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The immortals are among us. And they have been for a long time. All of them were born in the 7th to 4th century B.C. in the area of what today is the regions of Macedonia and Thessaly in Greece. Whatever caused their immortality is no longer present. As far as they know no other people with this affliction exist.

They are not truly immortal. They don't visibly age and always appear to be in their early twenties, but they can be killed as easily as normal people. Violence, accident, drowning, starvation or a severe disease can kill them, but if they can survive the first 24 hours they will usually make a full recovery. They heal about 25% faster than a normal human. Their immune system will eventually deal with any disease or poison and they will regenerate any damaged tissue (even nerves or brain-tissue) completely given enough time. It will take about 20 years to regrown a lost arm or leg.
It isn't all good though. They are all infertile.

In ancient Greece being immortal wasn't really a big deal. People simply assumed you were one of Zeus (or any of the other gods) many illegitimate children. Demi-gods are supposed to have strange powers.
But in later centuries this changed. The immortals quickly came to realize they better stay in hiding. Especially the Christian church took a dim view of people with special powers, proclaiming them to be witches or demons. A lot of immortals ended burned at the stake.

So the immortals went completely underground. They moved from town to town every 15 years or so to prevent the neighbors noticing the everlasting youth. Cosmetics to appear a bit older have helped too. Cosmetic surgery is no good though. Their regenerative system starts to repair the damage straight away, undoing the changes.
It was especially difficult for the immortal women as they couldn't easily operate solo for most of our history. They would usually team up with one of the immortal men and pretend to be a married couple (and in some cases they actually were a couple).

Of the original about 4000 immortals some 800 are left in 1950. They are mostly based in Europe and the America's. They have a central organization masquerading as a legit international trading and shipping company established in the early 18th century, that keeps in touch with them. Another 200 to 300 of them have been out of contact for decades, but they may still be around somewhere.

After World War II, in the 1950's they start to realize that identity papers and civil records are becoming ever more important in any modern society and assuming a new identity every so often is becoming increasingly difficult every year. Later on computer records and bio-metric ID's made things even worse.

So how can they keep hiding from 1950 onward to today?
Preferably while leading a fairly normal life with all the amenities? Living completely off-grid somewhere in Alaska, Siberia or Africa doesn't appeal to most of them.
Money is of no concern. The organization has been around for centuries and has invested wisely. They are not adverse to illegal activities if those are necessary, like bribing people, tax evasion, forging documents, but they draw the line at violence. No murder of inconvenient witnesses.

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marked as duplicate by kingledion, Tyler S. Loeper, elemtilas, JBH, Harper Nov 13 '18 at 2:43

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    $\begingroup$ Detail that may be important: most people living today are on no official record and this is a significant modern challenge. who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/… $\endgroup$ – Alexis Nov 11 '18 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to watch The Man from Earth . Though it does not answer the question, it raises many issues and explores what such immortal men could see and think. $\endgroup$ – spectras Nov 11 '18 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Adi219 because in no time they would be locked up in a laboratory with an army of scientists performing experiments in an attempt to understand their immortality and possibly sell some anti-aging product/service to the public. $\endgroup$ – spectras Nov 11 '18 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis: I believe that the vast majority of this paper-less population is located in the places the immortals are not keen living in (third world countries, basically) $\endgroup$ – WoJ Nov 12 '18 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @WoJ true, that's why I did not turn this into a full answer, but I speculated that it might form the basis of some other answer (e.g. they keep pretending they just arrived from a country without register, and that's actually believable). $\endgroup$ – Alexis Nov 12 '18 at 13:15

16 Answers 16

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The easiest way would be for them to do this The Odessa File style:

Get one or more of their own on the inside of the record-keeping bureaucracy of a state with weak governance. That insider can then steal, fake, forge, or just plain old issue whatever documentation they need to keep churning their identities.

Edited to add: since that bureaucratic insider would need to periodically leave their employment or their coworkers would notice their lack of aging, you need a minimum of two - one senior bureaucrat and one protege / future replacement - at all times.

