Sociopaths and Narcissists

A Sociopath is someone who lacks what are sometimes called the higher emotions: love, compassion, or a sense of shame. They only have the basic lizard brain emotions such as fear and anger. They lack the ability to feel sorry for anyone else, or any sense of empathy whatsoever.
A Narcissist is someone who has the higher emotions but only as they apply to themselves. Like sociopaths, they lack the ability to care about anyone else.

Depending on which study you are looking at, between 1% and 10% of the population in the west is either a sociopath or a narcissist.
Studies also show more than half the people in prison for violent crimes are sociopaths.

While most sociopaths and narcissists can blend in well, there are easy ways of testing for it. For example, upon seeing someone grievously hurt there are certain psychological changes that can’t be faked. Those changes can be tested for. There is no reason a society could not have mandatory testing for all its people upon adulthood.

So knowing the above what if a society decided to treat them as second class citizens? Tattoo them, forbid them from running for office or anywhere that lives would depend on them.
There is no real data on what would happen to our society at large. From what little data we have a large percentage of CEO’s and politicians are either sociopaths or narcissists (sociopaths at least tend to gravatate to positions of power and money, such as being a surgeon). While we have no way of knowing for sure what would happen, I think the changes would be both profound and subtle.
Both groups are fond of the big lie. The idea that if a lie is big enough and absurd enough it will be believed. This often works because we assume everyone’s brain works like ours does. We assume people we are talking to or who are talking to us have compassion as we do.

Doing this would of course create an underclass. What I find interesting is how this would be an underclass that would have little to do with money or with hereditary. You would be putting people there because of who they are and not what they are.

The outcome of this could range on one extreme from being disabled. Little socal stigma, they would just be unable to do certain jobs. The other end of the spectrum they would be untouchables, shunned by all and trusted by none.

The Justice system

One subject that comes up only occasionally in sci-fi is how future societies punish criminals.

In modern western societies almost all punishment come in one of two forms, either prison time or money.

While people may sometimes speak of rehabilitation little is done on that front today.

Prisons are very expensive to maintain, not only in terms of money but in terms of manpower. They rely on a large tax base and on having a good amount of manpower.

While fee’s have the benefit of not costing tax money, they do have the disadvantage of being asymmetrical. What is a small fee to one person is a large one to someone else. Its very hard to have a set fee work on both a wealthy businessman and someone who makes minimum wage.

When you are making a future society think about how they will punish those who wronged them. Maybe more importantly, consider what they want more; punishment, recompense or rehabilitation. You also have to consider how important productively is. If a people need workers badly enough, they might not be willing to take them out of the workforce so any punishment can’t remove them from the workforce.

Even if punishment stays the focus, there are many other ways we could go about it. Humiliation was common at one point, as was mutilation.

One idea I could see taking hold is having a chance at death be the punishment for every crime. If you killed someone, you have a 1/3 chance of drawing a death penalty. If you messed up someones lawn you have a 1/500, ect.

Its possible that punishment will not be the focus of the justice system at all, it will instead be recompense. If you kill someone you have to make up for it.

Maybe you have to support his family. If he was donating to a charity you have to as well. You have to in every way possible make up for him not being alive anymore. Maybe even to the point of organ donation.

Under this system the rich might be able to kill poor people without much problem. It would just mean a day in court after which you tell your accountant to pay them and you never think about it again. Legally nothing could be done against you.

I would probably make faking injuries and framing people much more common. If you make it look like someone made you unable to work they would have to pay for lost wages. Maybe a lot of lost wages.

Such a system would be contingent on the ability to enforce. How hard would it be to run away? If we are talking about a cashless future where everything is done electronically and its all tied to your ID then it might be very hard.

Rehabilitation is the third option, a more compassionate society then ours might not want revenge or even for the offenders to fix the problems they caused but for the offenders to become better people. They might not want a murderer to be punished. Rather they may want the murderer to know why what he did was wrong and to never do it again.

