1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

    Jul 17, 2017
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    Working out realistic demographics for transhumanism?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Simon Price, Jun 8, 2018.

    Hey, I was wondering if I could get some help and perspective working out how prevalent this significant feature of my setting should be in the population, if we're going by how people would actually react to this in real life.

    As a quick introduction to my setting, it's the modern day in the immediate aftermath of an unknown entity imbuing humanity with the ability to use supernatural powers. Everyone over the age of 13 has a brand on their right inner forearm that has 4 (later 6) circles on it. Every week, a circle on that brand is filled by a magic rune (the same one for everyone that week) that represents a supernatural power they now have access to. When the brand fills up, whichever rune was in the last slot will be replaced when they get a new one. The which run is in which slot can be controlled with your mind, so you get to choose which set of runes you keep with you.

    In addition, everyone who was old enough when the brand first appeared also gained two free and permanent powers:

    1: A healing factor that lets them recover from any injury within an hour to a week, retroactively healed any disabilities or injuries they weren't born with, and grants them eternal youth and immunity to disease.

    2: Superhuman strength, speed and durability. Their physical capabilities are roughly doubled.

    For simplicity let's call the people with the above permanent powers "immortals".

    Now, one prominent element of this setting is that fantasy races are introduced to it via shapeshifting. Roughly half a dozen of the runes given out over the first two years are shapeshifting runes. They grant the bearer the ability to shift between their current body and the body of a few fantasy race with completely randomized genetics. So if, for example, that week's rune was the elf rune (I won't actually be using any pre-existing fantasy races, but just for the sake of example), they'll be able to transform into an elf, but the human body they have will have no bearing on what their new elf body would look like. It could be anything. Tall, short, ugly, beautiful, male, female, every single feature of it would be completely random. The only rule for its appearance is that after the first form, the next form will always be the opposite sex of the last one you got.

    Only immortals are given these runes (everyone else gets nothing that week), and unlike the other rune types these runes cannot be moved out of the deletion slot. Which means that when their one week of being able to freely shift between them is up, they lose the ability to shift between them forever, and whichever body they were in when it was deleted will be their new body from then on.

    So basically, new fantasy races are brought into the world from shapeshifted former humans, and I'm trying to get some idea of what percentage of the population would do this, and what demographics they would be concentrated in. After some thought and asking around, I can see a few reasons why somebody would do this:

    1: They simply prefer the new race and what it can do.
    2: Luck of the draw resulted in their new body being significantly more attractive and that matters to them.
    3: The randomized nature of the shapeshifting allows them to completely escape from their old identity and start a new life without anybody ever being able to figure out who they used to be.
    4: Since the immortals' healing factor is based off of the bearer's genetics and can't be turned off, shapeshifting is the only way a transgender immortal can physically transition.
    5: Similarly, while the healing factor can't fix genetic disabilities rather than acquired ones, shapeshifting into a new healthy body is an option for them.
    6: The physical traits and abilities of the new race could grant poor and desperate people what is essentially free job skills they can use to get work.

    Those are just the ones I've been able to think of and that others have pointed out. Obviously there could be more. But with these potential motivations for shapeshifting in mind, what are your thoughts on how much of the population I should depict as having done this, and who the majority of the takers were?
  2. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

    Oct 27, 2017
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    Uppsala, Sweden
    Unless they are actually immortal, I would avoid the phrase. Actual immortality makes the battles one sided anyway.

    Runes to me are my ancestor's way of writing down tales of brothers who went viking and came back with slaves, so the connection with sci-fi feels off.

    I'm not a doctor, so don't take the following as medical advice.

    Plasmids, which are usually inherited from the mother's side can however spread between plants and animals to steal genetic properties like immunity to pesticides. These are primitive and only work on the cellular level, but could give immunity against fire or strong armor shells.

    People using plasmids could be portrayed as a kind of junkie looking for the next rush.

    Retro viruses are using RNA to overwrite the DNA, like machine code making a script injection inside the body. The genetic code has a lot in common with computer programming, by using position independent executables against tampering with the code and null terminators for variable length data buffers. The human body is using DNA as a high-level programming language with macros and conditional statements. RNA is the human machine code that gets interpreted directly as building instructions. DNA can do many things, as long as it's not rejected as foreign tissue during the transition, but AIDS made it work like a HIV factory, which doesn't change the smell of the cell until it bursts with new viruses.

    These people would be the infected. Like an army of drone slaves or zombies. Only their masters needs to be motivated here.

    CAS9 proteins are the bacterial immune system against retro viruses, which can safely modify a DNA sequence that the retro virus damaged. This has been used to cure lab rats that were infected with AIDS.

    People using CAS9 would be the upper class that can afford exclusive custom made genetic modifications. Just like buying the car that nobody else can afford. The exclusive braging rights.
  3. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

    Jul 17, 2017
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    I'm sorry, but I'm really confused. I don't think I quite understand what you meant by this post. It sounds like you misunderstood what genre I'm writing in (I'm doing urban fantasy, not sci-fi) and tried to rework the concept I described to better fit what you thought it was.

    What I'm looking for is, given the way I described the shapeshifting ability, what sorts of percentages of the new population I should have these fantasy races take up.
  4. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

    Jun 4, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Judging from your post and his (hers?) I think there must have been a disconnect between you two. I get you're saying, though.

    Now, I'm no expert on global demographics, but I can tell you a few things.

    First: I sure as heck would use the shapeshifting runes. Not because I'm not happy with how I am now, but just because I think it would be fun. If you get something you don't like, keep spinning the wheel until you do, right? I'm fairly certain people wanting to switch races just for the fun of it would at least count towards a few percentage points of takers on the shapeshifting.

    Second: I can say confidently that at least 25 % of the population would not be using the ruins, as that is the percentage of the global population aged 14 years and under (roughly).

    Third: Whatever percentage of people choose to shapeshift, unless the shapeshifting runes given out later are clearly inferior to the early ones, I would expect that the later the runes are given out, the more people would use them. This is for two reasons:
    a) people who have shapeshifted once could shapeshift again, but it sounds like they can't go back to the race they previously were after changing
    b) the idea of shapeshifting will be less scary after seeing others do it, so the more time has passed since the possibility was introduced, the more takers there will be, hence later shapeshifting runes being more likely to be used

    Fourth: I would recommend looking at religion demographics. Most (major) religions place a high importance on the human form, so the devout would not likely be willing to use the runes. Of course, such a big disturbance in normality might shake the faith of many, but exactly what the effects would be are impossible to know for sure, so just make your best guess on that.

    Finally, one thing I agree with LazyBear about (but that you didn't ask about, so feel free to ignore this if you want): using the term "immortals" might be misleading since it sounds like they aren't actually immortal. That being said, if the term is used as a source of conflict (for example, groups of younger people hunting immortals to prove that they aren't) then definitely stick with it. Of course, it's your choice, and people in the real world have plenty of times shown that they readily assign inaccurate names to things just because they like the way they sound, so whatevs.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018

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