Poll Position: Game changers

This week's poll position posits:


I originally thought, "What power would, if everyone in the world had it, most dramatically change human society?" but then I thought it might be more fun to speculate on what you yourself would do if you were singularly gifted, and everyone else stayed the same. So here we go!

  1. Invulnerability: I don't see how this has dramatic, society-wide repercussions. You can't be hurt, big deal -- they throw you in a cell and you're done for. Granted you could go and save people from burning buildings and such, but even that's pretty small-scale.
  2. Super speed: I keep thinking back to "Kingdom Come"s version of the Scarlet Speedster, where the Flash is a never-seen, always-vigilant, omnipresent force in the city, able to prevent every crime just before it happens and ensuring the safety of all. That's both cool and pretty damn frightening. Plus you'd be exhausted.
  3. Time travel: This one depends on how you think time travel works. Do you end up just splitting off an alternate dimension? Is it even possible to actually change the past or the future or is it all just part of what would have happened anyway? The whole theme of time travel has been so abused in pop fiction I don't really know what to make of it any more.
  4. Hyperintelligence: Now we're talking! Imagine having Reed Richards' ability to create incredibly powerful tools ... Technology, I would argue, is the single biggest factor in the mutability of human societies in our entire history. What fire was to cavemen, or steam engines to the 1800's, you could be to the new millennium. Pretty cool.
  5. Telepathy: A society where any liar can be caught out and any secret revealed is a profoundly different one from what we have now. This has real potential to be a game changer.
  6. Immortality: Imagine being able to take the really, really long view of politics, money, culture, and humanity. You could nurse decades-spanning schemes along, shepherd a whole society in a new direction, and plan farther ahead than any of the short-lived mortals around you could ever hope. On the other hand, that sounds like a LOT of work ...
  7. Vast healing abilities: You could, effectively, end disease and death while you were still alive, but only for a relatively small number of people. Still, the world would be a much different place if, say, you could have healed JFK's head wound before he died. A subtle, but powerful ability.
  8. Transmutation of elements: This has the potential to completely destroy most of our modern economy. Once resources are no longer scarce, an entirely new way of living could emerge. Imagine if gold were as freely available as silicon, of if vast amounts of carbon nanotubes were suddenly grown like wheat, or we had all the nuclear fuel we could ever need.

Given all of that, I'd probably have to go with hyperintelligence as my preferred power. You could probably figure out how to replicate almost everything else on the list, eventually.

But what would you choose? Let me know in the comments! And if you have any ideas for better Poll Position questions, by all means chime in.

13 Responses to Poll Position: Game changers

  1. William A. Peterson says:

    The problem with most of these, is the one you noted with Invulnerability, only now they *can* kill you!
    Telepathy? In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man isn’t made king, he’s stoned to death as a heretic (albeit very inefficiently)!
    Mass healing, you can still be thrown in a cell, for ‘practicing without a license’?
    Transmutation of elements, yeah, you could vaporize the cell bars… on the other hand, it doesn’t make you immune to a bullet in the brain, and lots of people would be willing to arrange that…
    Now, if you go back to the original premise, and give one such power to *everybody*, Hyperintelligence becomes a lot less obvious, and some of the others come back into play…
    {Invulnerability and Immortality actually become *bad* things, at that point!}

  2. DJ says:

    Time Travel and how I picture it to work is the time traveler’s mind is separate from the time line and his mind is not effected by his own time traveling. I could go back in time and prevent many of the worlds worst tragedies such as the Holocaust or 9/11.

  3. haz says:

    My first instinct was Time Travel, assuming it works the way DJ suggests (and I happen to completely agree there). But there are so many factors involved, way too many variables to keep track of. I could stop the Holocaust, yes. But we made huge leaps in technology because of World War II, so how far back do I go to stop it? That in mind, I’m going with Hyperintelligence. I can always build a time machine, but with hyperintelligence, I’ll know what the heck to actually do with it.

  4. The Icedaemon says:

    Invulnerability – Useful, but not a large-scale deal-breaker.
    # Super speed – Meh.
    # Time travel – No. Time travel is bad. You’ll likely just mess everything up, since you need omnipotence and prescience to even have a chance of getting some proper results. Don’t go there. I won’t even try it, because I know time travel exhales vigorously.
    # Hyperintelligence – Ee-yup. True hyperintelligence, being on a whole different level altogether than mere humans, would allow one to create artificial equipment that would grant oneself nigh-immortality and invulnerability, not to mention several other things. World domination, here I come.
    # Telepathy – A close second. Assuming it includes mind control, it should be plenty useful.
    # Immortality – nice, but it should be garnished somehow, with at least genius-level intellect.
    # Vast healing abilities – Worthless.
    # Transmutation of elements – Cool, but no. Don’t mess with the building blocks of the universe unless you are sure what you are doing.