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    $\begingroup$ Agree with this the most. Why fight the system when you can be the system? $\endgroup$ – nullpointer Nov 12 '18 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, and of all humanity, only the Immortals would have the advantage of perspective over years, decades, and centuries. That's a pretty big advantage when it comes to infiltrating the halls of power. In fact, if there are immortals on this planet, that's probably how they do it. $\endgroup$ – nunya Nov 12 '18 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ the problem with this is that any durable relation, however remote, to power structures risks detection, even simply photographic detection. under the radar seems safer to me, long-term, than operating the radar. $\endgroup$ – theRiley Nov 12 '18 at 16:56
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Over the last centuries these immortals faced slowly escalating problems as bureaucracy grew. A pattern based on teamwork might help:

  • Every decade or two, fake a pregnancy and childbirth. This requires a baby, but orphans could be found.
  • As the children reach primary school age, get rid of them. In an orphanage if they are moral, by murder if they are the villains of the story. Create records of homeschooling or an exclusive boarding school organized by other immortals.
  • As the non-existing child identity reaches 18 to 20 years, one of the older immortals from a different town fakes his or her death and assumes the identity of the missing baby. If male, he does military service as required, otherwise it is off to university. With their millenia of experience they will get a good degree, and they might even learn something new.
  • After graduation, have them hired in the company or law firm of another immortal. Start the transfer of wealth in the form of salaries, bonuses, or manipulated stock options.

That means they will only be seen in public with an official age between 20 and 40, which should be believable.

In the second half of the 20th century that scheme started to break down. More complete, computerized records made it all but impossible to keep a child from view between 6 and 18, so it would be harder to make the substitution.

With 21st century biometrics and image recognition, the problems are escalating. They need something new, but how? Money is no problem, but not every public servant can be bribed.

Promote Privacy Laws

Put some of their money into lobbying efforts to limit biometrics use other than by official agencies. Ban running face recognition on services like google.

Citizenship for Investors

Encourage some unimportant-but-respectable countries to offer citizenship to immigrants who are willing to pump a million bucks into the local economy, plus their immediate families. Actual residency is not required, and background questions are only asked about the principal, not the family. (Privacy laws again, and ironclad laws to shield minors from snooping.) Buy such a citizenship with no intention of ever moving there, but send the "next generation" over.

International Tensions to Limit Data Exchange

It would be really bad if countries started to exchange biometrics. So donate to nationalists and other leaders who decry international cooperation.

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    $\begingroup$ Or in addition to the last one... BE the ones that handles international data exchange. Create the best international data exchange system and make sure your immortal allies are never picked up. Shouldn't be that hard to get/be top ranking government allies when you have orders of magnitude more experience than the next guy. $\endgroup$ – Nelson Nov 12 '18 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson, you can fool some of the people some of the time, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. That backdoor might be detected. Is it Communist? Is it organized crime? Nope, it is an immortal conspiracy ... $\endgroup$ – o.m. Nov 12 '18 at 6:08
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So how can they keep hiding from 1950 onward to today?

They pick a nice fertile area of land, pleasantly sunny, clean water, lakes, coastline and the odd mountain for ski-season and they:

Declare Nationhood

Since 1933 International Law has permittted that Sovereign States be able to declare themselves independent if they meet the following criteria:

1) a defined territory

2) a permanent population

3) a government

4) a capacity to enter into relations with other states.

This was ratified in 1936 by the League of Nations.

Subsequently The EEC took up a similar position when the Badinter Arbitration Committee ruled theat Serbia-Montenegro be independent.

The Upshot.

They can issue their own Passports control their population's biometric database and birth records.

Modern technology has progressed in biometrics, but so has technology in fooling biometrics:

  • Fingerprint sensors can be fooled.

  • Iris scanners can be tricked.

  • Retina scan, well, we're still tinkering with that one.

On the whole they still have their freedom to travel the globe and do business, create mischief etc..

