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

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

Post by Werel on Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:01 pm

For the purposes of this story, you might want to get more specific about your definition of "benevolent;" you've been framing it as including a respect for free will, but that gets a little squidgy when you start saying stuff like:

Thanos6 wrote: He is immortal, so he's willing to play a very long game to "fix" cultures.
From what you've said, it sounds like he's "fixing" things to be in line with a white, progressive-ish Western model of the best of all possible worlds. And that sounds pretty white man's burden raises some questions about "benevolence" in this context. Does he respect the validity of other cultures (e.g. does he concede that a cattle bride price is a legitimate system, or does he see it as "backwards" or "barbarous")? Is he just trying to turn the entire world into an upper-middle-class American suburb? Like reboot said:

reboot wrote: 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's very clearly steering the world towards a single kind of culture he sees as "best," and that "best" is very clearly the product of his own acculturation, a lot of folks would not call that "benevolent" and would resist it strongly. So: what are the key guideposts of how you're defining "benevolent"? Does the respect for free will extend beyond the individual to the level of culture?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:27 pm

Werel wrote:

If he's very clearly steering the world towards a single kind of culture he sees as "best," and that "best" is very clearly the product of his own acculturation, a lot of folks would not call that "benevolent" and would resist it strongly. So: what are the key guideposts of how you're defining "benevolent"? Does the respect for free will extend beyond the individual to the level of culture?

Some people would call wiping out cultures genocide, not benevolence. Honestly, it sounds a lot like the attitude towards "modernizing" Native Americans in the 1950s-1970s under the belief that if they were given material goods, medical care and food, they would leave their culture behind. It is not a model I would recommend
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:19 am

He doesn't want everything to be American or Western--there's definitely a lot of things he wants to change about those--but he definitely wants a secular, "progressive" worldview.

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.

Whenever someone throws a punch/pulls a weapon/uncorks a bottle of poison/etc., time stops and he investigates.  Then he resumes time but keeps the assailant(s) frozen and takes them off to jail.  They have the free will to try and commit the assault, and he prevents the assault from being successful.


Does he respect the validity of other cultures (e.g. does he concede that a cattle bride price is a legitimate system, or does he see it as "backwards" or "barbarous")?

If everyone involved is genuinely consenting and wants to do it, he'll allow it.  He'll think it's foolish, though he probably won't say so in public, but he'll allow it; he'll respect its existence but not give it respect, if that makes sense.  But he'll keep a very close eye on it and if anyone genuinely does not want to do it, he'll get them out of there.  Same for things like, say, polygamy or arranged marriage.

Is he just trying to turn the entire world into an upper-middle-class American suburb?

He doesn't want to force everyone to live that kind of life, no, but he does want everyone to have the chance to live that life, if they so choose.  He wants everyone to be able to live any kind of life they want that doesn't interfere with others' chances to live their preferred life.

And that sounds pretty white man's burden raises some questions about "benevolence" in this context.

Well, it's supposed to.  I want the readers to be at least a little uncomfortable about at least some of what he does; I just don't want him to cross the line into sheer unlikeability.  That's why I'm getting advice from you guys, since I have trouble seeing other viewpoints.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:32 am

Quick question about sending people to jail. A good chunk of the world has no functioning government, inhumane jails and nowhere has jail space to hold everyone who committed a "thought crime" (and that is what it is if he stops it before it happens - thought crime - no one has done anything yet). So is one of his first acts going to be building massive prison complexes all around the world? Because he is going to have to.

Also, he is setting himself up as prosecutor, judge and jury. He may be omniscient, but he is just human, with all the quirks and blind spots a human has and is going to be as prone to misscarriage of justice as people are now, especially when operating in cultures and with people he does not understand. Is he going to have a system where people can appeal their sentences? What if people feel a crime happened and he does not see it or he decides that it was not a crime? I am specifically thinking of sexual assaults, but there are other crimes where one person is going to walk away feeling he wronged tgem.

