I've read a lot of question about testing, so this may be a duplicate, but so far, I've been unable to find this question.


Following WW3, and its scenarium-radiating super-weapons, mutants appeared in our societies. In fact, newly super-powered humans were crucial in ending the war, or at least putting it in an indefinitely long cold war state. (You have a nuclear warhead? That's cute, we have a woman here that can safely take ten of those apart mid-flight without breaking a sweat).

Mutants resources are now a central element of geopolitics, war strategy and culture in general.

Fast forward a few dozens years after the agreement on a cease-fire. Mutants are statistically less powerful and the few Tier-1 are catered and nursed by the government, juuuuust in case.

The less powerful ones (aka, those who won't destroy a city should they sneeze) are allowed to take on super-hero duties and help keep the super-criminality in check.

Of course, the government registers everybody (mutants and non mutants) for obvious reasons. You have the right not to use your powers (unless you're some kind of superhuman shield missile, in which case you'll be kindly escorted by a platoon of mutants powerful enough to bash your head in and voluntarily enlisted). But you have to register.

Method of registration

Mutations reveal themselves thanks to the heavy hormonal unbalancing associated with puberty. Upon reaching majority, a mandatory registration is done. During registration, each subject is prompted to list all of their abilities (to the best extent of their knowledge) and demonstrate it in a safe and controlled environment. (Demonstration help keeps a power rating, used for various things).

Should you be found guilty of perjury, the consequences would be really unpleasant (including, but not restricted to: prison, "communal work", mandatory military service, life-long imprisonment, exile, death-sentence, life-long slavery).

For many reasons, mutants could and will try to conceal some of their abilities - and my MC is certainly going to try to.

Other than the screening and incentive listed above, what ways my totally not totalitarian government might use to ensure the best knowledge possible of all mutants respective abilities?


  1. No, my Cold War government can't hand baskets of fruits, or any other material niceties to all mutants. We're still at war and the tax-payers are already funding the wall. (But if you want to add reasonable measures, such as a quota of mutant in companies, that can be arranged)

  2. With a slightly more advanced technological level - 50 years or so - you won't be able to hide your abilities if you use them. Someone is going to take a video and post it on social media, your neighbour will cough to the authority and so on.

  3. The mutant population rate is a little less than 0.1%, and top interest mutants are 0.01% of this population.

  • $\begingroup$ Reality check may be the wrong tag for this, since the central premise (super powered mutants) is not possible. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ "Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info. Compare this with the science-based and hard-science tags. This tag should never be the only tag on a question, because this tag frames how a question should be answered, not the topic." This isn't a yes or no answer, but it require an answer consistent in the setting backed up with non science info (albeit sociology is a soft science? Unsure on that). As far I as understand it, it seems appropriate? $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ reality-check would be fine if this presented this scenario and asked "will this work within the political system" (its a political reality check which is rare, but fine). However, the question is not that it is "what ways can...." which is not a reality check but asking for ideas within a polictical system and specific environment (which includes "Achoo!!!....oh, sorry I knocked your houses down") $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2019 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Removing the tag then, thank you for the information. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Feb 1, 2019 at 12:54

5 Answers 5


Universal national service

You've just come out of a war, it's not unreasonable to be maintaining a heightened level defensive capabilities. National service is also a good way of controlling the sense of national identity. Everyone is told what to think at an early age, and taught how to obey orders from the government.

When I say jump, you say what colour - Sgt Detritus

Now get down to the gym/firing range

This is where the system comes into its own. You've got a bunch of teenagers, you're going to have to exploit the teenage mentality. Dealing with boys is easy, put them in a mixed group and let them show off to the girls (or other boys), you'll soon know exactly who has what abilities and how powerful they are. Some of the group will respond better to other social stimuli, but the general idea here is not to tell them what you're testing for, but rather to put them in a situation where they want to show off what they've got.

Stressful situations

Some will of course show some self restraint when encouraged to show off. However training and general duties will allow you to put them into stressful situations where certain abilities will allow much quicker, simpler and safer exits from a situation. Even something so simple as being out in the cold and all the firewood being damp, or straight up rescue and recovery duties like a casualty trapped under a large heavy object or forest fire control may encourage those with mutant abilities to use them to protect their comrades.

