Background: In the early 2020s a magical life-extending "elixir" is created but is in short supply. However, a very reckless individual steals most of the US's supply and drinks a sufficient amount of it to extend their life by 8000 years. It is decided that this individual must be quarantined to avoid any possible further damage or annoyance to the US or world.

Five criteria are identified by the committee put in charge of isolating this individual from the outside world.

1) No possibility of the individual's escape from quarantine

2) No contact between the outside world and this individual allowed

3) Location must be over 1AU away(in order to minimize chance of being located and visited in the future)

4) Individual must be held with lifesupport humanely for the period of their natural life(i.e. 8000 years)

5) Must be achievable with current or as-soon-as-possible technology(to remove this individual ASAP)

EDIT: As an alternative, the committee also considers painless death of the individual, as long as it does not constitute cruel or unusual punishment.

So, the big question: can any such solutions be found with present or very-near-future technology?

Any and all answers will be greatly appreciated. Thank you all for your time.

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    $\begingroup$ what wrong with just dumping him on a small island and putting an exclusion zone around it. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 18 '19 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ One AU away will be possible in about, idk, 50 years? That is not too far away, is it? $\endgroup$ – bv_Martn Jun 18 '19 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ @John storms, ocean currents and raising sea levels over the next 8000 years might make this hard $\endgroup$ – bv_Martn Jun 18 '19 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ You mention holding them humanely for 8,000 years with current technology. Technology is one thing, but do we even have sufficient philosophy to try to assign meaning to "humanely detain someone for 8,000 years?" I don't think we have much of a concept of what it is like to live for 8,000 years, much less what qualifies as humane on that timescale. 8,000 years ago was pre-history or the absolute beginnings of history. You're talking about detaining someone as long as there has been history. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 19 '19 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ Heinlein's Lazarus Long series, in particular Time Enough for Love, may be worthwhile reading from the philosophical perspective. In it, Lazarus is an individual who has a thirst for life, is completely free to interact with whomever he pleases (no quarantine), and still finds his desire for life gone, replaced with a desire for death. The books suggest that happened in less than 300 years. It turns out having to watch everyone you ever loved, everyone you ever cared for, die is not all that humane in the end. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 19 '19 at 4:10

As I think through this I face a few issues that constitute a Frame Challenge.

  • No prison is inescapable with the right amount of help.
  • "No contact" might need definition. Unless you're planning to either build an entire self-sufficient space station (outside our current tech) or drop him on Mars (kinda still outside our tech if you can't go near him for 8K years), this is a deal killer. Unless you want to let him enjoy his 8K years in a state of starvation.
  • Considering 99.9% of our current tech was invented in the last 150 years of human history, there's a better-than-average chance that sometime during the next 8,000 years we'll develop such cheap-and-convenient interplanetary travel that no matter where you put him you'll have teenagers tagging the prison and prying at the seams just to see if it would be a good place to enjoy some weed.
  • Humanity has yet to produce anything that can be proven to last for 8K years that could conceivably be used to hold a person. So artificial construction via near-term tech is out.
  • And on top of this... any off-planet solution would be astronomically expensive. What's the point of holding onto a dude for 8K years who you can't so much as taunt and mock? Every human-rights activist on the planet for the entire 8K year period would be hounding you (and that's a lot of time to lose in court) and you really can't keep him a secret all that time. (Or can you? Muahahaha!)

Your only practical solution is to cremate the guy.

Because unless there's a self-sustaining solution that allows you to feed him, clothe him, tuck him in at night, and completely ignore him, there's no believable way to keep anyone for 80 years, much less 8,000, and not have a whole lotta ugly transpire. Worn out parts come to mind.

So... cremation. You know someone suggested it.

It's worth pointing out that you might be asking the wrong question. Telling your readers that the government used emerging space-stealth tech to stow this guy away is trivial. You really don't need to explain it. What you need to explain is why anybody in their right mind would do such a thing. Talk about off-the-books. In the words of the immortal Julius Levinson: "You didn't think they actually spent ten thousand dollars for a hammer and thirty thousand for a toilet seat, did you?"