  5. Luke says:

    Always go for the hyperintelligence, you will be able to build gadgets to replicate every other super, on and off that list really

  6. Xstacy says:

    I went with hyperintelligence because I want clean cheap energy *now*, not 50 years from now when the people in charge finally, maybe, admit we *might* be doing some damage to the planet.

  7. Collex says:

    Transmutation of elements. I could then go on every dump in the world, change the waste in everything we need (Water, Wood, Food, Metal, you name it.), Then go on the moon, transform this useless rock into something useful (I don’t know what, I would talk to specialist first.) And while I’m in space, I could transmute all the waste orbiting the earth to repair the ozone layer.

    No more famine, eco-energy for everybody, and if trouble come, just turn them into wood and use them to make paper.

  8. EnderX says:

    Question regarding Immortality – Is this true immortality, or just -extremely- negligible senescence?

    If you need the definition, negligible senescence is a trait noted in tortoises (is that the right plural), some species of fish, and at least one species of whale. The essence of it is that, upon reaching maturity, the creature stops aging. They can still be killed, whether by disease, accident, Inuit harpoon, etc., but they won’t die of old age.

    I’m asking out of curiosity only; I don’t think I’d want Immortality if I were the only one to get it. If nothing else, think how you’d feel 200+ years on, with all those you’d loved and lost along the way. The only solution to that would be to withdraw from society, which means there’s no net impact on society as a whole.

  9. Bael says:

    1 Invulnerability. Too small scale. Not even useful in a fight without anything else. As the Hulk once said, “Go be invulnerable in Jersey.”
    2 Speed. Better, but still small scale.
    3 Time Travel. How much could you really do? How many things could really be stopped by assassination? Maybe Himmler would have run the Nazi party. Hitler lost because he screwed up and bit off more than he could chew. Someone else might not. And do you really think the Secret Service will believe you aren’t involved when you turn in Oswald? No thanks.
    4 Hyper Intelligence. Now, we’re getting somewhere. A mind like that devoted to his fellow man instead of abstract exploration or a college rivalry could really do some good. The only real limit would be infrastructure and resources. AAfter all, we know how to build a city like New York, the Internet, Fuel cells, etc. But we don’t have the resources to build enough to go around.
    5 Telepathy. It could be useful to maybe blackmail politicians, but without wide scale mind control, it won’t really change the world.
    6 Immortality. Not really a world changer on it’s own. The long view doesn’t do any good if the rest of the world doesn’t want to hear it and wait for long term benefits.
    7 Healing. This has some potential. Anyone who can perform an old fashioned miracle will ger followers. The trick is to control your new religion instead of letting it control you. This has probably the best potentiol for long term changes.
    8 Transmutation. My personal favorite. The reason we don’t have Hydrogen fuel cells now is that they are so godawful expensive to build. They require a lot of rare materials like platinum and rodinium (if I remember correctly). Same with really efficient solar. And being from the desert southwest, I guarantee you, by the end of the century, its not crude oil we’re going to be fighting over, but clean drinking water.

  10. Cavalier says:

    It’s difficult to separate the idea of living with such a power from how useful it would be. Transmutation and healing, while extremely useful, is so overt it would leave you open to manipulation from others. Being the only telepath would be useful, but also put you in a risky situation as well. After all, people have to actually believe what you ‘sense.’ I don’t even want to THINK about time travel. It’s just difficult to separate the utility from the ramifications.

  11. spyguy149 says:

    I had to go with hyper-intelligence because you could in essence create gadgets that emulate all of the powers. I did almost go with time travel but than I remembered the whole grandfather paradox and all that fun stuff so I ended up saying no. lol

  12. I will use my telepathy on your hyper intelligence and steal your ideas and make them public before you do.

    And id I have mind control as well, ill make you forget/not realize that it was me that did it

  13. Loki says:

    if I choose any power…I’d Take Time-Travel as it also means Time-control…and omniscient, so I don’t mess shit up.