  • $\begingroup$ If the person who downvoted could explain, I'm curious to know the reason? My only concerns with this method are: a) you can't use it with a general screening, cause people will know they're being tested and may refrain from using some abilities. Alone, the method is not really reliable. b) With a proportion of 1 every 1000 individuals, a mutant might fear "showing off" in a group of regular teenagers, by fear of being isolated from the group. It would probably be really efficient if they all had powers. A national service provide some plot hooks I hadn't thought about. May include it. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Feb 1, 2019 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Nyakouai, I assumed it was a teenager resenting the fact they're so easily manipulated by adults :) You may need to put some stooges into the situation to get things moving. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 1, 2019 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Add in promoting currently "active" mutants as celebrities, so that having powers becomes a badge of honour, then you'll get the opposite problem: people trying to act as though they have powers when they don't $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2019 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal that problem however is much easier to test. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 8, 2019 at 16:16

With a slightly more advanced technological level - 50 years or so - you won't be able to hide your abilities if you use them. Someone is going to take a video and post it on social media, your neighbour will cough to the authority and so on.

This could be the key to the problem. Have your population spy on your mutants. How does a mutant know what abilities they have when they don't use them? If they experiment with their abilities, there will be witnesses.

Have every mutant wear a clearly visible sign that they are mutants and what powers they have. They might have to wear a bunch of badges on a sash, on their shoulder, on a hat or similar. Every citizen should know what these symbols mean. When a mutant discovers that they have an ability they were not aware of, they have to report it immediately and get another badge. When someone witnesses a mutant using an ability which is not on any of their badges, encourage the citizen to report it immediately.

This, of course, requires that the possible palette of superpowers is manageable. When there are just like 10 common powers, that's something you can teach. But when some mutants have very obscure and unique powers, then it would not work because badges would become just as specific.

You might also have some kind of public database of mutants. When someone meets a mutant, they can look them up with a phone app to get a more detailed description of their abilities. While this might greatly increase the precision of reports you receive ("His profile says he can only lift up to 10 tons, but I saw him walk around with a 20 ton truck the other day") it also has a crucial drawback: It becomes impossible to keep the true abilities of your mutants a secret from your enemies.

And this system is not foolproof, of course. There might be some abilities which are very easy to hide. That might apply especially to information gathering abilities which have no physical effects, like super-hearing, x-ray vision, mind reading, etc.. Or some mutants might even have abilities which make it easier for them to conceal other abilities, like shapeshifting, invisibility or the ability to erase and/or plant false memories. But there is a high risk that a mutant slips up and exposes themselves by admitting that they know something they shouldn't know.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A la Boy Scout's badges. You add one for cooking the chicken without a fire. Aaaannd one for walking on water. ...... For legitimacy, say you have 30 working days to apply for your badge upon acquiring a new ability. Your MC won't be infringing the law, only lazy and hasn't got around to drop by the Registration Office. $\endgroup$
    – Gustavo
    Jan 31, 2019 at 15:31
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Do they come as tiny yellow 6-branch stars? Dark humor apart, I see a few problems. First, categorizing an ability and quantitizing it are fairly different. How do you differentiate the badge between a 10 or a 20 tons lifting power? Second, that would lead to a deep and unhealthy segregation of the mutants, which I nor the government can afford in the setting. I need the mutants and standard humans to be on okay-ish terms, especially since they are the only safeguard against nuclear holocaust. Third, as you guessed it, there is as many different power as there is different fingerprints. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Jan 31, 2019 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Moreover, as of today, lots of school fights end up filmed and posted on social media. Mutants still being fairly rare, I assume the people would record unusual displays just to share it (for good and bad reasons). I'm not sure we need to incentivize this behaviour as it's already fairly common. Plus, I fear it might be counter productive, with false reports - think of it as a vicious side effect. Overall, not really working for me. But I thank you for your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Jan 31, 2019 at 15:46

The DNA thingamajig

Doesn't a simple DNA test give a ton of information already? In your higher tech future the DNA test can even detect the genes that are responsible for specific powers.

