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I created human beings and placed them on a planet full of landmasses, oceans, rivers, forests, desserts, swaps, snow, mountains, hills, animals, insects, plants, fish you name it. But I have a problem: these humans, they're actually quite lovely, tend to stick to each other. Which is in my eyes a problem, I created a complete planet for them to enjoy but now they started building a city, and are spreading the idea of never lossing sight of each other again. They don't seem to be really interested in exploring the land. I want them to spread, but I don't just want tell my people to do so.

How can I, as a god, make my people spread and make them settle in multiple places?

City impression Impression of the city, not entirely accurate. Image stolen from the internet (if that's a thing).

Details:

  • Earth 2250 BC
  • Middle-east
  • The city is surrounded by farmland and other means that provide they city with the necessary goods. People do wander away, but always seem to return.
  • Population somewhere between 10.000 and 50.000.
  • The climate and environment is a bit different (in my setting) compared to the current climate in the middle east: there is more green and trees. Biomes that describe this setting the best are probably Mediterranean forests and temperate steppes or maybe even temperate broadleaf forests. In essence the middle east is less dry compared to nowadays.
  • Humans should start to spread over the earth by some sort of change, for example to the environment, in culture or maybe a small event.

Prefered requirements:

  • I prefer a method that works out quite fast: after executing/applying the solution to my problem, people start spreading within a week or so.
  • I know it's quite difficult in this context but I prefer answers based on facts or previous events.

Some clarifications based on comments:

  • I prefer non-lethal methods.
  • Of course humans will start spreading at some point, from an evolutionary point of view this is especially true. But keep in my case these humans think a little bit different, but even more importantly I want them to spread out now.
  • The city is obviously supported by farmland and other means. But people never wander far, at most a few days and always return.
  • My people do not seem to spread on their own, I have thought of several reasons for this, might be worth a different question. But assume they don't, for example because they think it's better to stay together (culturally, politically etc.) or because they just don't need to for whatever reason.
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    $\begingroup$ Be a bit patient? This happens automatically, it just takes (a lot of) time. You can't settle an entire planet in a week. People spread out on their own. Most of your people will be living with their herds of goats and get around that way for example. Btw I find it hard to believe that they are building an isolated city with nothing else around it . That makes no sense $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Apr 10 '18 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ Ok suppose it makes sense somehow. Have you considered destroying the farmland or telling them via a prophet? Those ancient cities already had water dams, destroy one. It's a classic and what noah and his ark were ultimately based on. Have you read the bible? It basically starts with Abraham being kicked out of Ur and then he starts a family to settle the land. If you are doing fiction about that period, check out the main book about getting people to another place in 2k b.c.. I say this as a non-religious guy, that's almost all the first quater is about. And it takes them a lot of time $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Apr 10 '18 at 7:14
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    $\begingroup$ Ps: there is literally that story in the bible btw. They live in one place, they build a tower, god hates it, it's destroyed, they spread out. I'm not saying copy it, just at least reference that you are aware that you are basically asking for a problem solved in a very popular book and say what you want different. Currently this question lacks good criteria for good answers $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Apr 10 '18 at 7:19
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    $\begingroup$ Why aren’t they spreading out on their own? You’ve said they aren’t, but this requires some proximate cause — otherwise in the normal course of human history, they would have been spreading out as long as they’ve been there, slowly but surely. And without knowing what’s stopping them from spreading out on their own — a desert? an ocean? monsters? religious prohibitions? magic? — it’s hard to know what can make them overcome that disinclination. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Apr 10 '18 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Change their language settings. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 10 '18 at 19:09

20 Answers 20

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Option 1: The drought.

This is the simplest and least intrusive option. The rains failed, the rains failed again, the land can no longer support so many people and they must go their own ways to survive. One of the great causes of exodus of populations over the centuries and liable to cause another great exodus in the coming generations, climate change, primarily droughts and famine, will uproot a population and send them out into the world.

