On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

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On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 04, 2017 1:37 am

So I'm writing a bunch of prose superhero stories, and down the line, I plan a storyarc where a regular guy basically gains omnipotence. (This doesn't happen intentionally, on his part or anyone's; it's the accidental result of another character's plans) He had no superpowers beforehand; now he IS power. Aside from logically impossible things, like create a ten-sided triangle, he can do anything he chooses, including re-write the laws of science. If you're familiar with things like the Beyonder or the Infinity Gauntlet, it's that level.

He's a basically good, well-meaning guy, and wants to use his new power to improve the world. Of course, not everyone agrees with him on what counts as improvements...

I was wondering if any of you would be willing to give me feedback on some of his planned actions. I don't want the audience to think of him as a villain; readers may disagree with some of what he does, but I don't want them to hate him. So I would appreciate some alternate POVs, for ethical or moral angles I haven't even considered. Some of his plans I may change; others I may leave as they are but have other characters express any reservations that you all bring up.

Would anyone be interested in letting me run my ideas by you? Thanks in advance.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:36 am

Sure. I would be cool with that
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:06 am

I'd love to help, the limits of omnipotence sound like a fascinating topic, as well as what ideas you have to prevent meta-hacks of ethical dilemmas ("I want people to stop committing the most commonly agreed upon crimes due to an infinite series of coincidences that does not destroy free will, but makes people come to their own decisions based on the position of the external world-a gun meant to commit a crime gets lost, the burglar goes at exactly the right time the person is home and gives up, etcetera").

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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:04 pm

Thanks!

All right, the first thing he does is take over the world. ("Of course!") He could just be God from behind the scenes, but he thinks it's only fair that people know who's really in charge. He issues a Cobra Commander style ultimatum over all the world's media (and the listener always hears it in their primary language), then snaps his fingers and disables every military weapon and vehicle in the world; tanks won't drive, fighter jets won't fly, missiles won't launch, etc. And he does it all without harming anyone. A bunch of superheroes try to fight him, but they have no luck; again, he defeats them with the bare minimum force.

Then he delivers another broadcast to the world, saying that it would be nice to have a legal, formal transfer of power to him, so citizens, how about you put pressure on your rulers/elected officials/etc. to surrender to him? And he decides to give everyone a "free sample" of the kind of benefits that he, as Supreme Ruler, can provide: with another fingersnap, he heals wounds and deformities all over the world. Those who lost their eyes can see again; those who had to have their limbs amputated have them back; etc. (This is only for injuries that happened at some point in their life; for people who were born blind, or without limbs, or whatever, he plans to later take a more measured approach that takes each individual's preference into account).

Then he says that this is only the barest sample of the miracles and improvements he can provide to the world, so won't you please tell your leaders to put him in charge? (Since he's a nice guy and doesn't want to kill, or even really threaten, he figures this is the best way to go)

Thoughts so far?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:51 pm

First thought: have you read Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End? The aliens in that proceed almost exactly the way you're describing, with voluntary-but-not-really disarmament and submergence of world governments (for their own good, dontcha know). If this setup is already partly based on that, ignore my pedantic self and carry on; if you haven't read it, it might give you some ideas to play with and let you throw in a few knowing winks to a classic scenario. Wink
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:55 pm

Werel wrote:First thought: have you read Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End? The aliens in that proceed almost exactly the way you're describing, with voluntary-but-not-really disarmament and submergence of world governments (for their own good, dontcha know). If this setup is already partly based on that, ignore my pedantic self and carry on; if you haven't read it, it might give you some ideas to play with and let you throw in a few knowing winks to a classic scenario. Wink

Nope, can't say as I have. I'll have to check it out, thanks for the heads up.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:05 pm

<mod>Moved this thread to Geekery & Entertainment for better topic fit, because tidiness!</mod>
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:06 pm

Sorry about that, Werel.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:07 pm

No worries at all! And if there's a reason you wanted it in Gender/Identity/Society and don't think it fits here, let us know.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:09 pm

I just figured since it was about massive changes to the government and society, that seemed like the best fit to me, but I don't have any real preference. Smile
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by BasedBuzzed on Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:24 pm

Alright, so do we have people returning to improvised weapons, I suppose, homemade explosives like molotovs (eg, anything that's in a fuzzy zone). Also, suicides when faith is proven wrong or people fear some sort of absolute dictator. How does he deal with the psychological pressure? And people suddenly coming to plea with him for all sorts of special requests?

