artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

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artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by whitehound on Mon Jun 09, 2014 4:16 pm

Now, it's not feasible that the Fixits have evolved to be hat-shaped, because even if they have a short generation-time it would take thousands of years, and styles of hat don't stay in fashion that long. I've always assumed they were artificially engineered.

It's just occurred to me, however, that they could be a natural form who are born with a very flexible carapace and naturally take on the camouflaged appearance of something in their surroundings when they hatch, and they've just been encouraged to take on the shape of a hat instead of, say, a rock or a tree-stump.

What brought this on was the observation that Fantod has proper facial expressions and therefore seems to be an actual creature, not a puppet. The same logic applies - a live puppet couldn't evolve, but he could be artificially-engineered, or naturally morphologically flexible and have been trained up into that form like a clipped hedge.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Geoduck on Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:47 am

(MILD SPOILERS)

No, the Fixits are not a naturally-occurring life form. It's likely that they and the Fleebs share a common ancestor.

I'm not going to say what Fantod is, but I will mention a couple of the rules I set when for when he appears:
1. He never appears off of the Weirdo's hand. For example, I deliberately did not depict him when the Weirdo was taking a bath; he may or may not have been in the tub.
2. Everybody who meets him automatically treats him as if he is indeed alive and a separate personality from the Weirdo.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by whitehound on Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:01 am

He's not one of those sessile things like Tand, only growing out of the Weirdo's arm instead of on a plant...? But he has a mouth, doesn't he, so probably not.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Geoduck on Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:39 am

No, he is not the same species as Tand.
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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:15 am

It is unlikely that Fixits are natural in any way, regardless how they are shaped.

For one, they are fully-sentient (or at least, human-level intelligence) which means a very big/heavy brain that requires a great deal of energy. If the Fixits can take over bodies with the ease they do, they do not need to be sentient to be successful. A fairly intelligent but not human-level intelligence would be enough to create Fixit-groups that instead of donating excess food to their hosts' bodies they donate it to other Fixits. Or if the nutritional needs for growing-up Fixits is low, then a single Fixit can feed a tribe.

If this was their natural habitat then they wouldn't just look like rocks or wood, but large pieces of hair. A hat is clear artificial but a big bunch of hair would not be questioned as part of a person's head. I am unsure whether there are flexible carapace has an actual example in the animal kingdom, thus I lean towards such things not being likely. It would make more sense that they instead just occupy objects that can act as a shell (I think some kinds of creatures do that, I think some squids were observed making houses). It would make more sense because the Mansion has tons of clothes and it would make sense that there is a large stockpile of hats somewhere that was just made use of.

However, I doubt that because of the styles of hat the Fixits take. They are all, at least those shown in the comic at least, shaped like fashionable hats that were common pre-Crash (going on by the brief display given to us by the comic). They are not the kind of hats that are common in the Basement, such as Maw's. Instead, they have shapes they are stuck with more-or-less (I wonder what the breeding pits look like, perhaps they do have some influence over hat shape there?). They are forced to try and make their styles of hat fashionable.

This also makes it unlikely that Fixits are just denizens from some parallel world, like the Helipaths. If they were from some other environment where they are a common species, they wouldn't have the shapes of human-worn hats. If they are a dominant species especially, because then they would be "naked" instead. In fact, they would have a hard outer shell that would protect them from various harms that might accidentally befall them while doing things (think hard hats). They would not need camouflage.
It does not eliminate the theory altogether though. It might be possible that they are from another world and have undergone severe alteration to fit into the existing pre-Crash world.

Another point against natural selection though, is that they do not physically feed off from their host. If they were a parasite, they would just use the nutrients of their host rather than have their own body do the considerable work of processing food. This might limit whom they can control (unless they only need biochemically simple and common stuff, that they then could just filter out) but it would be massively more convenient. And being on the top of a intense brain-using head (or equivalent) would be convenient because brains require a great deal of nutrition.