Option 2: The Babel option

Make them hate each other, "curse" half the population, divide them against each other and and let them go their separate ways, as per the Tower of Babel.

Option 3: The potato cannon

So they really won't move, load them up and fire them off to the four corners of the earth, any god worthy of the name should be able to make sure they land safely.


Moving people quickly

People don't want to move, they certainly don't want to move quickly. No matter the disaster, they'll hang on thinking the bad times will pass and then everything go back to normal. It's only when they understand that it's all over and there's no going back that you can uproot entire populations. It will take time, it will take severe discomfort, you will have to kill a fair percentage of them, and even then, some will stay.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the Babel option (unless you want them to spread and still like each other) $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 10 '18 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ The Babel option isn't an option; you'll have a very hard time preventing it. The people will sort themselves into "us" and "them" and cast out the "them" soon enough. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Apr 11 '18 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ Option 3 is really the only satisfactory one. $\endgroup$ – Thomo Apr 12 '18 at 1:41
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/I prefer a method that works out quite fast: after executing/applying the solution to my problem, people start spreading within a week or so./

You need a prophet.

moses in the desert https://faithfullyamen.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/israel-wanders/

Moses is a fine example: he led his people out of Egypt and (very eventually) to the promised land. Joseph Smith has been called a "modern day Moses", leading the Mormons to their own promised land in the desert. The Pilgrims were motivated by similar desires.

Your pilgrims can be a religious sect, persecuted in their current surroundings. They leave to find a comfortably distant locale in which they can practice their religion without an interfering majority.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, but what if the OP doesn't want persecution? Their description seems to indicate that the inhabitants get along quite well to me. ...I suppose the prophet could actually cause division by proclaiming the god's desire for people to spread, but that may be undesirable as well. $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Apr 10 '18 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @jpmc26 valid point, but does a prophet necessary cause persecution? I think this is a nice answer as well. $\endgroup$ – Rolf ツ Apr 11 '18 at 7:14
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    $\begingroup$ To add to this answer, why stop at only one prophet? Create multiple prophets and send them to the four corners of the earth. In order to change the norm of sticking together, you as a "god" need to intervene and change it. Raise up powerful leaders and send them out. $\endgroup$ – Dtb49 Apr 11 '18 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Be sure to, after all his/her trouble, not let your prophet step inside the promise land. That'll teach them. Something. $\endgroup$ – xDaizu Apr 12 '18 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Dtb49, you probably will need more than one prophet as the greatest weakness of any plan whose execution revolves around a single person upsetting the social order, is that a single person is relatively easily executed. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Apr 13 '18 at 12:54
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1) The weakness of one single city and settling one place only are natural disasters. Here are some examples:

Floodings can destroy the crops, a classic are fields poisoned with salt.

A drought can ruin your year. When there is nobody else to trade with, you either leave or die.

A fire can burn down the city.

Those things were pretty common back then, but if you must, initiate a small famine.

2) Another reason to leave is because natural resources are usually not all in one place. Show them how to work some metal found far away like copper, iron, tin, gold... they will have to settle another area I order to get that. Once their initial bond is broken, they will be more willing to settle someplace else.

3) Land ownership and resulting social issues. One major issue around that time was that the higher classes, e.g. the priests or nobility, claimed land. At one point, you're gonna run out of land. There will always be that social climber (think Sargon of Akkad) that is willing to change the status quo.

So build a new city following a new ruler. That Sargon guy was later called the founder of Akkad - because he apparently moved the power to another city. This sort of thing happened again and again - new king, new center of power needed with a new city. I don't know if any ruler around 2k B.C. actually founded a city and didn't just made an existing settlement better, but you can always have them literally build another city. Cities founded later that fall into that category: For example Saint Petersburg or Constantinople.