Furthermore, he'll be immune to superpowers, but he's still somewhat human. People will come for his loved ones in order to obtain a bargaining chip. Is he omniscient? How does he guarantee free will? How do you make ethical dilemmas that seem like a challenge, and does he have antagonists who oppose him in an effective way?

(Also, Irredeemable/Worm/a list of Rational Fics might help in looking at what's already been done when it comes to what people would do to fight God-tier characters or think in an unconventional manner)

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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:23 pm

He's not always fully omniscient; he fears that constantly having every datum in existence going through his mind would cause him to lose his human/mortal perspective. Instead he's selectively omniscient; he doesn't always know everything, but he can know anything. He just has to want to know something and he will. (Does that make sense?)

He doesn't have any surviving family. He has his friends move into the Imperial Palace with him, for largely the same reason; to help keep him grounded. And also for safety.

For prayers, that depends. Things like "I'm starving" or "we're being killed by disease" are answered on a global scale early on in his reign. For things that are less "I need" and more "I want," he'll consider those individually. (He'll probably stop time every now and then to do so) It gets old fast, but he considers it an important part of his job.

There's no real antagonists; the story is mostly about him dealing with the psychological pressure. There's lots of fiction where a mortal becomes a malevolent God, a mad God, a selfish God, or just an uncaring God, but I haven't seen much where the empowered human tries to be a truly benevolent God. That's what I want to explore, the kind of struggles that would come with that.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:17 pm

Here is a list of issues I can foresee:

First off, a good chunk of the population will think he is the Antichrist (beware false prophets) or some kind of demon, so you are going to have some guerrilla crusader movements cropping up. There are lots and lots of "wolf in sheep's clothing" type legends and stories, so he should be facing some religious resistance using improvised weapons like fertilizer bombs and other things made out of household goods. Any act of power on his part would just confirm his evil to them, so this would likely lead to a battle to the death.

Secondly, existing religions may take him as a manifestation of their god. This will lead to them competing to get him to show favor to their believers and him having to pick and choose to balance the communities so that they still follow him and do not jump to the resistance or assume favor and go on a religious rampage. He will have to figure out how to address prayers about punishing specific ethnic and religious groups for past wrongs, with the threat that if he said "get along", people will decide he is as false prophet.

Next, there are the people who will believe he is a fraud and just the tool of the government to control the masses. These folks are going to fight with conspiracy theories. Think chemtrails.

Then there are likely to be non-believers who assume (rightly?) that he is just a mortal man with extraordinary powers, with all the flaws and blindness (and biases) of a human, and needs to be controlled and opposed. One person's benevolence can be another's injustice when 2 or more people want the same thing, so this group will want to check his power, or perhaps assassinate him. Because no one man can be trusted to have unchecked power. In your scenario, I would be in this group

Lastly, there will be the fanatics who believe in him and seek to impose his will (as they interpret it). These are the folks who will burn those of different beliefs at the stake or accuse the neighbor they fight with or the person who dumped them of apostasy and stone them to death in his name.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:38 pm

One yeah, you are going to have the opportunists and sycophants who get close to him and the palace for personal gain. There will be a lot of palace intrigue and attempts at manipulation, likely with his friends who came being major players. It is going to make the Byzantine and Chinese imperial courts look like a Montessori preschool. Expect a lot of bribe taking and exploitation of believers to get individual prayers answered. He will be at the center of a pretty corrupt Court, no matter how benevolent he might be, unless he executes or severely punished corruption. And if he does that, expect assassination attempts. Actually, no matter what he does, he should expect assassination attempts by those close to him. His friends he brought in would also likely be infighting and maybe killing each other or being killed by people who want to get into the inner circle
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:12 pm

