Would a super powered individual be able to exist in today’s society?

The popular culture that existed in the late twentieth century spawned an explosion of expression, this in tandem with scientific advances spurred our imagination as we looked to achieve ever greater feats. Media provided a fundamental outlet where this expression could find its voice, through books, magazines and television. It provided us with heroes and villains, trials and tribulations and now I’d like to examine what would happen if one of these individuals existed in our society for real.

A super powered individual entering society would face two challenges, the first being the revelation of his/her powers to the society in which they reside. Far from being a grandiose gesture, this would most likely encompass them making contact with their government to declare their abilities. These abilities would then be measured and documented, with the predisposition of the government determining what happens to that individual, whether they be dissected, studied or used by the government. Groups of politicians at the highest levels, utilising the uttermost secrecy would discuss the individual’s potential role within society.

The governmental dilemma that would exist on the revelation of an individual with super powered abilities would be overshadowed by a larger dilemma, the determination of whether this individual with these powers is still classifiable as human. The inclusion of these powers would ostensibly remove them from the human condition, because those classified as human could not undertake the things that this individual could. This status ambiguity could result in a removal of their basic human rights, since they no longer conform to the standard definition of human.

An opportunistic government could use this ambiguity to its advantage, legislating for the dissection of the individual on the grounds that they have no right to exist under human law. The reaction of the human species as a whole to this new species may be the same as the Cro-Magnon to the Neanderthal, except that now the Neanderthal kills the Cro-Magnon. That being said without more of this new species being born the species itself remains a mutation rather than an evolutionary change.

Such a being would undoubtedly create a lot of debate in the scientific community and the world at large.

Human beings by their nature desire community and a super powered individual would be no different. An individual manifesting super powered abilities either through a unique accident or circumstances would still be present in a community for an extended period of time either prior to their manifestation or as a result of their upbringing in that community. During this time, that individual would have/make affiliations with other individuals in the community, individuals whose status would be under threat once this individual had revealed themselves to their respective government. The individual could make one of the conditions of their revelation that these individuals are kept safe by the sponsoring government. This would in all likelihood result in a sort of witness protection programme for the affected. The psychological effects of this upheaval on the individual could be quite damaging.

The second of these challenges would involve the practical application of their powers, would they use them to further their own agenda or work as a subordinate to another’s agenda. With either approach you are faced with one very specific problem, what if that agenda changes? A government may follow a more hard-line approach which would bring the individuals affiliation with them into question and likewise the individuals ethical codes may change to the extent where their politics differ from those of the sponsoring government. This estrangement could lead to dire consequences for both the super powered individual and the government to which he or she is affiliated.

How the individual uses their powers in the societal sphere depends on the character of the individual. Not everyone may want to manifest their powers in an obvious way, some may prefer to remain behind the scenes influencing and changing things without necessarily being visible to the public at large. The preconceived notion that an individual who gains superpowers would put on tights and prepare to fight injustice is a construct of the pop culture of the last 50 years and may bear no resemblance to reality.

Heroes and villains in comic books often do not fight larger battles than against their antagonists. Usually the greater injustices go unanswered, as they are beyond the scope of the medium to which the story is being told. An individual with super powers could use their abilities to greatly change the world.

He or she could use their powers to greatly enhance the knowledge of humanity through use of their super powered abilities, they could travel the universe using means that normal humans would not have access to. The abilities that they possess could be used to enhance all aspects of human life.

The individual could inspire humanity to reach new heights, behave in a way that they would ideally like to behave. The actions of one individual could prompt the revelation of others with super powered abilities, who could take their place in human society.

Yet amidst this garden of roses, there are thorns. The reaction of the human species to this individual could result in a scenario where humanity becomes complacent. By complacency, I mean that humans could look to depend on the super powered individual to run their lives, sacrificing their free will and their futures to them.

There could also be a backlash where this powered individual would be ostracised from their community due to their abilities causing jealousy or negativity. In the same way that some are envious of footballers, there could be those who are envious of super powered individuals.

The individual could rule humanity as a despot, enslaving them under a dictatorship.

The revelation and subsequent reaction to an individual with superpowers is a scenario that could both prove of benefit and detriment to mankind. The course of this will largely be determined by both the individual with the powers and the world into which they exist.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Would a world ultimately free of choice be a better one?