And are people just expected to take his word that someone was going to kill or steal or whatever? Picture some white foreigner rounding up a village and sending them away because he says they were going to do something. How do you think that is going to go over? Would that look like benevolence or imperialist oppression? Why should anyone believe him when he says something was going to happen, especially if he is some powerful outsider?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:53 am

About the prisons, yeah. (Or he might create one huge super-prison somewhere)

And are people just expected to take his word that someone was going to kill or steal or whatever?

That's why he freezes them instead of just instantly teleporting them to prison, so he can show that the person is throwing a punch/getting ready to shoot/holding stolen goods/etc.

Any feedback on the "preventing birth defects/blindness/deafness/etc."? Or maybe making gender dysphoria a thing of the past, so mental gender and biological sex always match? Any negatives to that I have a blindspot for?

EDIT: The thing about miscarriages of justices was added while I was typing. I'll reply to that later.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:02 pm

Thanos6 wrote:About the prisons, yeah. (Or he might create one huge super-prison somewhere)

And are people just expected to take his word that someone was going to kill or steal or whatever?

That's why he freezes them instead of just instantly teleporting them to prison, so he can show that the person is throwing a punch/getting ready to shoot/holding stolen goods/etc.

This is a bit naïve and simplistic. You are assuming that everyone will see a crime when your white, Western value progressive, man sees a crime and all agree on the punishment. That is highly improbable. His justice will be cultural imperialism and injustice to many. For example, if a member of a resistance group is planning a suicide attack on a repressive regime as a part of their struggle for freedom, when he does/does not stop it, someone is going to feel that justice was not served. And there will still be repressive regimes. You set it up so citizens lobby their governments to get on board with him. Some governments are not interested in what their people think.

Also, is he going to broadcast sexual assaults? How does he show that it was not consensual? Does he expect everyone to recognize soft noes? And does the victim really want the entire world to see what happened to them and judge them for it?


Any feedback on the "preventing birth defects/blindness/deafness/etc."? Or maybe making gender dysphoria a thing of the past, so mental gender and biological sex always match? Any negatives to that I have a blindspot for?

EDIT: The thing about miscarriages of justices was added while I was typing. I'll reply to that later.

I am not trans so hesitate to speak on that issue, but my gut says that you are saying that trans people and non-binary people would be erased? Maybe let people choose rather than attempting to "fix" people at birth?

As for blindness, deafness, birth defects, I would think that it would also be best to let people choose. There are incredibly rich deaf and blind cultures and people should be able to choose to remain a part of them. For people being born with conditions, I suppose you could have him fix their genes, but the whole topic is kind of....abelist? You are basically saying that disabled people are problems to be solved and there is only one right way to be. I have a birth defect and I am kind of uncomfortable with the attitude. Part of me wishes I did not have it, although it really only impacts my dating and sex life, since it is cosmetic, not functional, and part of me knows that if I had grown up without it, I would not be me at all. It is tricky, but I lean towards personal choice for any non-fatal birth defect.

This brings up another issue: would he fix kids based on the prayers of their parents? If a baby was born with a defect would he fix it if the parents asked?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:39 pm

I suspect trying to write a character who solves all the world's problems without infringing on people's rights or free will is comparable in difficulty to actually solving all the world's problems. With that in mind, assuming this is still a type of story you want to write, I would recommend limiting the scope of the story by shifting the setting to a place and time other than present-day Earth. Preferably a fictional planet that is conveniently composed entirely of people with a culture approximately similar to one you're intimately familiar with. Maybe do the Nightfall thing and say the inhabitants of this planet aren't human, but have analogous limbs, senses, and psychological constructs, so the word "hand" is used to refer to their grasping appendages and so forth, and now we can basically talk about an entire planet as though it consisted entirely of Western progressives and moderates.

Then some things can actually be addressed and talked about without offending a whole lot of people; if, in this new setting, the set of "birth defects" is limited to stuff like sickle-cell, then yeah, go ahead and "solve" that (and obviously refactor malaria so that it coexists peacefully with not?humans). Even then, philosophical questions like what counts as infringing on free will or right to life/death, and whether it's even okay to view individual struggles as "problems" to be solved with all haste.

There are always going to be some opposing perspectives on whether solving a "problem" is good or bad in the first place.