Everything reboot said is pretty spot on. Widespread upheaval from disrupted (or stubbornly adhered-to) belief systems will be one of this guy's biggest problems. Of course, if he's actually omnipotent, he could always circumvent that by cementing into everyone's brains an unquestioning faith in his own benevolence/trustworthiness/status as the True God/etc., but how benevolent is that really? (Cixin Liu's The Dark Forest explores the ethics of a technology which can implant unshakeable belief in a given proposition, but in that book, it's strictly a voluntary process an individual can opt in to, not a global-scale brainwashing op).

reboot wrote:It is going to make the Byzantine and Chinese imperial courts look like a Montessori preschool.
rofl

Omniscience ought to cover the "who's gonna assassinate me next" angle, but if it has to be an active-effort omniscience (you said he has to voluntarily seek out a piece of information to have it?), he's going to need to have "who's gonna assassinate me next" running as a background process 24/7 and addressing each new answer as it comes up. If I were him I'd just set up a neural macro to constantly run that query and deal with the person it turns up on an ongoing basis. Is he the kind of benevolent hayseed who'd bring all his would-be assassins to his house for a friendly chat, and attempt to change their minds about him through good old-fashioned aw-shucks neighborly conversation?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:25 pm

His macro would have to be super sophisticated and able to filter out the many people in the resistance who want him dead from those who are a little closer and with access, as well as those for whom it is a passing thought vs an active plan.

Some other things to consider:

If people pray for enough food, where does that food come from? Can he create something out of nothing? Or does it get redistributed from others?

In the same vein, can he create living things? If people pray for 100 cows for their son's bride price, can or will he make them? And if he can and will, how can he address the overgrazing of land and destruction of forests that would accompany such prayers? And he will get them. In some parts of the world livestock=wealth. In a similar vein, how does he handle prayers for a partner? Does he make the people or force someone to feel something they would not have felt if they were left alone?

Is he immortal? If he is not, what is his continuity plan? How are people going to react when their god dies? If he is immortal, is it heritable? If yes, will he reproduce and create rival gods? Will he remain celibate? If no, will he cause partners to miscarry or abort if pregnancy occurs?

Lastly, where he is from and what is his faith (if any) is going to matter a lot because it will dictate his beliefs about justice, free will, what is right/wrong and if people follow/support him. Current geopolitics will dictate whether people follow him by choice or believe he is some trick. Think about it. If he is American, do you think the Russians, Chinese, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, etc are going to believe he is divine and benevolent? And vice versa. Or if he was raised Christian, would Muslims follow him and vice versa? If he was atheist or agnostic, would he even pretend to godhood?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:31 pm

*whistles*



Thanks for the replies so far!  You've brought up stuff I hadn't even considered.

Assassination attempts are futile; he's set his baseline durability to "damn near indestructible."  That doesn't mean people won't try, of course, but they won't succeed.  His treatment of any attempted assassins depends on a.) their motives and b.) their willingness to inflict collateral damage.  The more selfish their motives, and the more blase they are about hurting other people, the worse treatment they get.  Some might get nothing worse than a stern talking to and an attempt to convince them of his good intentions.  Others...won't be so lucky.

He believes very strongly in free will, and absolutely refuses to alter people's minds.  He plans on winning everyone over the hard way, no matter how annoyed and disgruntled it makes him.

He can indeed create things from nothing.  Food is created and presented in a "ready to eat" state, having never really been alive.  On the subject of creating living things, he gets more and more ambivalent about doing it the more aware and sapient the organism.  He'd create a tree with barely a twinge, but creating animals gives him pause, and he will not create humans, or other organisms on the same level.

Prayers for wealth itself generally go unanswered; he views that as unnecessary.  Why give them money when he can just give them what they want to buy with that money instead, and cut out a step in the middle?  Gifts are distributed like he's Santa Claus and every day is Christmas.  If someone wants something truly unique, i.e., the Mona Lisa or the Hope Diamond, he offers to make them an identical copy, but if that's not good enough and they want the real thing, he tells them no because there's only so many "originals" to go around and that would be unfair.

He plans on giving everyone in the world a First World upper-class quality of life; the environmental problems this would normally cause he can just fix or make never happen in the first place.

Prayers for love or sex he's admittedly not quite sure what to do with; for sex, some days he entertains the idea of simply visiting each supplicant, transformed into their ideal partner and giving them a lay.  But he figures that with everything he has to fix, love and sex are low priorities and he can figure out something later.