Reform the government and overthrow those old values that make them stick together There is also always that idealistic king (remember this guy?) that tries to change how things are going. If things are not fast enough, find a young lad that looks promising and help him a bit. He might overthrow the social order imposed by the mighty. They sure like sticking together while the poor don't have land. Have reforms (government or religion, both have happened again and again. If you write fiction about that period, read a bit ;)) that helps people spread out. Spreading out is a natural process, in your case it is artificially imposed on them basically by law. Just get rid off that.

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    $\begingroup$ 2) was gonna be my solution. The next time someone wanders out of the city, the god could have them conveniently stumble across a vein of resources, then tell them that there's plenty more where that came from... but they'll have to spread out to find it. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Apr 10 '18 at 9:20
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Fecundity, the faster people breed the faster they will spread, give them really high fecundity to the point sex basically guarantees offspring, then make your religious ceremonies as sexual as possible, add in lot of free alcohol and it should work even better.

Of you could replace your fake humans with real humans who will spread on their own.

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  • $\begingroup$ This was my thought. Cities have to be supported. A small 'city' could be supported by farms around the perimiter with the farmers living inside (though this is inefficient). As the population grows, there is then nowhere for the city to grow into without taking over farmland. Yes we can move this, but that leads to extensive work for small expansions. Eventually the city becomes too large for the farmers to stay in the city and farm the extent of the land. Moving out of the city become a necessity. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Apr 10 '18 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ what really happens is people dissatisfied with the politics or crowding move to new frontiers to start their own societies or just to live in a less constrained manor, they also move out seeking out resources. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 11 '18 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ "Of you could replace your fake humans with real humans who will spread on their own." I thought of this, but "real humans" have their problems as well. $\endgroup$ – Rolf ツ Apr 11 '18 at 7:15
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This may be a bit of a boring answer, but promise them riches beyond their wildest dreams.....but only for those who explore. The easiest way to make this happen is to spread a rumor, similar to the Gold Rush in many US states.

Many explorers sailed away from their homelands due to natural curiosity and the promise of finding quicker ways to trade as well as conquering/spreading religion. In these times, great wealth was obtained by finding colonies of people to bring their prosperity to (read: enslave).

These lands promised untold riches to those willing and able to make the trip, and despite being an economic powerhouse at the time, Spain was interested in increasing its worldwide presence to be the world leader in terms of economic viability over the English.

Provide your people with the promise of gold and riches in the rest of your world, and show them success in some of these cases to really drive the point home. Due to the natural curiosity and greed of humans, it should be trivial to get them to spread. The time period doesn't really pose an issue in this case however it may require a few technological pieces.

If oceans are prevalent, the shipbuilding may need to be advanced enough for long voyages, requiring better woodworking knowledge or knowledge of buoyancy. It's still not impossible however, as a Silk Road could easily have been established at any point throughout history (despite it's origins in 114 BCE) given sufficient riches in other locations (gold mines for instance need a town for trade to transport it back). You can obviously offer whatever riches appeal to the people, whether gold, iron, water, or other types of valuable good.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting answer! Essentially you're telling me to make them greedy? $\endgroup$ – Rolf ツ Apr 11 '18 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ They could also simply not want to carry the exotic fruits from the mountain to the city and back, creating a natural trade route. $\endgroup$ – Cees Timmerman Apr 11 '18 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Rolfツ No, humans come greedy by default. They don't however know that "There's riches to be had in foreign lands!", so just spreading the rumour about your brother's wife's uncle's son struck it rich there. $\endgroup$ – Anoplexian Apr 11 '18 at 14:31
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Give them a super good river

You're a benevolent God, so give your people a nice, reliable, tamable river. I'm not sure what is irrigating your farmlands, but I'm going to argue that a river naturally will get people to move and explore.


A river will make people want to spread out, gradually extending out the civilization and causing them to build towns and hamlets farther and farther away from the main city. Here's some reasons why:

Fish

Fish are a great source of protein. Fish guts are a great source of nitrates which can improve crop yields or reduce the amount of time a field must lie fallow between usages. Fishers would gradually spread out over the length of the river to try to find different pockets of fish or just to go upstream of a popular spot that is being overfished.