On the less philosophical, more personal/psychological level, here's how I suspect it would go if someone like me got turned into Bruce Almighty:

"In this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility!" Or in other words, if I have the power to change anything I want, and I also have the power to pause time indefinitely, and there's still a single person who is suffering today, wouldn't it be irresponsible to proceed to tomorrow without first addressing the problem? (This somewhat elides my previous point about the ethical implications of solving other people's problems in the first place, but for the sake of argument suppose this isn't a problematic way to think about personal conflicts.) And if my limitation is that I still have a human perspective (if only because I want to still have a human perspective), then I'm stuck processing the problems of a planet full of people at the speed of one person. But damn it, I'm going to process it all. Any reason not to just sounds like a lame excuse, when I have the power to take as much time as I need to work on anything I want.

So I stop time. And I spent about seven billion days (from my perspective) making sure each individual person on the planet experiences a beautiful, painless, struggle-free day. And then it starts again. Or rather, it continues—after all, the sun never sets on my domain. If I want to experience sleep, I can do that while time is stopped for everyone else, so I really have no excuse for letting an unpleasant minute slip by.

And let's suppose there's no real Monkey's Paw or Zeno's Paradox style flaw in my plan to Solve All The Problems; after all, in just one 24-hour cycle of constantly easing each individual person's burdens, I'll have experienced a couple hundred thousand lifetimes; I'd get really good at solving problems. But now I'm someone who's lived a couple hundred thousand lifetimes, at least from my own perspective. Do I have any "humanity" left in my personality, after that? If so, how much does that make me doubt myself?

Or, maybe working breadth-first through everyone's lives minute-by-minute gets tiring after a few centuries, or makes it hard to interpret people's thoughts and "prayers", or just makes it harder to tell the story, so I put the Groundhog Day curse on myself and go around "improving" things in real time, but doing it in a stable time-loop. How long would I really last, as measured from an outsider's POV, trying to seriously fulfill a goal like "fix everything"? And once I make a compromise, where's the line?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:10 pm

This is a bit naïve and simplistic.

Good!  That's exactly what I'm going for.  He starts the story fairly naive and ends it cynical and depressed.  His character arc is learning that humanity is so complex, even omnipotence doesn't make helping them easy.

And there will still be repressive regimes. You set it up so citizens lobby their governments to get on board with him. Some governments are not interested in what their people think

I may not have been clear.  He's only getting citizens to lobby their governments to formally surrender to him.  Once they do, the governments are dissolved and he assumes direct control.  If they refuse to formally surrender, he just "throws the bums out" and takes over anyway.  He basically runs the world government all by himself. (Not saying this doesn't cause OTHER problems...)

...but my gut says that you are saying that trans people and non-binary people would be erased?

Trying to find the right words for this...basically, as soon as someone growing up starts to get uncomfortable in the body they're in, he offers to change it to whatever they want (this service is available to everybody, but he's more proactive about offering it to trans people and similar).

There are incredibly rich deaf and blind cultures and people should be able to choose to remain a part of them.

Funny story, that's what actually motivated me to start this thread to begin with.  There was an episode of LAW & ORDER about a segment of the deaf community that opposed a surgery that helped deaf children hear.  I have no idea of that's accurate or not, but it got me thinking; that was something I'd never even considered when brainstorming this story, and who knew what else I was overlooking...

With that in mind, assuming this is still a type of story you want to write, I would recommend limiting the scope of the story by shifting the setting to a place and time other than present-day Earth. Preferably a fictional planet that is conveniently composed entirely of people with a culture approximately similar to one you're intimately familiar with. Maybe do the Nightfall thing and say the inhabitants of this planet aren't human, but have analogous limbs, senses, and psychological constructs, so the word "hand" is used to refer to their grasping appendages and so forth, and now we can basically talk about an entire planet as though it consisted entirely of Western progressives and moderates.

I might write two versions of this (ha ha ha, yeah right, part of my brain is saying); one version sat on present day Earth where dealing with the vast complexity of humanity is part of the main plot, and part on an alternate world like you suggest with a planetary mono-culture that makes things a lot easier and has a "happier" resolution.  Speaking of which...

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?