(Have to go now, but I'll be back later to respond to more of your points.  Thanks so much for the feedback so far!)
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:05 pm

Ah, but in dowry/bride price societies, the prayers for wealth are to get a spouse for a child. So would he just create the spouse? Force the potential spouse's family to agree to a lower dowry/bride price?

Edit: On the visiting each person who wants sex from a specific person, you are saying he will rape them. They want to be with a specific person, not him. The specific person will not know it happened, so will O_o the next morning, letting the supplicant know that whoever they had sex with was not the person they wanted. They will not know who it was. Not good


Last edited by reboot on Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:18 pm

Thanos6 wrote:The more selfish their motives, and the more blase they are about hurting other people, the worse treatment they get.  Some might get nothing worse than a stern talking to and an attempt to convince them of his good intentions.  Others...won't be so lucky.
And if they can't be convinced? Or if their motives were selfish? Is he down with killing/incapacitating people if their free will remains locked onto opposing or harming him?

Thanos6 wrote:He can indeed create things from nothing.  Food is created and presented in a "ready to eat" state, having never really been alive.
So if there is e.g. a starving family who can't eat the ready-to-eat magic food because it's not halal or kosher (can't have been slaughtered properly if it wasn't slaughtered at all), how's he handle that? Do they just have to shut up and get over it, since the existence of this guy has already disproven their former religious convictions?

Thanos6 wrote:He plans on giving everyone in the world a First World upper-class quality of life; the environmental problems this would normally cause he can just fix or make never happen in the first place.
Space problems: is there enough land on the planet to give everyone the kind of life where they have a standalone house on an acre or more (American upper-class style), or are we talking "endlessly tall apartment buildings with deluxe penthouses" here? What about people who opt to preserve a subsistence lifestyle because they prefer it?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:05 am

On the visiting each person who wants sex from a specific person, you are saying he will rape them. They want to be with a specific person, not him. The specific person will not know it happened, so will O_o the next morning, letting the supplicant know that whoever they had sex with was not the person they wanted. They will not know who it was. Not good

No no no! Exactly the opposite! He'll make the offer to them and then, if they accept, he'll show up turned into their fantasy. They'll know the whole time it's not really them. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

As for the dowry thing, he'd probably just offer to pay it himself. But he'd also put significant pressure on the culture to get rid of the whole dowry thing. He is immortal, so he's willing to play a very long game to "fix" cultures. (And to answer your earlier question, he prevents himself from having children)

And if they can't be convinced? Or if their motives were selfish? Is he down with killing/incapacitating people if their free will remains locked onto opposing or harming him?

If all they're doing is protesting or speaking against him, that's fine; everyone has that right. If they try to actively sabotage some of his reforms, they'll get a slap on the wrist, like being forced to dress as a clown for a week or something. It's only violence that gets real punishment, especially violence that hurts or has the potential to hurt third parties, that's what earns incarceration.

So if there is e.g. a starving family who can't eat the ready-to-eat magic food because it's not halal or kosher (can't have been slaughtered properly if it wasn't slaughtered at all), how's he handle that? Do they just have to shut up and get over it, since the existence of this guy has already disproven their former religious convictions?

He'll offer a vegetarian option, but if they want free meat, then yes, they'll have to deal with it.

Space problems: is there enough land on the planet to give everyone the kind of life where they have a standalone house on an acre or more (American upper-class style), or are we talking "endlessly tall apartment buildings with deluxe penthouses" here? What about people who opt to preserve a subsistence lifestyle because they prefer it?

He actually considers expanding the planet to make sure everyone has room. As for those who would rather stay on a subsistence level, they're welcome to do so. But he'll be monitoring them to ensure they don't exploit their children, and he'll give them all the chance to join "plentiful" society at any time.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:21 am

People do not give up history, culture and religion like a discarded set of clothes. Expect people to starve rather than eat unsanctioned food or "unnatural" food (I.e. never grown)

So he will pay a dowry in cows? Where will he get them. Remember, cows not cash are the currency and he is not going to change that.

As for the partner thing....Um, he looks like the person but İs not them. Why in the hell would anyone take that offer? Unless they are an ass who sees people as a body, not a person? Because if they took his offer they only want the outside of someone, not the person. Why would he reward that?

