To continue the thoughts of the previous post, I failed to include the arbitrary threshold option, whereby after someone passes a certain limit, they’re removed from the community. This could be the somewhat standard age limit, as seen in “Star Trek”, “Fallout 3”, and “Logan’s Run”. It could also be a more esoteric limit, such as amount of food eaten or the individual’s cost to community including medical and repair costs. This could also be used as a mobile limit, in that once a community hits its cap, the person who is the oldest, has eaten the most, or cost the most has to go. I can imagine a scenario in which everyone knows where they are on the list and does what they can to keep themselves out of the final slot. This in turn could lead to an incentive system, for instance if someone brings more food into the community, the amount of food they have eaten would be deducted, encouraging people to acquire whatever resource is considered most needed. In turn this could shift again, as each item which is most needed changes; you could be at the top of the most food eaten list, but since air is a more important resource, so long as you make sure that air is the needed resource, you’re safe.
Other systems might involve direction or voting. The young could be given the choice as to who leave, or the elders could be. Each family might submit one member that would be then considered upon by the larger group, or one might volunteer from each family to a collective from which the various other systems might be applied. There would have to be a backup system or clarification in case of a potential tie, or in the cases of a volunteer system where no one volunteers.
Needless to say, these systems are ripe for murder. If you can keep the population below the cap, neither you nor anyone you care about would be under threat for removal. Groups might collude to try to bias the system in their favour; rig the random selection system, change the most needed resource, or ‘correct’ the age of people in the ledger or database. They might also apply social pressure to get someone to volunteer themselves, or apply punishments to friends and family if someone refuses to do so.
Ultimately this entire discussion has been a lead up to the kernel of my thought about these systems of exclusion. Consider a utopia, which is unlike the given situations presented in “The Hunger Games” or “Divergence”, in which the society has achieved a pinnacle of stability and progress. The best representation I can think of is the world of “Demolition Man” only involving much of the stuff above ground; the various factors that lead to bad outcomes have been abolished or ways have been found to redirect their needs. This would likely be some kind of post-necessity society, where everyone has dignified shelter and good food; think about how society on Earth is portrayed in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, where people do what they want, rather than because they have to. The issues of people doing nothing notwithstanding, they have figured out a way to make life comfortable.
Into such a utopia there would be people who could disrupt such a scenario, such as those who are incurable psychopaths or those whose ambitions are such that they covet more than what can be obtained within this society’s structure and would see that structure changed for their benefit. Both of these people would be destroying this utopia, and thus bringing down things for everyone else. To be clear, I am not thinking of a situation where society might go through turmoil to emerge in a better state, as is suggested by the ‘J curve’, but one where the society would go through turmoil to emerge in a worse state. Think of it as going from a mountaintop, down through a valley, and up onto a hill on the other side; it may be stable, but it isn’t as high.
If tests could be done to ferret out such individuals or such characteristics, wouldn’t such tests be a good thing? If we are asked to accept a dystopia in which this sort of thing might occur to maintain their stability, than it is reasonable to accept a utopia in which this sort of thing might occur. Certainly there are more ways to have a dystopia than a utopia, but in the realm of fiction, so long as it is internally consistent, buying into such an idea is just a matter of the suspension of one’s disbelief. At this point we’re looking at it in a kind of pre-crime fashion. They haven’t killed anyone yet, but they are highly likely to. They haven’t tried to take over the country yet, but they are highly likely to. What level of risk is acceptable to take to balance out the rights of the individual?
Are here we are at the core. At some point the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. In so many stories it is portrayed that the needs of the few, or the one, outweigh the needs of the many. If there is a continuum between utopias and dystopias, at what point along that line do we say that such exclusionary tests are no longer just? Would it be acceptable, instead of incarcerating or banishing such individuals who fail these tests, to continuously monitor them, because they are ‘high risk’ subjects? In a certain regard, we do this already. The police pay more attention to certain neighbourhoods than they do to others, and we require older people to retake their driving tests more often than younger people.
I think there is a place to write interesting stories about people who rebel against a system, who are not heroes in such a rebellion. And these people need not be easily or quickly identifiable as villains. Consider the actions of the pregnant woman in “The Walking Dead” video game, whose actions are understandable from their own perspective, but they result in the deaths of so many others. Or the character who in “2012” insisted that they take on the additional passengers, with their only consideration being that their rooms were large enough to fit more people, not taking into consideration any other factors, such as sanitation or food.
Consider “The Minority Report” if Tom Cruise’s character hadn’t been targeted. The story could have been a cat and mouse tale about a murderer who was also a ‘precog’, and was able to determine the steps necessary that would result in their target’s death, but sufficiently away from the actual event to prevent their detection by the other ‘precogs’. Instead of relying on them, he’d have to resort to old fashioned detective work, all the while having his actions potentially predicted by this criminal.
Or consider “The Matrix” where instead of enslaving humanity, the machines are trying to undo the damage done to their world by the war kicked off by humans in the first place. The agents are trying to prevent a mass exodus because it would result in mass starvation, as they only have resources to keep people alive so long as they are in a state of near hibernation, their minds kept active by the Matrix. The One would present the risk of such an exodus.
The story behind “Akira” has this kind of structure, where the initial apparent protagonist eventually becomes the antagonist. Along the way, almost as a side effect, the world goes through a kind of improvement, which was never the intention of that character, and if they had survived, would have likely had become a vicious dictator. The hero of the story stands up to take down his former friend because he had gone insane and become a murderer, even if he was rebelling against those who would otherwise control him.