He gets pissed off, yes, but he doesn't lash out.  If, over time, it becomes clear that a majority of people don't want his rule, he basically Rage Quits.  He sets up a few "programs"/"spells" to ensure the most vital things continue to be taken care of (pollution, disease, hunger), gives one last broadcast that basically calls people ungrateful assholes, and then departs for an alternate universe, leaving the world to pick up the pieces.  I haven't decided on the details yet, but it'll basically follow one of two broad outlines:

a) He offers to take with him anyone who supports his ideas or otherwise agrees to follow him to this alternate Earth, which has no humans or other sapient species.  He's able to mold this world into his ideal with much less effort because there's no opposition.  Once a year, he does an "exchange" with his native Earth; anyone who wants to swap Earths, from either one to the other, is allowed to.  The new governments accept this as a small price to pay for otherwise being rid of him.

b) He departs by himself, after leaving an additional "program"/"spell" in place that protects his followers from retribution (how I'm not sure of yet).  He goes to an alternate Earth and also back in time, right when hominids are starting to evolve.  Here, he figures, he can avoid all the problems caused by running into thousands of years of culture.  Here, he can guide them and shape the entire species his way from the beginning...


nearly_takuan, that's exactly the kind of stuff I want to explore in the stories when I actually write them.  That's one of the mental issues he struggles with; if with great power comes great responsibility, what does that say about omnipotence?  How much can he do before it starts to affect even a deity's mental stability?

(And wasn't Nightfall a great book?)
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:54 am

Thanos6 wrote:

I may not have been clear.  He's only getting citizens to lobby their governments to formally surrender to him.  Once they do, the governments are dissolved and he assumes direct control.  If they refuse to formally surrender, he just "throws the bums out" and takes over anyway.  He basically runs the world government all by himself. (Not saying this doesn't cause OTHER problems...)

So he is a combination of imperialist (he does not seem to care if people want him in charge or not....If they do not, does he still take over?) and a 19th century missionary trying to show the poor, benighted savages the (progressive) light, rewarding converts, and withholding benefits to bribe people into following him. His motivations are what drove people to "civilize" the natives. So basically he is an all powerful mega-, missionary. They all thought that they were doing the right thing bringing Christianity with medicine and new, more productive farming techniques.

The more I think about it, the more I think nearly takuan has the right idea. There is no way to write this without the main character coming off like Rudyard Kipling with superpowers if you do it in our world. This could make for some good dystopian fiction, but I get the sense that you want your character to be liked and do not want him making truly terrible mistakes or being the agent of cultural genocide. Because, in reality, he would be ruling a world where anywhere from 1/3-2/3 would probably want to hang him from a tree for being an American, a crusader, a capitalist, an imperialist, etc..

Perhaps, if you insist on keeping it human, it could be on an off earth colony that was settled by Americans, Canadians, and other countries with similar values? That way he is at least operating with people of the same general culture
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:11 am

He doesn't give a damn about whether governments want him. From his perspective, all governments are either corrupt, or not as good at taking care of their citizens as he would be.

He does want to be wanted by the populace, though. He believes that once the initial shock of him taking over wears off, he'll generally be adored for giving much of the world's population the greatest standard of living increase in the shortest amount of time in history. When/if that doesn't happen, he will be completely nonplussed. He hadn't even considered that as a possibility. Then he'll get incredibly livid--"I abolish war, pestilence, and famine, and this is how you treat me?!"--which leads to him pulling one of the aforementioned Rage Quits (probably option B, as I think about it).

Perhaps, if you insist on keeping it human, it could be on an off earth colony that was settled by Americans, Canadians, and other countries with similar values? That way he is at least operating with people of the same general culture

That's an idea. Though after he established paradise there, he'd still want to go back to original Earth and "save" it too...maybe that could be the ending "cliffhanger?"

(Also, I admit, I like the idea of a superhero story where modern Earth gets conquered and things don't immediately go back to the status quo at the end)

I get the sense that you want your character to be liked and do not want him making truly terrible mistakes

Pretty much. I want reader sympathies to stay with him; even if they disagree with his actions, they should see that he means well and is genuinely trying to help everyone, not to mention the various mental issues he deals with along the way.

