely what's going on in their little brains is that the edits are allowing the Comb lobe to make connections between concepts. Normally what it does in part is make connections between decisions, or between decisions and states etc., to form concepts. For example, the Norn feels hungry for protein. It eats a critter. It receives protein, and its hunger for protein goes down. The Comb lobe records this as the beginning of a concept: "Hungry for protein + eat critter; result, hunger for protein reduces; good!" The more often the Norn eats critters and experiences a reduction in H4P, the more the concept "eat critters when H4P" is strengthened. I presume this is done by growing dendrites between 'hunger for protein' and 'eat' and 'critter'.

IF I'm correct (and I could very well be totally off-base, because I'm just doing my best to guess what's going on based on user-level information, observing the brainedits) what SEEMS to be happening is that the brainedit Norns are able to grow dendrites between the neurons representing these formed concepts. For example, that 'eat critters when hungry' idea might become linked with 'hitting critters reduces my boredom' or 'being hit hurts and sucks'.

Again, I have no direct evidence for this idea. But it seems to make sense based on what the edit is (tracts connecting Comb to itself) and the weird but not always maladaptive learning and behavior we've seen in the testers.

"LOL! No worries, the overeating thing isn't a constant problem. (And FWIW they already have a lobe and other stuff set up to deal with the fullness issue. It works pretty well most of the time.) It's something that comes up occasionally in individual testers, one of many behaviors I think of as 'quirks'.

Others are a penchant for hitting beasts or gadgets (this latter is probably because I supply them with Norn Plushies, which are gadget class), strange refusals to eat certain foods (for example, a few of them learn to favor animal eggs or bugs and refuse to eat critters, or refuse to eat bugs or animal eggs but eat critters fine),  an unhealthy obsession with junk food like seeds or food (I've already implemented a gentle 'fix' for this one, but I don't want to get rid of it entirely because as a sporadic problem it's entirely realistic - every species has a handful of individuals that just don't know when to stop, after all!)

Basically, no two testers develop quite the same, despite having identical genetics. This was always true, especially of the CFF genome I based the Dragons on, but it's true much earlier in life. Also, there's a distinctive change in their developmental patterns. I need to do more comparative runs to confirm this, but right now, I'm running normal no-edit Norns, and I'm struck by some differences in how they behave.

The brain edits have a characteristic 'life cycle'. When born, they're pretty adventurous. (They have genes telling them to stick close to their parents as babies, but the testers all start out as Gen1s, which see each other as siblings, so these genes are basically inactive because they never see a parent that would make them fire/activate. This trait is much more evident in later generations as you'll see later in this description.) Their first action is almost always to push toy, then to eat something in the animal-stim group, more rarely a more adventurous choice of food or the totally nonnutritive fruit/seed/plant categories. A few go for 'push portal' as their first act in life, but most of them try that pretty soon. (This is due to other non-brain-edit-related genes I've given them to encourage wandering.) They spend their baby and child stages exploring the metaroom(s) I've given them access to, generally going far and wide. Any given Norn almost always visits both metarooms (I usually don't run more than 2-3 due to computer limitations, sigh) at least once, generally multiple times, before becoming an adolescent. And I don't mean just flashing in, then flashing out again within seconds. I mean flashing in, swimming around, checking the place out, maybe hanging out for a while - then leaving again to do the same in the other room. Counting the activities of the whole group, the entirety of all available rooms gets visited.

During all this time, the brainedit Norns comment often on their status and give each other plenty of suggestions, but they almost never remark on their opinion of each other. It happens sometimes, but it's rare enough to be remarkable. They occasionally hit each other (I have a non-brainedit gene set up to discourage this, but when they're determined enough they'll ignore it long enough to get a few blows in), occasionally tickle/kiss (again, genes are set up to encourage this behavior, but they still have plenty of free will and don't always act on them if they really don't feel like it). And they do seem to remember all of this, at least in general learned-concept terms like 'hitting Norns is relieving (big anger/fear reduction)' and 'being hit hurts and sucks'.