If they are artificial though, an important question must be raised: who made them, was it the Ettins (who had the resources, were probably themselves immune with their dual-brains and had a use for such spies for managing their zoos/slaves) or by humans later on? If a human, then by who?

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Geoduck on Sun Aug 31, 2014 4:25 pm

[SPOILER]

1

2

3

For all the reasons you list.. yes, the Fixits did not end up the way they did by random chance or evolution.

Although if I had seriously worried about real-life problems like brain-size and needed nutrition, I never would have included Small Wyrms or Smyts.
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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Sun Aug 31, 2014 11:41 pm

I am working off the theory that both expanded intelligence and the energy needed to drive is derived from magic.

In particular in the Mansion's case, the local trickle-point. Fixits are creatures that feed off almost purely from magic to survive (they probably need to eat some matter to build their bodies). Which is good when you are near a trickle-point. But it would mean that they would either die, become more stupid or enter a coma (or a combination of those three) the farther they are from the trickle-point or other source of magical energy.

I sort-of anticipate a scene where a Fixit learns about the Quiet room, goes there to receive a treasure and then go into a coma as it enters the room.

EDIT: Also, I am working on the theory that somehow the Mansion makes several species within it more sentient than they otherwise would be. Perhaps as some errant experiment by the Ettins or some weirdness of the local trickle-point that we haven't seen before. So it might be that Fixits are actually no more intelligent than some smarter bugs. But then their value as spies is then questionable.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Geoduck on Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:38 am

For whatever it is worth, a Fixit has mentioned traveling all the way to a nearby Provincial capital, although this happened before the Crash.
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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:45 am

Geoduck wrote:For whatever it is worth, a Fixit has mentioned traveling all the way to a nearby Provincial capital, although this happened before the Crash.

I am just assuming that pre-Crash they could feed off the laylines. Maybe that is what their antenna is for: so that they could tap the laylines with those directly.

Which would explain why, if they are designed creatures, would their creator risk adding the things in the first place. The best spy is a useless spy if they starve to death.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by whitehound on Mon Sep 08, 2014 12:28 pm

It doesn't actually follow that the Fixits (or the Smyts!) require a very large brain, since we don't know how their nervous system is wired.  Corvids and parrots manage to be as intelligent as a young human child whilst having brains about the size of half a walnut, because birds have different neural architecture from mammals, and some cephalopods are similarly intelligent with a brain the size of a broad bean.  Nor does it follow that Fixits don't need to be sentient if they can take over other things' bodies.  Intelligence is generally beneficial (for evading predators, if nothing else) if you can afford the energy to run it, and they could be naturally-ocurring symbiotes, who increase the intelligence and therefore the success of their hosts in return for getting fed.  They might then evolve to feed by drawing sustenance from the host, but they might equally well just improve the host's hunting skills and then feed side by side.

Octopuses are remarkably flexible and able to shape-shift in order to disguise themselves as other creatures or objects - they can e.g. cause pebble-like protrusions to appear all over their skin.  I'm just thinking of something which had an octopus-like ability to camouflage itself by changing shape, but which lost that ability once it matured.  My degree is in Zoology and I assure you this is perfectly feasible.

However, it's a good point that they seem to be stuck as these old-fashioned human hats, as if they have a fixed form which they can't alter and have to make the best  of.  They couldn't have evolved that shape naturally because a given style of hat doesn't stay in fashion long enough, and if they had the ability to select their own shape you would think, yes, that they would adopt more modern styles and also turn into hairpieces and so on as well as leather hats, so they must have been bred that way and now neither they nor their breeders can change their shape without generations'-worth of faffing about.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Tue Sep 09, 2014 7:02 am

I don't know very well how intelligence is selected for. But there is one mark, now that I think about it, that is odd for the Fixits: they themselves are able to talk. Not just talk through their host.

Not sure whether that counts in "for" or "against" naturally evolving idea. I think it might count against it: it mostly benefits animals that are non-dependent on a master and live a considerable non-worn life. If they were purely artificial they could always just rely on a host to talk. Having them talk independently has limited use and probably tricky somewhat to design.