(There's this one image I've always had in mind; the Imperial Palace, stretching higher than any skyscraper. The world stretching away under it. And he, in his rooftop throne, his head in his hands, impossible to tell if he's laughing or crying or just silent, slumped like Tetsuo from Akira.)
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:49 am

See, the issue for me, is him wanting to be the beloved, superpowered world dictator-missionary who wants to coerce everyone, and bribery is coercion, just ask anyone who had food or education withheld if they did not go to church or convert, into adopting  his Western, middle class, progressive beliefs makes him automatically unlikeable. How arrogant can you get? He is just some schmuck who got superpowers who thinks he is the god-Emperor and likely does not even realize that his powers did not erase all his flaws, blindspots and biases. And then making the story all about, "oh wow is me! Look at my mental anguish! Look at how the savages do not appreciate me! I am doing it for them!" while he sits in his luxury palace like every colonial master ever. Totally a "white man's burden" set up and not sympathetic.

He is just one more in a long line of well intentioned Westerners who goes into places about which he has little to no understanding (and what he does have is likely bigoted and wrong) and think he knows how to "fix" everything. He is trying to do what the US did in Iraq and should expect the same results. I worked there and Afghanistan, and every single person in the occupation government believed themselves to be benevolent and trying to make things better (me included). We were all arrogant and wrong. People may not love their governments, but they sure as hell do not want a foreigner coming in and taking over, especially if they already were colonized by people from the same culture. And people need to develop values organically, not have them forced. Much of what was done in Iraq and Afghanistan was through the same bribery system your protagonist wants to use. "Follow our values and we will give you all the stuff". You can see how well that worked and the level of resentment such a system builds.

I might be able to suspend my dislike,  if the "mighty whitey come to save all the savage brown people from their backwards ignorance" bit was gone. The world dictator thing and the arrogance would still be there, but it would make it slightly less repugnant. Please note, though, that I have a strong anti-authoritarian streak, and am wired to dislike anyone bent on world domination

EDIT: And let's not forget the mind reading police state. Can you even imagine living in a situation where an all powerful dictator could read your mind anytime he wanted to? Hell, at least Big Brother only watched, this guy can snoop your mind
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:46 am

I might be able to suspend my dislike, if the "mighty whitey come to save all the savage brown people from their backwards ignorance" bit was gone. The world dictator thing and the arrogance would still be there, but it would make it slightly less repugnant.

Then how would you suggest I balance this with the concept I want to explore of "with all power comes all responsibility?"  Honest question, not rhetorical.  When he looks at, say, the leaders of ISIS or North Korea, it takes all his self-control to not just vaporize them to ash on the spot; helping "develop values organically" over the long-term while innocent people continued to die would still drive him mad, just another way.  How should someone who's truly omnipotent balance his need to help everyone with the need not to trample all over cultures that are quite different than his, and in some cases, where he despises what they believe in?

Actually, now that I think about it, a new idea's emerging in my head:  Jump to the Rage Quit right away.  He gains omnipotence and considers taking over the world, but for the various reasons we've discussed above, with a heavy heart he ultimately decides against it (but still leavened with a heavy dose of arrogance, e.g., "most people are too stubborn and pig-headed to realize my rule would be good").  So instead he does one of the following:

a) takes care of the obviously bad things like pollution or AIDS, then does his global broadcast, using these miracles as proof of his power (and doing some other minor ones) and offering sanctuary to anyone who's willing to follow and obey him on the alternate, empty Earth where he plans to create his paradise.  He takes the willing and they go, possibly leaving behind a system by which anyone in the future can come join.

b) goes to an alternate Earth in the past, setting himself up as emperor of humanity before they even fully evolve.  He rules the global mono-culture that emerges over the millennia, shaping it according to his vision and not having to deal with thousands of years of in-built traditions that he'd be facing on his home Earth.

c) some combination of the above two.