Farmland

A good river deposits nutrient-rich silt and irrigates the landscape, meaning that all up and down its banks would be super fertile, especially compared to the surrounding landscape. Nearby animals would come and graze on the grass growing near the river, as well as drink there, meaning the river banks would become great spots for hunting, too. Any enterprising farmer would want to settle away from the rest of the other farms to try to get more good land to till.

Washing, Water and Waste

I assume your city has people who wear clothes, get thirsty, and use the bathroom. The river will naturally be a super convenient place to dump your trash and, you know, take a dump. I'm sure some of your more well off citizens would want upstream water so that it doesn't taste so... earthy, or to wash their clothes where they know their neighbors don't dump their garbage. This means that more downstream city folks might find themselves more vulnerable to cholera, or in general get a dirtier river, causing more wealthier folks to try to move upstream.

Trade

Eventually, people in the one area of the city are going to realize it's really easy to move heavy objects if you put them on a raft than dragging it along by yourself. This will mean there will be warehouses and markets on the banks of the river. Merchants will associate the river with more trade and more wealth. People will build up their houses around these markets, and then it comes to pass that the only way to really expand your business is to build up more river docks. This and the waste problem will cause people to:

Riverfront Spreading

It's a treat to be able to have riverfront property. The views are nicer, you get better breezes, quicker access to water, your own little private quay. People will grab property on the riverfront, and as your city develops, more and more people will have to build farther and farther up and down the river to grab that good riverfront property.


A river will also make people move downstream, eventually leading people to an ocean, lake, or sea. Here are some reasons why:

Floods

There will naturally be periods of heavy rainfall, and since lots of people have their houses built on the river (some of them perhaps less well off than others), naturally some of these buildings would be swept away in floods. Since floods cause things to go, you know, downstream, plenty of people will have reasons to go downstream to go look for their loved ones or to try to recover valuables that have been washed away. You don't need floods either, plenty of people might fall in the river after a night of drinking or have boats capsize, for people to want to look downstream.

Curiosity

This is the biggest one. Once it's super easy to go downstream (just get in a raft and go!) people would want to. Some of them might be thieves who want to avoid the law. Some of them would hear about vast treasures to be had downstream. The river, cutting itself through the vast landscape, would be an inescapable lure, pointing itself down and out, away from everything you've ever known and giving you a path to follow into the unknown.


This means, that as people spread out along the river and travel up and down it and more importantly down the river, you're eventually going to end up at a sea or lake or ocean. Then, everything that made the river so appealing to follow will be cranked up to overdrive as people move up and down the shore in both directions, and eventually people would be so interested in what is beyond the sea/lake/ocean that they build big honking ships to go and try to see what's on the other side.

If this whole scenario super plausible that's because this is exactly how early civilizations evolved and expanded.

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Politics and management is your answer.

People from the wrong political party will get ostracized. They and their families cannot return to the town because they voted for the wrong ruler, or they took the wrong side in some political battle. They need to take their families and leave or else face punishment.

Since your technology is so old, the life of those who work for a living will be really tough. The demands of the rich will increase as the rich have a way of getting bored and demanding more lavish life styles than they already have. Many of the working/slave class will eventually feel so burdened that they'll take their families and escape the city which for them is nothing but a labor camp. If anything, it will get really hard to keep poor people in the city, so slavery will be invented, or upgraded if it hasn't been invented yet.

There will always be insane people or criminals and the city folks would want to get rid of them. The simplest way would be to kick them out of the city, if they aren't useful as workers.

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  • $\begingroup$ "[...] invented, or upgraded if it hasn't been invented yet." I didn't know this was a time travel story! $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 10 '18 at 19:11
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If you want them to move within a week, you need to destroy that city. You'll need a carrot and a stick. Currently it looks like that is a nice city - if it isn't full there is no stick. Why should people leave? Regular storms that make moving a good idea?