When the brainedit Norns hit adolescence, allof a sudden, it's like the ForF lobe suddenly kicks on (even though it's actually been active their whole lives). Now they begin chattering a lot about 'X dislike Y' and 'Z like A'! I mean, A LOT. To the point that using the modified creatureDoneTo.cos didn't make a big difference in the proportion of chatter about sociality versus other things. That is, the amount of chatter decreased - they spoke less overall - but they were so determined to talk about each other that when they did speak they still rolled that one-in-100 chance constantly.

As babies and children, again, there would be occasional bursts of hitting or tickling/kissing, but mostly they'd roam around singly, in pairs, or sometimes trios, playing with the world and exploring, eating when they needed but not overeating (except for those few that developed that as a learned behavior).

But once they become adolescents they become aggressive, actively seeking each other out for duels. I set up neuroemitters so that when they 'hit norn' they get a tiny hit of Punishment, but this mainly served to reduce the intensity of the attacks - they no longer unleash long series of strikes, instead hitting once or a few times and then pausing. Depending on what the other Norn does, the battle may or may not continue. Sometimes they defuse the situation by offering a kiss/tickle. Other times they return the attack and it carries on until someone runs (or, extremely rarely, dies, but they almost never take it that fa -
 they're VERY tough in battle; only Banshee Grendels and stronger are a real threat to them at the moment.)

I don't want to increase it for fear of creating problems with too much Punish/Reward in their 'bloodstream'. As it is, it works well for inhibiting that behavior without completely forcing them not to do it if they REALLY want to. Anyway, this (and a companion neuroemitter that gives a tiny hit of Reward for pulling Norn, which is the tickle) had a noticeable impact - pretty much it works as intended - but they still exhibit very different learned behavior patterns ('personality'). Yet in spite of those differences, this adolescent aggression is universal, males and females alike. For a while, everybody dislikes everybody, with a few rare exceptions. (I will note, though, that it's also very rare for them to actually get as far as 'hating' each other - and when they do, their behavior gets especially intriguing... more on that later.)

So they fight, but they also exchange friendlier interactions, and they seem to remember at least some positive associations from the past, because at this point they tend to split up into groups. At least one settled group always forms, a spot where a handful of Norns are present at all times (though not always the SAME Norns in Gen1 - usually there's like, one or two that are always there, but others leave and return periodically). Where this forms varies. It's usually the far left or right bottom of one of the metarooms, but sometimes it's in a more unusual spot. Other Norns become committed wanderers, visiting the settlement(s) sometimes and roaming alone other times, or committedly avoiding everyone, depending (as far as I can tell) how much they 'like norn' in general. If they have a strong 'me dislike norn' going on they tend to avoid everybody, except, sometimes, for a favorite companion or pair of companions (often but not always the same ones they've been hanging out with for awhile).

By the time they reach Youth, some serious rivalries and dislikes have formed, and, rarely, two Norns are incompatible enough to reach 'me hate XYZ' territory. But at this point, the sex hormones kick in, and whatever positive behaviors and associations have already formed become a lot more important. They begin doing a lot more tickling and kissing. The first pregnancies occur. This is when the 'settlements' become really established. Before this, it was a popular hangout spot that may or may not persist. Once eggs are laid it becomes a more solidly established "colony spot". (This is partly due to other genes and gene edits they have... but only partly.)

The roamers also breed, but with strategies that vary between individuals. Some have an opposite-sex 'roaming buddy' and they just transform into a mated pair, leaving eggs as they roam around (or sometimes settling wherever they make their first egg, hanging around near it and creating a tendency for their offspring to also hang out near them... et cetera. If this persists, a colony spot may form, especially if other Gen1s or their offspring begin visiting.) Others visit the colony spots, breed while there, then take off again. If male, their mate usually lays the egg in place and continues the colony. If female, she sometimes sticks around long enough to lay the egg. Other times she takes off and lays it somewhere else. (But due to other genes they have, they prefer to lay their eggs near other Norns, so they almost always find at least one other  Norn to be around when laying eggs - this is why the colony spots tend to be the main egg collection zones. They pile up there naturally, no 'fetching' behavior needed.)