On a daily basis, a person existing in the world makes thousands of choices. If every person in the world made the same number of choices then the numbers would be infinite. These choices determine everything from what sort of coffee they have in the morning to larger choices, should I change my chosen career?

Every choice has a result which spawns a myriad of new choices and the cycle perpetuates itself onwards. Choices themselves can sometimes be obstacles rather than avenues, but what would happen if there was no choice? What if choice never existed or was supplanted by some other entity?

The absence of choice, if undertaken by humans themselves can resemble a totalitarian regime. Choice would not exist because the government of the affected nation would not allow it to exist. That being said, the removal of choice using this means does not necessarily mean that it does not exist, merely it has been withdrawn from acceptable usage by the society.

The trains would run on time, people would display satisfaction in the work and in their lives for fear of the consequences. The government enforcing this would most likely be hard line government, pursuing a philosophy of suppression by political and sociological means.

A society which employs this method of choice removal may seem to be okay on the surface, but discontented elements would ultimately surface primarily due to the presence of one natural phenomenon: Free Will.

Free Will would be the splinter in the foot of the totalitarian regime and could likely lead to its overthrow. True absence of choice could only be accomplished if free will did not exist.

Artificial choice or free will removal could take two potential forms: The disassociation of humankind from the sphere of decision making or the removal of the in-built human ability to perceive choice.

Under the disassociation method, an entity or medium is required to take up the burden of choosing on mankind’s behalf. In today’s scientifically advanced age, the most fool proof way of doing this would be to create a supercomputer, ostensibly to balance and weigh all of the choices available for mankind. Other more localised disassociation methods would rely on individuals and individuals may not choose to proceed with the result of the external choice maker once made.

A supercomputer created to make choices for humanity would require a level of technology un-paralleled in human history and would undoubtedly involve the creation of advanced artificial intelligence. Choices exist outside of the world of black and white and it would take an artificial intelligence to truly appreciate the scope of the choice. This AI would learn from each choice and would take on a degree of omniscience typically associated with a god like entity.

That being said, this choice making computer could be used/manipulated for ends contrary to its intention, it could be used to manipulate a society into submission. On the flip side of the coin, humanity may be reluctant to apportion its free choice to a machine and could rebel against it. The need to be objective about this sort of development would necessitate its response.

The second method, the removal or suppression of the inbuilt ability of Mankind to perceive choice and act on it could be far more effective and far more attainable. Genetic engineering or pharmaceuticals could be used to negate the human ability to perceive choice or act on it much in the same way as an anti-depressant would. Great care needs to be taken with this method to ensure that the negation of choice by pharmaceutical means does not result in an inactive society which does not evolve or progress.

The pharmaceutical method would need to work in tandem with a strong government which pushes its individuals to interact with society. The individuals in charge of this government may need to be free of the need to medicate themselves to direct the medicated populous. In this society of divides, the medicated would essentially become a slave populous and the previously mentioned rebellion against this authority would occur.

The natural absence of choice is a virtual impossibility as the natural world is founded on the principle of choice. Evolution of a species occurs as a result of choice, natural selection occurs as a result of choice and so on. The only way that a natural absence of choice could work is if it only applied to humankind at this time. Other species would simply die out without the ability to choose.

Practically, the absence of choice from the human sphere of perception can be a great levelling force. Many people have so much choice that this forces them into procrastination, or the feeling that their current way of life is in some way not the correct one. A world free of choice would remove the possibility of changing your life to make you happier. Would an individual removed of choice be happier? Maybe, choices can cause uncertainty and without choice the uncertainty would not occur.

As explained previously, this absence of choice may have a potentially detrimental effect on mankind, humanity may simply stop doing things or inversely they may do the same thing over and over again until the species simply exhausts itself. Also the absence of choice doesn’t allow us to anticipate external events, for example a person would not dodge an oncoming car because they could not choose to. If you play this scenario out to its natural conclusion, the human race would be unable to prevent its own extinction simply because it would not be able to choose to.

Under this forced or unenforced absence of choice, humanity would struggle to exist. It is the desire to change, to improve to strive further and further that allows us to become the best of ourselves. A world which exists in this way is most likely to implode, leading to the extinction of mankind via external means or internally through inaction. A better world would not exist.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.