While it may be tempting to go in a Star Trek style direction with this I think it would be more interesting to go the other way. What if you had brainwashing technology and used it when someone committed a capital crime. The murderer would be forced to believe that murder was wrong.

What effect would that have? What would it be like to be an unrepentant murderer who was forced to feel that what he did was wrong?

Review: Freefall

Freefall by Felix R. Savage

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Freefall was definitely hard science fiction. It also had elements of a spy thriller and a Project Manhattan style race. That may make it sound scattershot but its not.

Spoilers ahead, you have been warned (I will keep them light however)

Just after the shuttle program is shut down we detect an alien ship in orbit of one of the moons of Jupiter. The book is about our reaction to this. The leaders of the world decide they have to send a ship there and at minimum make sure it’s no threat (the ship looks like its dead in space) and at best grab everything not nailed down.
In pursuit of this, the entire worlds supply of rockets are used over the course of two years to put our new ship and its supplies into orbit. To make the ship itself requires a massive level of resources from the five richest nations on earth. Many authors would underestimate the scope of the resources needed, but Felix R. Savage did not.
Beyond the money spent, the government (at least the US) was willing to lie, steal and kill to get the technologies needed to make the ship work.

One of my pet peeves is when books show everyone as selfish, or evil with little redeeming characteristics. While freefall does not go that far, and many of the characters exist in a shade of gray, it does veer in that direction. The main character, Jack Kildare, is a main part of the reason this does not became too much of an issue. He is a good man who really only wants to just be an astronaut.

The scope of the book, in concept and scope truly made it a pleasure to read and I am looking forward to reading the sequels.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Stepping outside yourself

One of the harder things to do when writing science fiction, or any genre that is not set in the present is to step outside your own biases, to create characters who are very different from you.
This sounds both obvious and simple but it is neither.

For example, I am an American, I like to think the best of my country, its people and our government. I can’t however allow that to mean that I make American’s in my story angels. Nor can I allow the opposite, for a people I dislike to be nothing but demons, caricatures without depth.

You have to allow groups who you like to sometimes be evil, and to have dishonorable members. Just as you have to allow the opposite. There were good and honorable men even in the Nazi party after all.

In one of my first drafts, it was only the US who had any real presence when the first colonies started to launch off planet. I realized that that made no sense. I might like the idea of the US getting into space and acting with honor but given the huge economic motivations, that would hardly have been realistic.

Even those things that you may think are inherently part of the human condition may not be. Make sure to know the difference between culture and biology.

Loving your children
The sad fact is that if you go back far enough in most societies people routinely abused their children, including leaving them to die by exposure if they were unwanted (ancient Greeks for one example). The idea that parents do or should love their children unconditionally is part of our culture, not part of human biology.

America had laws to protect animals from abuse before we had laws to protect children. A major case against child abuse was won by an animal rights lawyer arguing that children are mammals and at least deserve the same rights that animals have (Mary Ellen Wilson in 1870’s).

Romantic love
Marriage originally was a simple trade. The women agrees to provide her limited ability to have children, the man agrees to use his superior strength and endurance to provide for her. While obviously wives did more then just give birth, that is the only thing they did that only they could do. Everything else they did a man could do. Some of the things he could even do better (hard physical labor).

Love was not a factor. Love became embedding in the culture of the west during the middle ages somewhere around the end of the 11th century. If you look at literature before the 11th century romance as we would define it today is rare to nonexistent.

Even in other modern countries love is not seen the same way it is here. After all, you can hardly have both massive numbers of arranged marriages and a belief that love is what matters most in a relationship.

Tribalism is the feeling of belonging to a larger group, and of the feeling of not belonging to others.

While it might be easy for me to think of everyone being part of a nation that is not the case. It is not unusual for a people to think of themselves first, their family second their village a distant third, and their nation not at all.

In fact, seeing anyone beyond your family and tribe as being “one of you” is a relatively new development in human history.

Making your own way in life
It is a very common theme in both our media and our culture that you should go your own way. Walk the less traveled path. While that is an important part of our culture there are cultures where the opposite is true. There are cultures who are more collectivist then ours, such as most Asian cultures.