As Adults, you find a group of Norns with really dramatic differences despite being genetically identical. The more maladapted adults usually begin to die at this point, as they succumb to (for example) a bad habit of playing with dangerous beasts or eating nothing but junk food (food, seeds). The smarter/better-adapted ones continue their lives, exhibiting their own unusual but not-so-self-destructive traits (such as lifelong loves and rivalries, or preferring, say, animal eggs over bugs and critters - animal eggs activate the Ate an Animal stim so that's a perfectly healthy choice, but it's a quirky one because they have no instincts for eating animal eggs and in non-brain edit Norns it's a very uncommon behavior.)

They lose the tendency to be aggressive in general, but they continue to act out rivalries established during adolescence, while also getting involved in love affairs and more complex stuff.

There was a particularly interesting drama involving three Gen1 males in one group - this was before the neuroemitters were added, but this sort of thing still happens, with less murder. Basically, one of the three hated everyone and avoided everyone. The other two had an ongoing rivalry that manifested in alternating between avoiding each other, trading insults Norn style ('I hate you!' 'I hate you'! etc.), and viciously fighting. Each male also had a female who was his favored partner. They made one or two eggs apiece with other mates, but the males and their favored females made like 5-7 eggs apiece together, with maybe two children with other Norns. At this point, they were very fertile, too, so pretty much any mating meant an egg. Meaning they were about as close to monogamous as Norns get.

Two separate colony spots formed, where each male, their favored female, and their offspring would primarily hang out, though the offspring and the other Norns in the colony would roam around between the two colony spots, and visit other parts of the metarooms. (The third male was still avoiding everyone, and never got near the favored females of the other two, but occasionally made an egg with the third female, and wasn't overly hostile to the Gen2s when they began to appear.)

Eventually, one of the two dominant males killed his rival after an intense final battle. The favored female of the now-dead male lay down immediately and didn't move for almost a minute. (I have a screenshot of this moment somewhere, I think on my blog?) She then ran off and began to wander, abandoning the colony site she had preferred to hang out at. For a while, the remaining dominant male ruled the roost, making babies primarily with his favored female. The third female died somewhere along the line, killed by the dominant male - I forget whether this happened before or after he killed his rival.

Then the dead male's mate returned to the colony site after a long while and beat the dominant male to death in a single overwhelming assault.

Once both dominant males were dead, the third male emerged from his self-imposed exile and began hanging out with the two females, who seemed to accept his presence. I don't think he got to make more than a handful of eggs with either of them, but they didn't beat him to death or drive him away.

Norn soap operas happen with ordinary Norns too, but what was striking about this was the amount of time it persisted. Most Norns' relationships are fickle and ever-shifting. They may dislike someone just because they were in a bad mood when they met the new Norn - then change their mind because the new Norn tickles them a few times. Then change their mind again when the new Norn gives them a slap or two. Et cetera. It takes a long while for their brains to learn enough to develop interesting relationships. I used to find that striking about my old pre-brainedit dragons, but with them, those didn't become noticeable until the Norns were about 5-7 hours old, and even then, they were still essentially normal Norns. They had just lived long enough to form very strong associations about particular other Norns.

But the way the brainedit Norns relate to each other is just... they're more able to go away for a long time, minutes or hours, then come back and have the SAME reaction/apparent opinion of a given Norn as they did all that time ago. I dunno. I go back and forth, sometimes, telling myself I'm imagining things.

But in running the non brainedits today I was struck by the fact that they don't exhibit that developmental pattern I mentioned earlier. They start talking about 'me like x' and 'me dislike y' very early and seem significantly less impacted by the neuroemitters I made. I'll need to run more and larger groups to be more sure of my observations, but FWIW... this is the best i can do right now to articulate how they differ.

with that said, I'm happy to continue tinkering with the tracts to try to improve the edit further, or even just to see what happens. I will try the changes you mention here after I finish my non-edit runs."


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