Open Thread: If we had world enough and time

(by chris the cynic)

If you ask what someone would do if they won the lottery you tend to get some fairly mundane answers.  Pay off debts, medical expenses, donate to some people whose work they like, figure out how this happened when they never bought a lottery ticket, so forth.

This is all well and good but it kind of misses the point of the question which is, more or less, if real life financial constraints no longer limited you, what would you do?  And to that question, “Build a floating island,” is a better answer than, “Buy a/pay off my house,” because the whole point is to bring up the not-ordinary ideas/desires/whatnot you’d fulfill.

So, what would you do if you were no longer limited by the constraints (time and money) real life places upon you?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]


10 thoughts on “Open Thread: If we had world enough and time

  1. Mercy June 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I’d buy and restore (if necessary) one of the castles for sale here in Germany. and I’d travel to every country on the planet. And cycle across the US, and probably across Europe, too.

  2. froborr June 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I would troll archeologists of the future. Pay for high-quality hospice care of the dying in exchange for them agreeing to let me build them elaborate tombs full of anachronistic references. Build temples to long-dead or entirely fictional religions. Bury time capsules full of nonsense. That sort of thing.

    Alternatively, become a Situationist supervillain. Massive public detournement in the dead of night. People wake up in the morning and the spike on the Empire State Building is impaling a massive jello cube. Major banks find their vaults have been broken into and nothing stolen, but thousands of marmoset plushies wearing t-shirts with Communist slogans have been deposited. Hacking the subtitle/close captioning channel on a political debate so that every time the candidates answer a question, their relevant donors are displayed. That sort of thing.

  3. Silver Adept June 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I think I would first fund a method by which brains could be copied to bodies, build myself an army of clones, and then send them out into the world to experience it all, with regular backups and merges with the original brain in the cloud / original body.

    After that, it’s either “unite humanity under one banner” or “start building a functional device to achieve near-c and then beyond-c speeds” such that the species will preserve itself by having other planets to blow up in fits of pique and anger. Possibly both at once, so as to begin the creation of the United Federation of Planets.

  4. DawnM June 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Overpopulation is a thing I worry about. I would build an army of smart nanotech to surround the earth. My nanotech would implement a one-child policy until such time as the human population has been reduced by, say, one half. It would track when someone has successfully bred and then prevent their gametes from mating after that point. The enhanced version would know if the child passed away and would allow another child to be created (because otherwise that would just be mean).

    Or I would buy all of India, kick the people out and turn it into a tiger preserve.

  5. J. Random Scribbler June 17, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    So we’re talking truly unlimited money and unlimited time? Oh,wow, the mind boggles… going stream of consciousness… (OK, I did go back and edit for readability.)

    Pour as much money as it takes to discover the causes, mechanisms, and cures for depression (I’m selfish like that) and make it available to everybody in the world for free, forever. (Not totally selfish I guess.)

    Health care for all, including reversible birth control for everybody capable of producing sperm and/or eggs starting at puberty. This would be on an opt-out basis, anybody is free to decline it but they have to fill out a long and complicated form to do so. (Vaccinations too.) Special emphasis on providing any needed services to military veterans and other trauma survivors; actively seek them out and present them with options rather than waiting for them to come in.

    Fund education and social services, including free education and comfortable living wages for anybody working in either field, or health care. Also including local services e.g. schools, so local governments can spend their money elsewhere.

    Fund massive PR campaign against racism/sexism/anything-ism/rape-culture/climate-denial/anti-science/anyone-abuse/etc/you-get-the-idea-by-now — emphasize positive everyday things ordinary people can do to make things better.

    Subsidize anyone who wants to run an actual family-scale farm; agribusiness need not apply.

    Buy Fox News and shut it down. Buy any company that tries to replace it. Laugh when people start trying to form companies just so I’ll buy them out. Consider paying them anyway if they do the legwork to actually set something up; that would keep them busy on something harmless.

    Or else maybe buy Fox News secretly, pay Roger Ailes whatever it takes to be my front man, and have him slowly and subtly change the slant so people who got led off the deep end are led back again.

    Invent truly flawless virtual reality. Put Grover Norquist into it and let him harmlessly live out his fantasy of drowning the government in a bathtub, over and over again, for the rest of his life.

    Invent a foolproof, comfortably wearable lie detector and audiovisual recording device, and require public servants in any capacity wear one while on duty. Holders of national political offices wear one 24/7, except when alone with family and friends; then it just notes who is in the room and when, but not what they say or do. Review the logs and reward good professional behavior; don’t punish bad behavior (unless egregious) but make the recordings freely available to whatever community the person serves. (As a bonus, use the logs to free police officers, social workers, etc from the paperwork portion of their jobs.)

    Set up legal and financial structures to keep on funding all this stuff even if I die. Hire assistants who are experts in various fields, and honest enough to tell me when I have a bad idea, neglect stuff, or get too full of myself.

    Manipulate the markets so all the financial services companies go out of business. Buy up every division that serves ordinary people and set them up as their own businesses, provided they’re never bought out by anybody and never use customer money to play the market.

    Colonize space. Among everything else, create a giant cylindrical habitat with a functional ecosystem, and provide free tickets to any Ayn Rand follower to go there and help set up their perfect Galtish society. It would keep them busy, provide a cautionary example to everyone else. And who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to sing.

    FeH, I could go on a lot longer, but after a while this stops being fun and starts being a painful reminder of problems I can’t help with in real life.

  6. alexseanchai June 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    DawnM: What the fuck. No. I sympathize with the idea that world population is growing too fast, but world population shrinkage needs to be implemented in a non-racist way, and (since you’ll notice on any map of population growth rates by country that the countries not already at or below replacement rate are countries where the predominant skin tone is brown) your idea is not it. Read Loretta Ross’s “The Color of Choice” sometime; it’s in the INCITE! anthology The Color of Violence.