Expanding the planet would have incredibly bad knock on effects. Could he master gravity, tides, the sun and moon, planetary orbits, etc while also avoiding assassination, answering prayers, keeping on to of planetary intrigue, and avoiding religious wars between his believers and the rest?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:52 am

People do not give up history, culture and religion like a discarded set of clothes. Expect people to starve rather than eat unsanctioned food or "unnatural" food (I.e. never grown)

That's why I mentioned the long game. He's willing to wear them away, over thousands of years, like water dripping on a stone. As for starving, he'll probably be willing to make compromises for children, but not adults. He certainly won't stop them getting food by other means that fit their "needs," but he won't help them either.

Unless they are an ass who sees people as a body, not a person? Because if they took his offer they only want the outside of someone, not the person. Why would he reward that?

Why shouldn't he? He's fulfilling fantasies on the "one night stand" level. At that level, they generally are just looking for a body they like, and he's offering to give them that to the ultimate. If someone wants a real relationship, they still have to go do that the hard way.

Another thing he'll do is cure diseases and such worldwide. I'm wondering if he might tamper with genes or something so no future children are ever born blind, deaf, with birth defects or various syndromes, etc. But that's another area I'm unsure of the implications of.

He also plans to help people who say they were wrongfully convicted, by looking back through time to see if they're innocent of the crime, and if they are, who actually did it.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:46 am

You kind of do not get one night stands. İt is not necessarily just wanting a body, it is often wanting a whole person, so a copy is not going to hack it. İf I we're you, I would have him deny these requests because there is no realistic and not squicky and rapey or objectifying or dehumanizing way to fulfill them. You are basically saying that for sex, people are interchangeable and that is just not accurate.

As for religion, I hope he has a couple hundred or thousand years. Think of the crypto-Christians in Japan. For over 200 years they kept their Catholic faith, only coming out of the shadows in the Meiji restoration. And that was under punishment of death.

Odds are religion will get stronger because of him because they will see him as proof of faith or as an evil to fight against. His powers will likely bring on a religious revival and people that believe in him will fight the unbelievers. Many things will be done on his name, some that he agrees with and some that he does not. The acts of his followers will harden resistance to him because many of them will be petty and cruel. Remember, he is just a new god, but people have not changed, so the behavior of true believers to unbelievers will be what it has always been. And he cannot rely on just telling them, "No", because people ignore or interpret divine signs to their own advantage

He needs to have a way to handle his believers burning the village of unbelievers and hacking the survivors to death in his name. He cannot rely on catching it during the planning stages because these kind of things are largely unplanned and flare up over fights in the market, an insult, etc.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:06 pm

Well, I guess we've had different experiences with our one night stands; but, then, the only thing I've ever had that was supposed to be a one night stand turned into a relationship anyway, so I guess I'm not the most experienced. Smile

Odds are religion will get stronger because of him because they will see him as proof of faith or as an evil to fight against.

I suppose this won't be affected by him not calling himself a god, would it?  He just presents himself as the "ultimate superhero," but I guess that wouldn't matter.

He needs to have a way to handle his believers burning the village of unbelievers and hacking the survivors to death in his name. He cannot rely on catching it during the planning stages because these kind of things are largely unplanned and flare up over fights in the market, an insult, etc.

I was thinking of implementing Werel's "macro" idea; he sets things up so that whenever violence is about to erupt or someone is trying to do deliberate harm to someone, time stops and he's made aware, so he can intervene.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sun Jan 08, 2017 7:50 pm

So I guess the big question is how he intervenes. It is going to be damned hard to allow people to have free will and prevent internecine violence. These hates run deep and if one group follows him and another does not, it will deepen the divide. And trust me, if one group follows him,the other is not going to. If he wants people to keep following him, they are going to want him to punish the unbelievers.

This also brings up a question, what happens if the population as a whole turns on him? What if they reject what he offers? What happens if material comforts and health are not enough? Or are not what people want? Or if once they have them they are still unsatisfied? If people turn their backs on him, how will he react? Will he try to regain their support and maybe have to break his own rules to do it? Will he get angry and lash out at their ingratitude?
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