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Eastern Europe, as a modern example; if you're rich Eastern Europe has all the modern conveniences of any other part of the civilised world but it is, and has been for some time, an apolitical mess, in such a climate of corruption and lax government your immortals can hide in plane sight for as long as they like. Sure crazy old Sven down the road swears that his neighbour Olaf hasn't aged a day since he was a boy but no-one takes him seriously; especially since Olaf is openhanded with gifts of food and money but otherwise quiet, polite, and doesn't bother anyone. No-one realises that the money is their rent, the holding companies that own the town are all registered in the capital and the inspectors give Olaf as much trouble as anyone but he's the sole shareholder. There have always been parts of the world where appearing moderately well off, not enough to provoke jealousy but sufficient to curry favour, can garner you a degree of anonymity and privacy not generally available elsewhere. Your immortals may have to move around to stay in such areas but generally speaking with wealth and assets (particularly land) accumulated over centuries that should be relatively easy. Their properties are held in trusts that have new governors appointed from countries with dubious recording keeping as and when someone gets suspiciously long in the tooth but in reality one one or two people have ever run the affairs of those properties.

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    $\begingroup$ As a matter of fact, I lived and worked in Eastern Europe for a while a few years ago, and never got any paperwork done. In fact, when I went to the local police station to apply, they told me not to bother. I paid my rent with cash, and company I worked for was a foreign company, transferring my salary straight to my home country. I entered and left on ID, which as only casually checked (thanks to agreements between host and home countries) and I am pretty positive my host country still has no clue I was ever there. $\endgroup$ – spectras Nov 11 '18 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @spectras Wow, I didn't realise it was quite that far gone, I thought I was going to get told that I was out of date and their security was now super tight. $\endgroup$ – Ash Nov 11 '18 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ It's slowly getting tighter, but to the best of my knowledge, provided you have European citizenship (+ a few other countries they have agreements with such as Russia), not much has changed. Just be sure not to look too poor (looking like a refugee will get you controls nowadays). Learning the basics of local language helps, too, it attracts a lot of sympathy in less-known countries. $\endgroup$ – spectras Nov 11 '18 at 17:57
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First, let's not unreasonably assume they have amassed immense wealth, and are expert at money movement between the identities, which they should have been gaining expertise at thru the years.

They can always keep purchasing new identities, even if the price goes up.

As far as record-keeping, they would need to have/maintain world-class cyber security expertise. This would represent a continual challenge as governmental scanning techniques also evolve.

On the forensics side, its going to soon become impossible to evade detection, either on the basis of prints or dna. Therefore, they must at all cost evade arrest by any means necessary, including murder, if it compromises detection. Detection of one immediately threatens detection of all, or at least a global manhunt. Whatever their scruples, arrest/detection is a no-go zone.

Therefore, the quasi-immortals must at all times act thru world-class agents, and avoid criminal activities (aside from the aforementioned necessities involving identity transfer) certainly directly, in any event, maximally discretely.

If one never drives, and is accompanied by sturdy protectors, most opportunities for detection/misfortune are minimized. A strong measure of 24/7 security would be necessary.

Their self-repairing nature makes alterations impossible. And so, evasive maneuvers are all that are left. One might speculate about buying off the record keepers, but that doesn't seem feasible, or in any event, will ultimately prove to be impossible as a repeatable practice over time.

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    $\begingroup$ "its going to soon become impossible to evade detection, either on the basis of prints or dna. " Only if the data banks are not corrupted. And since you've stated, "they would need to have/maintain world-class cyber security expertise" this would seem to answer your objection. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Nov 11 '18 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ i'm not sure if that can realistically imply such a capability of hacking all of DOJ/NSA and/or State/Local records, where most data originates. I was speaking mainly about the ability to intercommunicate without detection. But other than evasion, hacking records is the only other option, I agree. These folks could never serve in the military, work for any government, or get arrested in the world we now live in, at least in the first world. Another answer refers to living in less developed countries. That's good for now, too. $\endgroup$ – theRiley Nov 11 '18 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @theRiley Being unable to hack some TLA does not mean that it is impossible to give them false information. That problem usually reduces to "bribe a clerk". $\endgroup$ – canhascodez Nov 11 '18 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @sethrin - good point. flashing a million at an arresting officer is an option. but then you are on his radar. nevertheless, bribery is clearly on the table. so would be taking the arresting officer(s) out. once inside the station, all that becomes a lot more complicated. $\endgroup$ – theRiley Nov 11 '18 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @sethrin Edward Snowden took gobs of data with him from the NSA (and he's hardly the first, or the last, one to do so; certainly if you don't limit the scope to a single agency). Surely if his motives had been different, it wouldn't have been that difficult for him to plant data instead. Even if one can't actually replace data, even just sowing distrust in the data can go a really long way! Wait, what on Earth is this file on Scrooge McDuck doing in our repository of world leaders...? And why does it show Angela Merkel's second-in-command as Mr. Garfield? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 12 '18 at 12:11
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They are homeless mendicants.