If I had to, I would actually have them talk sub-sonically to each other or in an other specialized way. That way when two Fixits discuss what they were up to, they would not give away their nature.

Octopuses are remarkably flexible and able to shape-shift in order to disguise themselves as other creatures or objects - they can e.g. cause pebble-like protrusions to appear all over their skin. I'm just thinking of something which had an octopus-like ability to camouflage itself by changing shape, but which lost that ability once it matured. My degree is in Zoology and I assure you this is perfectly feasible.

Oh, I believe that generally mimicking surrounding area's colors and even texture is possible. I saw videos of the octopuses you describe.

I just thought that by "flexible carapace" you meant something that has an outer shell which its very shape (not just texture and color but actual three dimensional form) can the animal modify to the animal's desire/reflex and then not have to keep any effort to keep that shape. So it can look like an oval rock and on demand it can transform it into a cone or rounded hexagon. From what I understand, octopuses have to essentially hold a pose to do that. The Fixits seem not to put any effort into their shape aside keeping their antennas in.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by whitehound on Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:00 pm

I'm not 100% sure but I don't think ocotopuses have to exert themselves to stay in an altered shape.  It's like putting your arm in a particular position - they make themselves a particular shape and then stay that way, passively, until they choose to change it.

I'm inclined to think that the fact that the Fixits talk argues against their being natural.  If they evolved higher intelligence while being symbiotes then they might well, as you say, speak through their mounts, although I suppose there might be issues due to the mounts having a variety of different vocal apparatuses

But the fact that they talk for themselves at least somewhat suggests that they evolved the ability to talk before becoming syjmbiotes (or parasites), and therefore that they were already quite intelligent before becoming symbiotes - and in that case, rather than drifting into symbiosis on the slow tide of evolution you would think they would simply have domesticated the species whose help they needed, which could be done in a hundred years.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Wed Sep 10, 2014 1:45 am

A thought: what if the ones that can control people are their equivalent of a wizard?

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by whitehound on Wed Sep 10, 2014 1:58 am

They've got those docking pins on their feet, so presumably they can all do it at least to some extent. There may be varying levels of ability, though. We see from Hax and Camora that there are two levels of contact, and it could be that only a specilist minority can do a full take-over.

And what happens if a Fixit takes over a wizard? Does the Fixit itself become able to use magic, at least so long as they are joined? Or are there Fixits who are natural magic-users, just as some Gnolls and humans are?

Of course, we know from Rob that they're artificial: but we don't know if they're wholly invented, or whether they've been adapted from a naturally-occurring species.

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Re: artificial or morphologically flexible lifeforms

Post by Zixinus on Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:49 pm

We know that only the "best" get selected for spy-duty.

I wonder whether the intelligence of their host has to do with how much resistance the host can put up (aside other special properties). So it might be that "normal" fixits can take over more stupid beings like regular animals. If they were from another world, that is what would make sense: they have evolved the capability and eventually bred different hosts to suits their needs that can also easily be controlled.
It might be that then they were from another world, heavily modified by Ettins (or other power, perhaps Sneeches, they certainly are good at biotech) for spying/animal micromanagement, re-used later by human masters who had their forms change into human-fashionable-hats. There would also be a selection pressure there: how actually-a-hat the Fixits look would be a key selection pressure.


And what happens if a Fixit takes over a wizard?

I think Wizards would be able to resist most. They might actually be mostly immune to attempts as seizing control.

Does the Fixit itself become able to use magic, at least so long as they are joined? Or are there Fixits who are natural magic-users, just as some Gnolls and humans are?

It would depend on how the magic-use works. It might be that just manipulating magical objects like Poke-kits are not effected.

My gut guess is that magic requires the whole brain to do and thus a dominating Fixit cannot force his host to do magic or risk being pulled off. A Unified/Cooperating Fixit however might actually help amplify their host's/partner's ability though.

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