Blow it up - they will leave.

Failing that, do you have a must-have resource elsewhere to be the carrot? Something that is too far away to transport to your city?

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Throw them out of Eden. Give them some rule, an easily violated taboo and a temptation. When (not if) they violate it, cast them out of the city and post an angel with a flaming sword to stop their return.

Not a historical event, but one that was believed to be historic for many generations among various subsets of humanity.

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This seems fairly closely related to Which is initially more favorable; large or small settlements in a new planetary colony? - you have a new planet, and it seems that the people have decided that a large settlement is the way to go.

As I discussed in my answer to that question, the reasons for this are simple - if you do not have sufficient technology to overcome the difficulties inherent to having people be more spread out, then people will naturally choose to live close together.

So for a low-tech setting, what do you need to do to make people feel comfortable living quite spread out? Let's look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom, we have physiological needs - food, water, and shelter. This should be easy enough for a God to solve - make the whole world an orchard, filled with easy-to-find, nutritious food, with plenty of natural springs to provide clean drinking water. Next up we have safety needs - if there are large predators, just make sure they don't care about humans and won't try to attack them.

The last one on the hierarchy that I think you need to worry about is love and belonging. This is the trickiest one to change quickly - if there's nobody within 100 miles of you, there's no way for you to find a mate. This is fairly solved in today's world just by having enough people to make sure that it's pretty hard to find a place without any people, but if you don't want to artificially increase the number of people on your world I'd suggest extending everyone's lifespan and giving everyone an innate sense of where the nearest other people are. If you know you're going to live for 200 years (and be able to have children for almost all of that time), you won't be in a hurry to find a mate and have children, so exploring will be a less risky proposition. Also, you'll know that no matter how far away you go, you'll always be able to find your way back to other people.

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Ask nicely.

Schedule a whole day for it. Go down there, present yourself, do a couple party tricks, then make your will clear.

The one thing humans like more than lording over each other is submitting to the will of their god. It's, like, their thing. They'll even make up pretent gods to submit to if you go long enough unrevealed.

The one caveat is that their other thing is misunderstanding. You need to be really clear, redundantly clear. Don't worry about being condescending, just spell it out again and again. Give examples. Pictures. Do's and dont's. Distribute numerous copies in writing. The message really needs to get through the first time.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your style, however I don't want to visibly interfere with my people too much. $\endgroup$ – Rolf ツ Apr 11 '18 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Rolf You have been warned, they will make up pretend gods. $\endgroup$ – Emilio M Bumachar Apr 11 '18 at 18:02
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The obvious answer is controlling the water, as all life needs it.

The land is dotted with small lakes.

Each lake has enough water(incoming), to support ### say 100 people. After that the lake would quickly start drying up. After learning the limits, people would automatically break off in groups of approx 100 people.

Eventually after 100's or 1000's of years they maybe able to have plumbing and pumps to move water around at will, but not for ages.

Also overpopulation or lack of jobs is another reason people move.

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Unless you want to follow the "potato cannon" approach from another answer, all solutions need time. But you're a god - of course you have time.

What you don't have right now is very many humans. That size of population is just about genetically viable. If you were to split it over 10 centres of population though, those 10 centres of population are likely to end up with significant genetic problems due to inbreeding. Your 10k people barely qualify as a small town, not anything like a city; and 10 small villages would only be worse. So you need more people.

Assuming you're not going to arbitrarily create more people, that means they need to reproduce and survive. In a primitive civilisation, this means one thing above all others:-

Cure all diseases.

Historically, nearly everyone who died did so because of disease. When over 90% of your people are dying for no reason, you're not going to increase numbers very quickly. If all the children make it to adulthood and reproduce themselves, you're going to be faced with a population explosion. All those new people will need somewhere to live, and even if they just make the city larger, that still uses up more living space.