These immortal humans invisibly live among us. They are the homeless; vagrants; hoboes; transients. Wise men. Angels?

seeking human kindness source

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    $\begingroup$ While a good solution, it clearly doesn't let them have a fairly normal life with all the amenities $\endgroup$ – Masclins Nov 12 '18 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ That surely solves the problem of going completely unnoticed. Nobody pays attention to the hobos. $\endgroup$ – dbkk Nov 12 '18 at 12:28
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Start a religion

Based in the US. Specifically a religion that externally aggressively refuses to engage with society. Every few years young adults emerge from the commune, feeling constrained by the religion, wanting to engage with the modern world. Obviously healthy though strangely educated, we don't want children's services getting involved, but with no record of their existence.

After 10-20 years in visible contact with society they then retreat back into the commune only to emerge again after a reasonable period of time as their own cousin/child/niece/nephew etc.

Outside the commune you maintain a secondary charity group who specialise in helping the children of the religion engage with society and get birth certificates, social security numbers, passports etc.

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I was going to give almost the same answer as o.m. but you don't need the babies.

Immortals would be expected to rotate them through a public service every few hundred years. They need to go into a role such as middle government, law enforcement, medicine and education and run that for the benefit of all Immortals for a time before handing over to the next.

The doctors create birth certificates for babies that never were born. They run a charitable school and add non-existent children into the list to create educational records that exists in name only. The civil servants make sure passports, driving licenses, etc are all issued without any uncomfortable questions.

Every few decades once the fake identities reach a suitable age (often just as they are about to go to univeristy) each immortal moves away from where they used to live (possibly faking their death) and then assumes one of the new roles that is waiting for them.

Immortals are forbidden from high profile careers and publicity seeking and avoid criminal records or encounters with the law. Rule number 1 is - don't get DNA screened, if it does happen then the immortals within the relevant organisation will look to corrupt the records.

In 20 years things may become too interlinked for this to work, it's viable now though and will still be viable for a few decades to come.

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  • $\begingroup$ ...or just use a retrovirus to change your DNA. It’s been used for a handful of serious genetic disorders already, I’m sure a secretive, enormously wealthy group of immortals would have already mastered using the same technique to alter their DNA to evade the DNA databases used for identification purposes. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Nov 12 '18 at 23:34
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This was the topic of the book "The Boat of a Million Years" by Poul Anderson.

It is a long time since I read the book, but some of the characters find jobs working in the bureaucracy where they are able to adjust records and reassign themselves. However, eventually they decide to reveal themselves. It was an excellent book and I won't spoil it further by saying more.

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Run a private company.

You have a chauffeur so you don't need a licence and the police tend to leave limos alone. You live in a company owned building and have a company credit card. Staff work on 18 month contracts. Every ten years or so, you move to a different part of the country. You avoid an online presence and the media as much as possible.

As a rich, slightly crazy recluse that never does anything interesting, nobody would ever notice that you have no ID

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    $\begingroup$ What about registration of the company and bills and payments to the owner? I'd guess, they would need some kind of an ID, even if it's not actively used. Basically, the company is formally registered onto some local hobo. $\endgroup$ – Oleg Lobachev Nov 12 '18 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ "nobody would ever notice that you have no ID " ... until you need to take a flight, are in an accident or they have questions on your tax statements. $\endgroup$ – Tom Nov 12 '18 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom Accident: Insurance from a firm in a foreign country. International movement and taxes should be avoided, of course. The point being that taxes are targeted towards statistical people on file, not physical people living somewhere $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Nov 12 '18 at 13:09
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Every 20 years or so, fake a pregnancy and child birth.