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    $\begingroup$ Love the Independence Day quote. Sometimes the answer really is "It wouldn't happen in reality, but don't let that stop you for the sake of a story!" $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Jun 18 '19 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ FYI, there's a rating system for safes. It doesn't rate safes based on how impenetrable they are; there's no such thing. Instead, the rating is the number of minutes it takes someone to get in. Someone who knows exactly how the safe works, using the best known techniques, with the best equipment available. Because you can't keep people out indefinitely. If someone wants in badly enough, they're getting in. The idea is you get a ten-minute safe, and have guards sweep through every five minutes on a loop. $\endgroup$ – Ton Day Jun 18 '19 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DaytonWilliams That's great info! Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 18 '19 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ @dwizum yeah, that's why I asked about the issue of painless. It seemed it was suddenly a new condition not previously mentioned in the question. But, it may simply be an appreciation, for which I'm grateful. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 18 '19 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @dwizum The reason that it is a good solution is that (I should have made this clearer) my goal is to remove this individual from daily life. I had considered killing them, but could not find an ethical or humane alternative. I should have stated this in the OP, sorry. $\endgroup$ – Lelu Jun 18 '19 at 22:53

4) Individual must be held with lifesupport humanely for the period of their natural life

This already should be your show stopper. What you want is solitary confinement for 8000 years. You can safely assume that your prisoner is most likely going to kill himself after some years or decades. So if you don't invent a perfect Holo-Deck, there is no way to achieve your goal.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep. "How do I torture this individual for 8000 years? But you know... humanly?" $\endgroup$ – Nathan Cooper Jun 18 '19 at 14:01

This may just be possible

Let's check the number you're looking at. A human needs about 2,000 calories a day, but without movement we can decrease that number to maybe 1,500, or even less. Multiply that by 365.25 days per solar year, for 8000 years and you end up with 1.789 x 10^13 joules of energy. Or, to put it in better numbers, 1/4 of the total energy of the Little Boy atom bomb. That means we need power. As in, 'nuclear power'. And once we've got a nuclear powered prison, things become a bit easier.

You see, we don't need a space prison because space is really good enough. What we need is just a generation ship. And we've got the perfect place to put it, too. The Earth's L3 Lagrange point. The ship has a small enough mass, and it's thrusters should be able to help self-correct if need be. In addition, the L3 is not one, but 2 AUs away at all times, and the Sun is between your captive and the Earth, so contact is going to be all but impossible.

Now the problem is just air, water, and food. As long as the ship is perfectly (and I mean perfectly) self-contained, it's a closed system, and there's nothing wrong in theory with having all three solved with liberal application of electric power from the nuclear generator and sunlight from the sun. (This question has an answer which seems to indicate as such.)

On a separate note, I hear potatoes are apparently pretty good for this kind of thing. (That was a joke. The amount of space you'd need for potatoes and soil are way too much. You'll probably have to rely on cultured bacteria for that kind of sustenance, which would all need to be specially bred for the purpose, considering that they'd be providing some essential vitamins, minerals, nucleic acids, etc., that you can't make. And we don't have that kind of bacteria now. But it's theoretically possible with modern tech, and that's what counts.)

I haven't done the calculations for whether we could launch a payload like this into space, but the Saturn V has a payload capacity (for trans-lunar orbit) of 50 tons. Most of the weight will be the nuclear generator, which is only going to be a few tons, so it seems doable.

So, now we've got a nuclear-powered satellite, and, since you asked for humane life support, I found these pretty compact memory cards on Amazon. Not as cheap as an external hard drive, but I think it's a bit lighter. Buy a few hundred and stock it with shows, books, games, music, funny cat videos, whatever suits this person's fancy, or will. 8000 years is a long time, interests will probably change.