When things on his New Earth are roughly as he'd like them, he returns to his original Earth, not as conqueror but as ambassador, setting up embassies and the like.  He shows off how (in his view) wonderful and amazing everything is back on New Earth, and mentions that immigration is always welcome.  He's planning on playing the very long game, taking advantage of his immortality, thinking that over the upcoming centuries and millennia more and more people will adopt his beliefs, and eventually his Obviously Superior Lifestyle will prove triumphant and all humanity across both worlds will willfully follow him.  In the meantime, it pains him to let so many horrible things perpetrated by so many horrible people happen, but for now it seems to be the lesser evil.  But he has so many empty universes he can do with as he pleases for stress relief.  And he has all the time there is...

You know, I hate having to give up some scenes I've had planned for quite some time, but now I think I like this better.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:01 pm

This might work, although his "clearly superior" thing still sticks in my craw because it still smacks of imperialism. I think it could be tempered by him seeing things in the old Earth that are superior to his world. Not a lot, mind you, and all of it borne out of pain, suffering, unmet needs, etc., but still beautiful and vibrant. I am thinking of things like Chemheuvi Salt Songs, Fado music, and so, so many other things that exist because life is hard, painful and sacrifice is the name of the game. It would also be richer in stories, legends, viewpoints, philosophies, lauguages, foods, etc..

My guess is that in his world things like community, altruism and self sacrifice do not exist because his people would be kind of mindless drones who just followed his lead and depended on him to take care of them. Odds are it would be an even more self centered culture, because if Big Daddy will always fix everything, you do not need to worry about the impact of your actions on others or really think about making good or bad choices. My guess is there would not be a whole lot of ingenuity, problem solving, etc because no one ever had a survival style problem they needed to solve. Art, if there is any, would be lacking entire topics and would only deal with loss and tragedy on a personal level, since it would never occur on the community level, and even personal tragedies would be limited to heartbreak (unless he lets fatal accidents and illness happen?). It would lack cultural richness and probably linguistic diversity, since it is a monoculture. They would live in a world of material abundance that was completely free from anything other than emotional pain (kind of unavoidable). How they live, how they fill their time, what they care about would be very, very different and I think the contrast between the 2 worlds would be interesting.

Yeah, I could roll with this if his world is not painted as unicorn farts and perfection. I think it would make an intriguing exploration of what is lost/gained and the reader can balance which world they think is better.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Enail on Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:55 pm

Hmm, I think that's taking it a little too far. I would think that unless he was heavily intervening in the day-to-day lives of people rather than providing some resources and setting up some rules/things that are prevented from happening, cultures and even languages would land up developing even if he started off with a monoculture. People seem to have an amazing drive to create and to diverge and normalize those divergences within a group, and I think it would take constant and detailed effort to totally prevent any forms of cultural difference and expression from springing up, even with quite a lot of enforced sameness.

And similarly, I think personal tragedies would still exist as long as people remain mortal (they are mortal, right?), because the very existence of death is one of our most cherished personal tragedies. Art would be lacking many topics but I don't think the drive to create it would be diminished by material abundance. In many time periods and cultures, some forms of art are limited to wealthy people with abundant time and resources (written fiction, and even written works in general often have been, for example).
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:23 pm

I guess it depends how early in human history he intervenes? If the is a global value system and set of beliefs, you will end up with less diversity. Think of all the harvest festivals and traditions that would not exist , because who would grow food if he gave it to them, if he intervened when societies were pre-agricultural? Or how few myths and legends there would be if he eliminated religion? I definitely could be underestimating the cultural and linguistic diversity in old Earth, but languages tended to diverge based on migration, which tended to happen because you were seeking scarce resources. If he comes when humans have just evolved, there might be no reason to migrate out of Kenya because all  material needs would be met right there

So here is the big question: when does he intervene? How far down history's path will people be when he comes?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Enail on Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:54 pm

Good point. But I assume people would still have to spread out because of numbers, unless he'd just warp space so that people could all fit in a region of Kenya. Even then, people would probably settle into groupings of some sort.

