In the future, Big Business owns the government. Corporations such as Target, Walmart, General Motors, etc... now have a major hand in deciding policies in the country. This has a major impact on how workers are viewed by their companies. A law called SEDWA (Shameless Exploitation of Dead Workers Act) has passed, which most big companies have taken advantage of.

An employer has the right to resurrect a person after death for continued service to that company. This is part of the contract that this soon-to-be corpse, better known as an "employee", signs when hired. When a worker dies after a lifetime of being nickled and dimed, their body is resurrected for further servitude to the company and put back to work. This ensures that the corporation gets the full mileage out of their workers. The process has been active for several decades, and the Zombie work force is a common sight in many kinds of jobs.

This resurrection process is not cheap, so only big corporations can justify the expense. These zombies cannot follow complex commands and are relegated to performing unskilled labor. However, they are the perfect example of what a good employee should be. They don't eat co-workers, are obedient, are able to work 24/7, don't bitch and moan about work safety or ask for pay, and are cheap to maintain due to not being affected by decomposition. Even better, they don't violate the fair labor standards act set in place by those annoying and ridiculous labor unions, which demand a minimum wage and 40 hr working weeks on account of the person already being dead. It's a win-win from the employers perspective!

The problem I have here is that I don't know if the process of resurrecting these workers and binding them to eternal servitude would be worth it to the employer in terms of cost effectiveness. What estimates do I need to take into account to make this plan marketable to corporations? Is it economically viable?

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    $\begingroup$ You say that it costs a lot of money. How much? And how long do these zombies remain? You mention they don't decay. Does that mean that I will have a lesser version of my employee in terms of mental abilities for ever if I kill them? $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 8, 2018 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ If they can only do unskilled work, what would be the advantage over machines? $\endgroup$
    – Krateng
    Jul 8, 2018 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ This question remains unanswerable until you include a lot of numbers. I don't know what other answers you expect. One could describe the complexity of the issue, but I'm not sure if it would help you since you didn't ask about an introduction to economics.. If you are unaware of how to even begin to estimate if it is worth employing zombies, perhaps state this in your question, something like: "I'm stuck because I don't know how to estimate if this is actually worth it or not. What do I need to take into account?" - but I have no idea if this is what you are actually asking about $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 8, 2018 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ This would require a description of the reanimation process, a description of how the zombies are kept from decomposing, and a description of what is meant by "unskilled labor." I apologize if this sounds particularly mean, but the reason people drive down to the locatl Home Depot and hire the Hispanics standing on the road is that it's cheaper than hiring official, skilled labor. That reanimation process had better be cheap was water or this isn't worth it at all. Especially when you get none of the skills that made the employee worthwhile while living. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 8, 2018 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ This scenario would be more interesting if it were about an expensive resurrection process that could bring back actual people. While unskilled labor is going to become increasingly worthless, highly skilled employees with a lifetime of experience could be incredibly enticing. The argument becomes incredibly powerful if the resurrection process returns their youthful vigor, e.g. by regenerating their mitochondria, such that the resurrectee could potentially outshine any living employee by many orders of magnitude. $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Jul 9, 2018 at 3:43

4 Answers 4


The big question will be how long it'll take governments to extend human rights to the dead.

Everyone's comparing these creatures to robots, and it's a fair comparison, but it'll be way easy to humanize (or perhaps re-humanize) them in the eyes of the public. Get pictures of a few, let people know their names, or what their names were), trot out their families, what have you.

In no time you'll see a groundswell of public opinion against the idea. Politicians will demand the process stop, and since the corporations will have certainly gotten the dead bodies declared property, or something, hastily (and almost certainly poorly) crafted legislation will get them declared human, and as such, getting coverage to what little worker protections are left in this horrific future era.

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    $\begingroup$ The case of what rights a family has to the labor/remains of its former family member versus the contractual rights of the company would be an interesting court case. $\endgroup$
    – Kosmos
    Jul 9, 2018 at 20:40

Zombies as you describe them are a form of artificial worker. We already employ a great number of artificial workers in some industries, except they aren't undead.

They're robots.

Robots are a good analogue for what you're trying to describe; high initial investment, low level of specific skill which makes them ideal for specific repetitive tasks, and far lower maintenance costs overall. Additionally, they don't get paid, join unions, etc.

So where does it make sense to use robots? Largely on assembly lines at present, but even that's changing. Like your zombies, they don't have high cognitive abilities and while you can say that they are great at 'unskilled' roles, there are less and less of those available in the workplace because of robots' poor cousins - machines. Where 50 men used to go into a cane field and cut down sugar cane with machetes, now 1 person drives a harvester through the field and harvests the cane far more consistently, and faster.