    I don’t even have words for the racist violence you describe re displacing all of India’s population.

  7. alexseanchai June 17, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    As for the actual thread topic: Money for everybody. Enough to get by on without stress; not enough for much in the way of luxuries; I want to remove the ‘wage slavery’ concept without removing the incentive to work at least (what we today call) part-time (caveat because I suspect we’d be redefining ‘full-time’ in a hurry). J. Random Scribbler’s got some good ideas too.

  8. DawnM June 18, 2014 at 5:39 am

    I agree wth alexseanchai – what I wrote sounds racist. Lots of apologies. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that way in my head, but intent is not magic. My explanation below may continue to sound racist, in which case I welcome further input.

    My fantasy about limiting population growth is a straw-dog fantasy that is open to revision. In my mind, “everyone gets to have one baby” seemed equally fair to all. I have not been thinking about what the implications might be for racial balance in the world. I may use my infinite time and money to be a supervillain who takes away people’s choices, but I don’t want to be a racist supervillain taking away choices in a way that unfairly penalizes some groups over others. So thanks for that.

    The one about tigers was exaggerated for brevity. The real version involves very large tiger sanctuaries, not the entire size of India. It also involves a fantasy component where people living in those sanctuary areas are willing to relocate for the good of the tigers and they are well compensated and in some magical way that I have not thought through they end up universally better off and happier. Given the premise that we have infinite resources and time, that should be possible. Also, this is not intended to pick on people of India in particular, it’s just that’s where the tigers are that I want to assist.

  9. Lonespark June 18, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Maybe we could terraform a new planet and turn it into a nature preserve for endangered species?

    Alternately, siphon off a whole bunch of Earthlings to the alt. planet/moon/whatever. Voluntary, incentives, etc. It will help if Silver Adept gets the fast-travel project up and running…

  10. christhecynic June 18, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Injection molding for my puzzles, including the ones that are currently merely ideas. The only way to make them low-cost enough for general consumption is something with high up-front costs like injections molding. Since I’d be rich enough not to need a profit, that would also keep the prices low.

    42 minute commuter subway system. It is known that in a friction-less environment building a straight line hole between any two points on earth would get you from one to the other in 42 minutes using nothing but the force of gravity. There are, of course, problems, Anything that hits more than a certain depth is going to break through from the crust to hot, hot magma, friction-less is impossible except for some very special materials that are hard as hell to make or maintain, so forth. But what one could do is make tunnels that are as close to vacuum as can be managed which house maglev trains. Then the majority of the power would be spent keeping the train from touching the tracks, with gravity doing the actual moving. Unless it was an express train in which case, why wait 42 minutes?

    Exact replica of Serenity from Firefly as my second home. Some people rebuild sets from, say, Star trek, just so they can walk around in them. I don’t see the point. Serenity, on the other hand,,, you can live in it. Bedrooms, kitchen/dining room, bathrooms of course, a positively giant garage (or maybe a small barn depending on how you look at the cargo bay) it’s some place you could actually stay for a while and live well.

    Various movies, shows, and video games I’d buy the rights to an remake. In the case of Star Wars I’d also preserve and recover lost footage as a) the current owner isn’t interested in preservation and b) each of the movies has a rather large amount of cut material that only exist in unreleased versions.

    College educations for everyone. Well, everyone that wants them.

    Speaking of, massive underground replicas so that people studying, say, ancient Rome can get hands on understanding without having to go to Pompeii.

    Actually, a lot of underground work in general. It’s easier to regulate temperatures there so it’s good for living and working spaces, but it’s also good for not screwing with habitats. Ideally most road ways would either be underground so that the habitat was un-fragmented above it, or elevated so that the vehicles stood no chance of hitting wildlife.

    Cloning. Lots of damn cloning. It is positively absurd that extinction is still a thing. We have the technology to bolster existing populations (which would mean that we don’t lose the social aspects that simple DNA could never revive) and resurrect dead ones. (I want dodos and passenger pigeons, people.)

    Maybe a game preserve on Mars for the things that are too foreign to be reintroduced into the modern day ecosystem? Most of the digging for underground stuff is going to be through bedrock, but that soil has to go somewhere too.

    Floating islands. Because: “Why not?”

    Geologists studying everywhere. I mean, think about earthquakes. It’s silly that we only study new faults that are largely active. The whole thing about learning is that you have no idea what you’ll find out until you find out. Maybe studying old faults that are only minorly active will give us insights that the new faults never would. This of course would require more geologists. That would likely require new geology teachers. But I already said college for everyone so that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

    News services that fact check EVERYTHING. Every single thing. And aren’t afraid to print/say/commuincate the following:
    [person] lied, saying, “[Quotation].”
    [person] said, “[Quotation],” which is a lie.

    Followed by, “In fact, [the truth] is true,” or “it is in fact the case that [the truth].”


    Oh yeah, unwanted children.

    A social safety net that does away with poverty is of course a must. In spite of what some people think, this will not cause people to decide never to work. Most people want more than “Slightly above poverty,” but what it will do is make it so that no one goes hungry, the only homeless people are those who actually would rather be without a home (they do exist, they shouldn’t be forced to change) and so forth.

    Part of that would be that people would be given whatever help needed to keep their children if they wanted to. But it is also the case that there are people who do not want their children. I don’t pretend I understand the mindset, but I know it exists. From my point of view if someone doesn’t want their child, not thinks they can’t give their child a satisfactory life but genuinely does not want their child, that is all the evidence needed that the child would be better off with someone else.

    So that should be provided for. Kids should be able to be in families that DO want them. The current system isn’t really up to that task. That should change.

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