I was also assuming a bit less interventionist approach, where everyone shares the basic principles of his value system but people would be free to develop other beliefs and values that don't conflict with the ones he's dictating. Otherwise it seems like it would just require so much ...social gardening, for lack of a better word, to keep people all following the same belief system in every detail even if they all started from his provided culture and were conditioned to follow him. I was even picturing something where people would probably grow food, it would just be made so that they can always grow enough to feed everyone with little labour and it's magically distributed fairly and people magically have access to foods that wouldn't otherwise grow there/at that season, but I'm realizing that's not actually what was said at all, I think I've gone astray from the actual idea.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:38 pm

So here is the big question: when does he intervene? How far down history's path will people be when he comes?

Very early.  Possibly as early as the first split of Homo from Australopithecus roughly 3 million years ago.  Certainly no later than the evolution of archaic Homo sapiens approximately 400,000 years ago.  He is willing to invest a LOT of time and effort to ensure that things are proceeding well by the time a more modern Homo sapiens has evolved--and he'll make sure it will evolve, no matter how much he mucks around.

Re: interventions, I was thinking he would be very interventionist.  He's read quite a bit of theodicy, and questions like "why does God allow evil" or "why are there natural disasters" weigh heavily on him.  He feels he has the moral responsibility to do whatever he can.  Violence, war, hunger, disease; he plans on eradicating all these.  A peaceful passing after a century or so is the only means of death he plans on allowing, and even that he sometimes wonders if he should abolish.  Again, that's the main issue I want to explore; if great power is accompanied by great responsibility, what does that say about someone who has ALL power?  That's the driving question that haunts him.

People seem to have an amazing drive to create and to diverge and normalize those divergences within a group, and I think it would take constant and detailed effort to totally prevent any forms of cultural difference and expression from springing up, even with quite a lot of enforced sameness.

He won't prohibit individual expression that much.  He won't really come down on individual expression; if someone invents a new fashion, anyone can wear whatever they'd like.  Likewise, whatever forms of music crop up, everyone is free to play and enjoy whatever.  It's mostly when different value systems threaten to start cropping up that he steps in ("no, you're not allowed to buy another human").

If he comes when humans have just evolved, there might be no reason to migrate out of Kenya because all  material needs would be met right there

I think people would eventually migrate all over the world, if only to satisfy their curiosity and desire to explore and see what's over that big hill or across all the water.  But wherever they go and whatever new settlements they build, they'll always have access to him.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Werel on Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:55 pm

reboot wrote:Yeah, I could roll with this if his world is not painted as unicorn farts and perfection. I think it would make an intriguing exploration of what is lost/gained and the reader can balance which world they think is better.
Agreed. I like the idea of having a contrasting Old Earth and New Earth, and exploring their relative merits and drawbacks (maybe via a central character who travels between them, à la The Dispossessed). If it's a story about power and responsibility, what better way to explore a bunch of repercussions and benefits than to have multiple human characters with their own opinions about Old Earth (nobody with much power or responsibility) and New Earth (omnipotent imperialist dictatorship with no suffering)? World-building through multiple viewpoints opens up a lot more possibilities than just a story about how god-dude himself feels about it.

If it's an alternate-history story instead, wherein he intervenes at the dawn of homo (which begs the question: where's his benevolence towards the dinosaurs, is he cool just allowing their extinction?), you're gonna need to build a world that's entirely unrecognizable as Earth, which removes the "what would happen if god-tier superhero in modern world" premise where this originated. I think the two-earths immediate-ragequit story is more compelling to me.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:21 pm

World-building through multiple viewpoints opens up a lot more possibilities than just a story about how god-dude himself feels about it.

Well, it was always going to feature multiple viewpoints, he was never going to be the only POV character. Sorry if I gave that impression.
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:08 pm

I can totally see old Earth people who believe in the garden of Eden (actual god present, land of plenty, etc) thinking new Earth is it, doing pilgrimage, and discovering a hotbed of progressive values. Grin
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:10 pm

Oh, that would be hilarious. I totally have to incorporate that. Grin
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Sat Jan 14, 2017 12:30 am

OK, here's the outline as it stands now:

Several characters' plans collide, with the unexpected result that this guy is, unknown to them or anyone else, granted omnipotence. He tests his limits only to discover that, for all intents and purposes, he has none.

He considers taking over the world for its own good, but ultimately decides against it, reasoning that the "small-minded and hidebound" will remain opposed to him no matter how benevolent he is.