You'd like these people to move on though, not just stay and make the city larger. The problem for a city is that by definition it doesn't include farmland within itself, so food needs to be imported. The bigger the city, the more food needs to be imported; and ditto building materials as well. As the city becomes larger, it becomes progressively harder to get food and other supplies into the city. Even if animals can be driven there alive and slaughtered once they get there, all crops (grains, fruit, vegetables) need to be transported.

So...

Ensure there are no beasts of burden.

A person pulling a handcart has a very limited range and load-carrying capacity. As supply chains become longer, the cost of goods rises, and the power of simple economics will price people out of city living. Even if there are navigable rivers, your city will still expand organically along those waterways up to the maximum practical resupply distances from the water - and of course then they're expanding their range.

The natural step then is for people to move out and start farms outside the city. Those farms may initially serve the city, but as more people move past them, they will naturally generate new centres of population beyond the city. And so your civilisation grows.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cure all diseases is an awesome answer -- it's the first answer in this list that is a "thing a caring deity might do" instead of the famine, plague, language decoherence, etc. "Here, folks, have this nice treat, gorge yourselves on it." The populace will have to disburse in short order if only to deal with the waste disposal problems, but it won't look like the deity is coercing them. $\endgroup$ – SRM Apr 11 '18 at 20:19
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Maybe a big seasonal change occurring that is quite drastic and lasts for a year or a couple of months more than 3 (harsh winter / summer drought / galeforce winds etc.) that your people would have to migrate elsewhere. they can still come back but others may not want to so that should spread them out.

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With the level of agricultural technology in 2250 BC, they must start spreading out on their own after reaching a certain level of population concentration in any given place, and compared to modern times, that level is rather low, a few thousand at best, and that is if the city directly surrounded by vast amounts of prime farming land. The ancient cities that have existed thousands of years ago, relied on vast amounts of people spread out in to the land, living in small towns and villages to produce food for them And that's true for other natural resources as well.

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Make them agresive towards each other. They will spread because they're afraid to get killed by other humans. Just like hungergames. They spread all over the place to avoid others.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this would work. The natural human tendency in times of danger is to stick together - safety in numbers. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Apr 10 '18 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ but what if some people couldn't be trusted. Like the fifth wave (In the book some people have the mission to kill survivors, they look exactly like humans and act like humans) That sure would be a reason to spread. $\endgroup$ – Moonhorse96 Apr 10 '18 at 7:47
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The 'evil' solutions ...

Introduce something that forces them to leave. Drought, contamination, sickness, predators, conflict among them.

Does not wanting to tell people what to do, include just moving them and altering their memory?

The 'nice' solutions ...

Introduce something that urges them to leave. Green pastures, plentiful herds, riches, beautiful places, spiritual revelations.

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You don't have to do anything.

They will spread naturally. In evolution organisms don't leave a location because they got tired of their family or want to try something new. They spread out because they get pushed out of where they used to live. This happens as a population grows.

When a locations is adequate to support a population the populations grows. It grows and grows until the environment can no longer support the size of the population. At this point one of two things happens. Either the a big chunk of the population dies. Or a big chunk of the population leaves to try and find the resources to survive somewhere else.

This is how populations generally spread out in real life. Eventually your people's population size will get so great that they will either choose to die, or leave. Almost always at least some organisms will choose to leave. The organisms that choose to leave then start their own colony that is more like them, and then you end up with more people that are willing to leave to survive even if that wasn't the case in the beginning.

http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/resource/population-growth-migration-challenge-resource-scarcity/

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Valid point, especially from an evolutionary point of view. But let's assume that "my people" do not want to spread for specific reasons. Also note that "I created them" and that these humans not necessary came to exist from an evolutionary timeline, this is however not really important. Because even if they did there could be political, cultural or maybe even environmental reasons for them to not spread at this point. I have to admit that the question does not give a reason for them to not spread, I mainly did this to allow a wider range of answers. $\endgroup$ – Rolf ツ Apr 11 '18 at 7:22
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The generic underlying issue

How do I get people to automatically do X?