The only person whose cooperation you need is the doctor who oversees the (non-existing) home-birth and writes a birth certificate. In most countries, having a birth certificate will be all you really need to prove the existence of a person. You will then be able to do all the other paperwork without any government official ever actually meeting the child. When the child reaches school age, pretend to homeschool.

If you have access to resources, then it shouldn't be that difficult to keep the non-existing child out of the public without raising suspicion. As a multi-millionaire with a secluded lifestyle, you have a plausible reason to do that. You wouldn't want some paparazzi to take a picture of your kids so a kidnapper can recognize them, would you?

When the non-existing child turns adult, fake your own death and assume the identity of your child.

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While the fake-birth-baby-death route is common both here and in fiction, why go to all that trouble?

You avoid scrutiny by exploiting cracks in the system.

Cooperation between countries is limited. When you move to another country, the amount of exchange is limited and can be controlled by an insider. If the countries are not on friendly terms, you could bypass this step entirely.

So simply move to a different country every 20 or so years. In that time, anyway it will become boring. A collaborator (i.e. another immortal) in the destination country who owns a company offers you a good position and helps with the paperwork. Most countries make immigration easy if you come with a job - their primary worry is that you'll be a problem for the social security system. After a few years, apply for citizenship and with that simple step you disappear from the beaurocracy of your previous country. Repeat this 2-3 times, you are still within the timespan of a normal life, but it would require extensive detective work to still track you.

And once or twice a century you use some war, revolution or such to become a refugee who sadly lost all paperwork and documents in the unfortunate events. Yes, you will have to suffer a temporary drop in living standards, but thanks to your friends, it will be a year or two and then you move up again.

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Having lived so long they should have been able to invest and save so much money they are in practice ruling everything, incl owning / having enough influence in the companies which do the record-keeping. Make sure to have a couple of them employed introducing bugs in these databases.

This is supposedly what any powerful non-immortal group does already.

  1. Infiltrate,
  2. plant bugs,
  3. rewrite databases / history in a way that benefits us
  4. profit.
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Take Over a Country

Many of the answers here depend on being able to make use of national bureaucracies to create identities. If you establish your clan as the royal family, you can BE a sovereign and never be troubled again by identities. You can switch rulers every fifty years or so, then create a new persona from the millions of your subjects. The trick is to spend your efforts on maintaining national stability and being favored by whatever regional power is in the area. With your knowledge and skills over the ages, you should be adept at diplomacy. The inspiration for this comes from North Korea.

You would not even need to be the official ruler yourself....appoint a few figureheads and promise them an easy life in exchange for their loyalty and silence. Most humans can be bought pretty cheap. You can even set up an academy to train normals for this specific role.

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So many expensive, cloak-and-dagger solutions that seem to require secret world domination. Another solution: simply dispute the accuracy of the bureaucratic records, and pester the apathetic, annoyed, low-wage-earning DMV and post office clerks to override the system.

"Yes; I have the same name as my great-great-grandfather. My parents wanted to honor their family. We were born in the same month, by coincidence. We probably look alike. What? We can't possibly have the same fingerprint; that is literally impossible. Your computer system got us mixed up. All I know is that your clerks are incompetent, I have a clean criminal record, and I need a passport asap to travel for work. If you do not destroy those faulty records, my lawyers will be in touch with you right away."

"My client has been severely harmed by your department's inaccurate record-keeping practices. Don't waste my time with your rumors of immortal demigods; are you really willing to testify, under oath, in front of a jury, that my client is an immortal demigod? Fix your records, please!"

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If the group realized the significance of growing computerization back in the fifties, they could have gotten in on the ground floor of the entire computer industry and built protections in for themselves. (Not much use to try to protect against backdoors in the software if its the hardware that has backdoors to let a select group bypass whatever software based security there is.) If the group controls the major players in the semi-conductor industry, they would be able to stay on top a large portion of their problems. They could gain access to the necessary databases to alter biometric data and create records as needed.

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