So, adding them all up together, and we get 'this is crazy enough to work'. So, barely possible with a nuclear-powered self-sustaining generation ship orbiting in L3. On that note, I'd advise launching from Discworld, as one-in-a-million chance happen nine times out of ten there. (Yes, I think it's that improbable. Like I said, theory is good, but something will go wrong.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for your kind, well researched answer. I really appreciate you putting such thought into it. $\endgroup$ – Lelu Jun 18 '19 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ There is a lot of great information here, and it gets the gist right, but you are going to need to allow for maintenance. The fan that keeps the air flowing isn't going to survive 8000 years without repairs, etc. Depending how far you are looking to push the ASAP tech you could use something like self replicating maintenance nano-bots, or on the sooner but more interaction side, the prison could be monitored and repaired by humans. Designed right there could be little to no contact for nearly all the required repairs. $\endgroup$ – Crouse Jun 18 '19 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Crouse Forgot about that, good point. It would have to be done by the prisoner, I think. We aren't close enough to nano-bots yet. Though I do wonder how much repair is required. If, for instance, the equipment was made from really good materials, like rare super-alloys, they might have a shelf life of a few hundred years easy. Then you'd need a fabricator of some sort to make new ones from the old parts. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jun 18 '19 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ If cost is truly no object (and you're kicking a full-sized nuclear reactor into orbit, so...) you could simply build new capsules every, say, 100 years and launch them to rendezvous with the previous one. You'd also have the benefits of incremental improvements in technology every time you did this. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jun 18 '19 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence That violates the 'no contact' rule, though. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jun 18 '19 at 4:40

Frame Challenge

Individual must be held with lifesupport humanely for the period of their natural life*

This is a stupendous amount of effort for no benefit at all.

KISS and shoot him in the back of the head. Or have him suffer a convenient "accident" (even if he's really durable, he's not Superman, so getting crushed by a steamroller will do the trick).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I challenge your challenge. While it would be trivial and plausible to label the man a traitor/charge him with treason and have him executed, the case would be high-profile and the story, believable. However, this is a drug that would be distributed to people like high-ranking government and military officials and top scientists. People you want to live for a long time. Nobody would kill the most valuable test subject on the planet. He would be locked away in a black ops research facility, subject to tests for the rest of his life $\endgroup$ – DreadedEntity Jun 18 '19 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DreadedEntity you missed the Or have him suffer a convenient "accident" part. And if they want him as a test subject, then sticking him, alone and completely isolated, tens of millions of miles away, is a pretty foolish idea. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jun 18 '19 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ That's why no one would ever do that, it's Insane Troll Logic. He would be locked away in a heavily guarded research facility with no chance of escape, for at least as long as it takes to snatch every piece of data they can to study the effects of the "elixer"(drug) on the human body to determine if it is safe enough to give significant people to extend their lives for whatever reason, and, possibly, to reproduce it locally rather than wait for some global body to make more and give it away $\endgroup$ – DreadedEntity Jun 19 '19 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DreadedEntity that's why no one would ever do what (shoot him in the back of the head or isolate him for 8,000 years or both)? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jun 19 '19 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ Both. Both are insane troll logic, a terrible plot point, unbelievable(and by extension immersion-breaking). It seems obvious as daytime to me that they'd have this guy locked up and jamming needles in him before the door to the facility has even been shut and locked yet. Even if it's a plot device and he eventually escapes, I think it's a waste of pages and thinking wondering about such an absurd and unbelievable idea, and a much better plot point is releasing breakthrough data gathered from him throughout the story $\endgroup$ – DreadedEntity Jun 19 '19 at 17:17

I know this takes it in a completely radical direction from your request, and likely doesn't fit the narrative you have already, buuuut --

Contain him within a VR prison. He thinks he is still roving around doing whatever he would want to for those 8,000 years (or his perception of 8,000 years) and all the while is just in some small cell being looked after by a small medical team as a pioneer of VR lifestyle.

  • $\begingroup$ This is basically what I have in mind for the story, as it happens! Don't be afraid to share your ideas - this was a nice one to see and I appreciate your thought. $\endgroup$ – Lelu Jun 18 '19 at 22:48

Just put him on an asteroid!

While obviously heavily science fiction, I think the core idea probably might be worth looking into - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lonely_(The_Twilight_Zone)

  • $\begingroup$ Quite an interesting alternative: I'll look into it. Just have to find an asteroid that will never be visited, but that should be easy as there have been almost 800k minor planets discovered. Thank you for your well-thought out reply. $\endgroup$ – Lelu Jun 18 '19 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind asteroids in a belt crash a lot. And in 8k years even if it were isolated somewhere outside of an asteroid belt, it might still not be enough for it to be guarded against collisions. $\endgroup$ – brett Jun 19 '19 at 10:14

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