This has two possible solutions:

  1. Make doing X the best option for them to choose.
    There are benefits to not being around others.

  2. Make not doing X the worst option for them to choose.
    There are drawbacks to being around others.

That's pretty much all there is to it. The rest is just inventing ways to stick to this rule.

Note that the two options can often be interpreted as the same thing, as one is an inversion of the other. There are fringe cases where this isn't exactly the case, but most of the time it is.


Examples

I've separated one particular example, because it fits in with your "hand of god" approach to shaping the world:

  • Whenever humans congregate, something bad always happens (natural disasters, humans going homicidal, maybe just unexplained deaths). This is your doing as their god, but maybe the humans don't know that. All they know is that when they get together, they are disproportionately more likely to die and they don't know of a way to prevent it. Therefore, they agree to stay away from each other as best as they can.

You don't always need humans to know why they have to stay apart, as the above example shows. All they need to be aware of is that bad things happen when they don't stay apart. Regardless of whether they think it's their God doing it or not.

  • Humans have varying sleep cycles (early sleepers, late sleepers), and are very sensitive to sound while sleeping. Being close to each other makes it very likely that people keep waking each other up.
  • Humans have their own personal smell, and are very sensitive to other people's smell. The effect worsens when many smells are mixed (which means you won't mind a small group of people, but you will mind a large group)
  • (true to life) Humans exist in many shapes, sizes and colors; but they also have an innate tendency to dislike those of a different shape, size or color than them.
  • Much like how werewolves turn during a full moon, let's say that humans go berserk once a month, but every human does so on a particular day (not everyone at the same time). A city would continuously be plagued by a subset of its humans who are going berserk.
  • A sizable subset of humans has an insatiable desire to kill other humans. This breeds inherent mistrust between humans that do not know each other well; thus resigning everyone to living in small communities where they know everyone personally.
  • There is a shapeshifting species that feeds on human victimes. Similar to the "homicidal" example above, this incentivizes people to not be around people they don't personally know.
  • Highly infectious diseases. E.g. as a means to stopping a plague pandemic (which they haven't been able to cure), humans decide to live far away from each other
  • Humans need meat to eat. Animals are nigh impossible to domesticate and wild animals don't come near a city.
  • The (noise, environmental) pollution of a high density zone has an adverse effect on plantlife and wildlife, making it hard to sustain a dense population because there's little food nearby.
  • Humans are not at the top of the food chain. If too many humans congregate, the monsters will find and devour them.
  • Humans turn into zombies when they die. No one wants to be in a dense residential area, because someone dies there every day. Smaller communities can keep tabs on each other better; plust if one community does fall prey to the zombies, it doesn't immediately spread exponentially across the entire population.
  • Same as the zombie problem, humans explode on death. Another reason why you don't want to live close to many humans.
  • There is some sort of weapon of mass destruction, but only a limited amount of them exist. If humans were to all live in close proximity to each other, they could be wiped out immediately. By staying away from each other, they ensure that the limited supply of WMDs will never be able to kill all humans.
  • Agriculture cannot be sedentary, as the soil needs several seasons of rest after growing a single plant generation. Therefore, the agricultural sector needs to be nomadic in order to keep up production.
  • Humans are prone to violent outbursts over minor annoyances. Dense populations massively increase the chance that someone inadvertently annoys someone else.
  • There is a hostile species that occurs all over the world (e.g. an alien insect that arrives from space, or a local insect that burrows up from the undergound). They are harmless at first, but if they build a long-term nest, they can become a severe infestation. Humans have spread out over the land so that they can prevent infestations before they become a problem.
  • Human technology relies on many different materials, all of which are found in different biomes. Humans must spread out across all biomes in order to have a steady supply of that biome's resources.

I've been churning these out one after the other. The list of examples can go on for a really long time.

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You're a god, implant the desire to explore and settle in your people. Freewill is overrated and if you never tell them it's not their idea, they'll never know.

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