Ultimately, the workforce is shifting to a smaller number of highly skilled workers because of mechanization, and zombies would fill a niche that is quickly disappearing from our economy. Autonomous robots are also getting smarter (like drones) and are taking over even some semi-skilled roles. The advent of self-driving cars (for example) is going to replace even semi-skilled labour like taxi drivers, so eventually even the cognitive limits of zombies would be replaceable, and when that happens the cost for what is, in essence, a biological robot with limited programming capability will be in direct competition with that of robot manufacture.

This means that your value proposition for zombies is tied thusly;

1) Can Zombies do the work?
2) Can Robots do the work?
3) If Yes to Both, which is Cheaper?

Cheaper needs to be explained more completely; cheaper in a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) context means factoring in initial purchase cost, maintenance costs over the 'lifetime' of the asset and then the assets' mean time to failure (to figure out when you need to begin the cycle again and purchase replacement assets).

Ultimately, robots are likely to beat zombies every time in this space, and the cost of manufacture is constantly going down, as the capabilities are constantly going up. I can't see the same capability curve being achieved through zombieism.

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    $\begingroup$ The Biggest difference between a robot and a zombie would be the complexity of a task. If a zombie can only do simple tasks then what counts as a simple task? Does sorting packages for amazon count? packing a van? placing candy into boxes? lining up microprocessors to be packaged? doing paperwork? mining? etc. Robots replace jobs because a job is repetitive, but that doesn't mean its simple to actually get a robot to do the job. Picking and placing a microchip is already complex because a robot has no understanding of what a microchip is and you need to explain it to the robot. 1/2 $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Jul 9, 2018 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ If your zombie is capable of understanding human commands like, pick up a box and place it here in this orientation. Or grab this hammer and hit the nail until its level with the wood, it would offer a tremendous advantage over robots which work in very fixed environments under very fixed conditions. Self driving cars are great but google has over 2 million miles of driving experience and its still not complete. That would never be used in an industry where every assembly plant and task could have different conditions, regulations and actions because these places dont need generalized bots 2/2 $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Jul 9, 2018 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ The real question is ‘would you trust a zombie chauffeur?’ $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jul 9, 2018 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs probably not, but now you've got me wondering if that's the primary reason most cabbies seem to have an excess of personality; is acting in a manner diametrically opposite to that expected of a zombie supposed to increase our trust in them? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Jul 9, 2018 at 23:18

If you changed the word undead to robot and then looked at the modern world, you'd have your answer.

There is functionally no real difference between a robot and a zombie. You have a large upfront cost which is offset by increased production and no wages and other employment expenses.

You still need skilled employees for complex thinking tasks but dull repetitive tasks, you no longer need to employ humans.

Your answer is obviously yes if the cost of reanimation was less than the cost of employment.

The only real question is how MacDonalds can get zombies food safe accredited.....

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    $\begingroup$ Fast food places are already automating with order kiosks up front and experimenting with robots in the back to flip burgers and do other cooking tasks. Ironically the driver is not business, but governments imposing minimum wages which do not reflect the productivity or worth of unskilled labour. It is cheaper to buy an expensive machine (one time investment) than pay high productivity wages for low productivity jobs. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Jul 9, 2018 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ Typical American foolishness. MacDonalds isn't doing too badly in other Western countries. In Australia, they pay $18 an hour and still make record profits. Your government lies to you. The solution isn't lowering wages to the point where workers don't earn enough to live. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Jul 9, 2018 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Thorne According to PayScale, it's ~9.40 USD/hr in the US and ~11.00 USD/hr in Australia. Marginal tax rates in the relevant brackets are higher in the US, but then again cost of living tends to be lower. But, the bigger issue seems to be that McDonald's is a better, more successful eatery in Australia; the images in that article look like Chipotle. $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ Then for comparison, Chipotle (which seems like a closer analog for McDonald's in Australia) offers ~10.33 USD/hr in the US, according to PayScale (looks like Chipotle's not in Australia). So, there may be some difference (stressing that this is just a quick numbers-check), but doesn't seem to be that extreme. $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Thucydides Goodness gracious! Of course, it's been business driving down wages. They've down that since time immemorial. They're only using minimum wages as a smokescreen to further lowering wages. The return on investment of employing unskilled workers is often higher than with skilled employees. The productivity argument isn't without its merits, but it's hardly the basis for an absolute criterion to setting wages. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:36

Assuming that a given industry can use zombie labour, I'd expect that the childcare industry, for example, would be more than a little hesitant, to say the least, to employ the undead, they'd have to run the following equation:

Average life-span of an undead servitor x minimum wages for a living employee - cost of resurrection.

If the result is a positive number then you're making a profit on your zombies compared to your living workers and they're worth having.


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