They'll have had to have tested many of mutants and done a lot of categorizing in the past. But I'd bet your futuristic society has a little device, like what diabetics use to tell them what their blood sugar level is, that with one poke of blood tells the tester everything he/she needs to know.

And they've already broken it down to categories and power levels. Its even connected to the internet that puts you on a list so everyone who needs to know you're a mutant can know in no time. Very efficient. You cant escape. Don't get poked!

  • $\begingroup$ Nyakouai mentioned in his comments to Philipp that powers are unique. Genetic testing only tells you known genetic markers; so, this would likely not be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 8, 2019 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki, unique or not they fall into categories. Mental powers. Physical powers. Energy generation and or manipulation powers. And even within those there are sub-categories. Mental powers: telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, etc. They can be quantified to some degree. $\endgroup$
    – Len
    May 1, 2019 at 18:24

Statistical analysis. Even if a mutant ability is difficult to notice when being used, it will probably cause a statistical anomaly. This obviously wouldn't catch people who are being very subtle in the use of their powers, or people who never use their powers.


I think a better approach to mandatory registration for everyone would be to treat them the same way we treat citizens with potentially dangerous skills like advanced cyber security, explosives, or biochemistry expertise. If you get caught commiting a crime with mutant powers, you go on a government watch list, if you work at a company where you openly use your powers for your job, you go on a watch list.

But, like the hackers and terrorists who often misuse the above skill sets, the mutants you really need to worry about will never submit to a voluntary registration system, especially in a world where mutants are exploited by their governments.

Data-mining is going to be a way better method of registering mutants than voluntary lists. In real life, every Internet Search you do and every purchase you make is logged and analyzed by marketing companies to place you into a cohort to figure out what groups of people you are representative of. In this world, every time you do a Google search about mutants, every time you friend a suspected mutant on facebook, every time you buy a song that glorifies the mutant experience, every time you walk into a bar where lots of mutants go, every time you buy an unusual amount of a certain type of food to meet your unique dietary needs, everytime your phone's GPS registers you moving in ways that normal modes of transportation can't move: it is all logged and sorted. The Government maintains contracts with the same companies we use for marketing purposes to maintain a secrete score on every citizen to determine how likely it is that they might be a mutant.

Once that score breaks a predefined degree of certainty, you come under a cursory investigation putting you on the government watch list whether you've revealed your powers in public or not. In most cases, your demographic data will reveal most of what the government wants to know right off the bat. If not, a federal agent skims through your social media feeds, criminal record, old school records, and financial information to evaluate both how extraordinary you may be and how dangerous of a personality type you have. If those two factors combined warrant additional investigation, the government might see fit begin monitoring specific activities. At this point, you still don't know you are being investigated, but your computer & phone may have government sponsored spyware that flags certain words or phrases for analysis; waiting for you to talk to your wife about how hard it was not to make your bosses hair catch on fire, or about how you accidently turned the dog into a brick; so, they start indexing your powers before you know you need to take hiding them seriously.

From here they may decide that you are one of 3 types: A person with mild-moderate mutant powers and no inclination to misuse them at which point they just log you in their system and move on. The second kind is a person with mild-moderate mutant powers that may plan to misuse them; so, they keep tabs on you and stay ready to put you in cuffs for whatever charged they can make stick as soon as they can without revealing that you've been the subject of a covert investigation. The third kind is a person of extraordinary power. These are the guys they are really putting all this time and money into finding. If a few third rate mutants stay under the radar, society does not really care, but these one-in-a-million guys are going to have something about them that stands out so much, that their powers will be pretty obvious once you start digging.

Does this give you a perfect database of mutant powers? No, but by keeping these investigations out of the public eye, and maintaining the illusion of privacy, it prevents most mutants from feeling alienated and discriminated against by the government while still allowing you to find the powers that really matter. This is the key to being able to use them when you do find them which is more important than completeness.


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