Instead, he transmits a message to everyone in the world. He makes his offer to take anyone who chooses to an alternate Earth with no people currently on it, where he'll rule as Emperor. He'll provide his subjects with all their material needs and desires; there will be no hunger, poverty, disease, war, etc. He'll grant pretty much any wish they want that doesn't infringe on others. To prove his power, he performs some miracles such as closing the ozone holes, eliminating AIDS, things like that.

Then he waits. Those who accept his offer do so mentally; for lack of better word, by "prayer." He goes around the world picking them up. Some governments, authorities, etc. try to stop him. He defeats them handily, humiliating them but causing no fatalities.

He teleports all his followers to New Earth, providing them all with their dream homes and granting their various wishes, adjudicating any minor disputes that arise and keeping his edicts clarified.

After several months, he returns to the original Earth, presenting himself as ruler of New Earth, or whatever more original name I come up with. He works out immigration deals with as many countries as possible; for those countries that don't cooperate, he teleports away those of their citizens who want to join him anyway, believing that if someone wants to leave their country they have every right to do so.

He also starts a few experiments on the side: on a different Earth, he tries to shepherd humanity early in its evolution; on yet another Earth, he watches over and guides life from its beginning; and in several other uninhabited universes, he starts changing the very laws of science themselves, to see what happens. (In this multiverse, there's basically infinite universes.)

At some point, all the responsibility, as well as the knowledge of everyone on Original Earth that he's stopping himself from helping, causes him to have the previously mentioned moment of being slumped in his throne. (I've had that scene in my head for 22 years and I refuse to jettison it.) He doesn't have a full mental breakdown or anything, but he's very depressed for quite some time.

Before I go much further, how does this sound? Better?
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:11 am

I am latebird, but a few thoughts:

On New Earth: he is going to live as god-emperor in a palace with his chosen folks. This will cause resentment on New Earth, especially if his followers have privileges not granted to others. Doubly so if he grants immortality to his friends. Picking who lives and who dies will always cause a ruckus

Do his friends from Old Earth die? If yes, how does he pick replacements? If no, how does he keep them in check and keep them from fucking with the New Earth people. Because if people from our time are immortal and hook up with a god-emperor in a naive planet bribery and exploitation will happen. If new "chosen" are picked each generation, that will be even more resentment

He could be the "invisible hand" and be unknown to all with no palace, no recognized-by,-others power. Just a nameless dude throughout history on New Earth. That could make for an interesting internal situation and bring a conflict as he debates revealing himself when he decides to contact Old Earth
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by Thanos6 on Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:01 am

I figure he'll grant immortality to everybody on New Earth that wants it. The only special privileges that being the Emperor's friend grants you are simply enjoying his company like you did before he became omnipotent. Maybe just being able to brag "I'm a friend of the Emperor." Otherwise, it doesn't get you anything that being a regular New Earth citizen does
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

Post by reboot on Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:37 am

Thanos6 wrote:I figure he'll grant immortality to everybody on New Earth that wants it. The only special privileges that being the Emperor's friend grants you are simply enjoying his company like you did before he became omnipotent. Maybe just being able to brag "I'm a friend of the Emperor." Otherwise, it doesn't get you anything that being a regular New Earth citizen does

But he can grant wishes, right? And he has a prioritization system for wishes that friends can influence (or claim to). I mean he doesn't give every 2 year old a pony and every sad soul a partner, but he could if he wanted....And that is where influence pedaling comes in

So all New Earth people are immortal? Does that mean they can jump off buildings and live? Skydive with no parachute? Does that translate to the Old Earth? If no, people aon New Earth will learn to grieve. If yes, you have demi-,gods on Old Earth who might get ideas

You do realize him living in a palace will make New Earth people resent him. It will look like an unearned privilege because he came into their social development so early. They have no reason to be grateful and every reason to feel envy. Even if you have your necessities taken care of, it makes people angry if someone has something they didn't visibly earn. And if New Earth is going so smooth for so long no one will remember before as anything other than old stories whose veracity is doubted
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Re: On the ethics of becoming God - help with brainstorming? [disc]

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