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A toxin was released into the atmosphere. 99% of people were infected, and then the toxin diluted to a negligible state. The infection is passed down generations. There is no possible cure or way to reduce the symptoms, but we don't know that.

This infection gives humans, and only humans, super-strength and super-hard skin. There is no possible material stronger or harder than an infected human, but we don't know that.

Handcuffs, super-strong walls, and even extra-hard diamonds can be torn apart as easily as a sheet of paper by infected humans. There is no possible way to detain a conscious human without being restrained by another (stronger) human, but we don't know that.

Nothing exists, nor can be created, that would pierce an infected human's skin, but we don't know that.

Infected humans are immune to all potential sedatives, but of course, we don't know that.

The fact that we don't know these things is not ignorance. We realize there is no current solution. We just don't know that there is no potential future solution to these matters.

How would laws be enforced?

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    $\begingroup$ There will be no laws and we don't know that. $\endgroup$ – user6760 May 6 '15 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ Well other people, equally strong would guard them 24/7 $\endgroup$ – w_builder May 6 '15 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ Some chemical weapons would still work on anyone who needs to breathe. Similarly if their metabolism stays similar to normal, they'd be vulnerable to heat and cold. Napalm for example should work just fine, if slower and with different special effects. And unless the have super senses simple smoke or the flames from napalm would effectively blind them and prevent fighting back. Spraying them with sticky substance with extreme odour should work as non-lethal punishment. If they feel pain pepper sprays and tear gas would work. Taser might not work, other forms of electric shock might. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 6 '15 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ What do we know? $\endgroup$ – Samuel May 6 '15 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Leushenko but we don't know that $\endgroup$ – wposeyjr May 6 '15 at 17:42

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I'm going to assume first that humans are resistant to their own strength, with a much denser and more tightly packed muscle mass, or we would have a world largely comprised of dead humans from self-inflicted wounds.

Let's also assume that while human physiology has been drastically changed, human nature has not.

And finally, let's also assume this takes place in modern times.


People wouldn't know right away the effects of this peculiarly specific toxin, but we'd soon find out. People are regularly cut, bruised, nicked, shot, and injured in a large variety of ways every single day. Once people start to realize they're NOT being injured by everyday events, they will start sharing this information with other people, and they too will realize they've been affected, and share it with other people, and so on and so forth.

In short - people will find out and find out quickly.

At first this will probably create a good deal of chaos, as people realize they can perform superhuman feats of strength and endurance, and suffer no permanent physical consequences for it. Police and law enforcement will rush to apprehend the spree-criminals, and although their guns are now useless, they are also super strong and immune to physical damage, and some of them will be armed with tasers and gas (I notice you didn't mention electricity or gas in your question) so they will still have ways to subdue criminals temporarily.

Once they find out criminals can't be kept in prisons, they will start looking for other ways to remove them from society - the death penalty will probably be favored, either by lethal ingestion, drowning, asphyxiation, or electrocution. Another possibility would be orbital or underwater/island prison, since even with the ability to escape containment, criminals still need to breath.

It would be very difficult, and it's likely that minor criminals would be left to roam free (petty theft, habitual drug use, hate crimes, et cetera) until a better system can be developed. But because those interested in keeping the peace are now as strong and invulnerable as their tormenters, it would come down to a matter of numbers - but as long as petty criminals do not form some type of solidarity with other criminals, or even organized criminals working together with other organized criminals, law enforcement would most likely prevail, if for no other reason than having a common goal.

War would be slightly different - gas and electrocution would probably be far more popular if they work, but largely boil down to fistfights and restraining one another, which would mean large numbers would mostly win.


Now an interesting caveat you included was that only 99% of the world's population was affected by this toxin - that leaves 1% of the population unaffected (and I assume a 50/50 chance that the unaffected/affected couples would pass down the 'superhuman' genes).

Those 1% would probably not see a marked change in their lives, unless their daily lives have them competing in physical contests or working in a physical environment, where the 99% superhumans would now have a tremendous advantage. For that 1%, they would likely feel very vulnerable, and may seek to have legislation passed specifically to protect them. They would all probably take up menial non-physical jobs, because they can't practically compete with the 99%, but would largely lead otherwise normal lives, though perhaps somewhat depressing ones, knowing they are performing underneath 'human potential'.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, though I'd imagine habitual drug use would become regarded as an even more serious crime than it is now. What's more dangerous than a person with super-strength? An intoxicated person with super-strength! $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler May 6 '15 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler What's less dangerous than a person with super strength? A person with super strength who just wants to take a nap and eat some brownies. Then again, when Superman got high... $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz May 6 '15 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, needles can't pierce the skin of this super human, rather severely limiting their drug choices... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky May 7 '15 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky It's questionable if drugs would even work on them at all, since sedatives are said not to work. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz May 7 '15 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ lol "They would all probably take up menial non-physical jobs" When most "menial" non-physical jobs are the jobs that pay the most in modern times... (with proper education ofc) $\endgroup$ – Joze May 7 '15 at 14:51
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Your description of infected humans still leaves some ways to harm them. Extreme temperatures, posions, radioactivity, deprivation of water, food and air. What about electricity? I assume their nervous system still runs on it, and thus can be fried electrically?

That said you can still threaten them with a flamethrower and can keep them confined with an electric fence.

Also, while your description seems to imply that an infected human would not be harmed by something like a tank shell or mortar grenade, energy still needs to be conserved, so hitting them with a tank round would still throw them quite some way. Even if that does not hurt, let alone wound them, it would be a way of forcing them in some direction (especially: away from the guy with the flamethrower).

So, it seems that extreme violence would be the only possible threat, maybe combined with extremely well guarded food storages.

But, given the numbers of infected people, and the general incapability of humans to cope with drastic changes in their environment, i assume that you would reach complete anarchy very fast, the non-infected experiencing a surprisingly short lifespan, and you will have some 90% + x (of the infected, since the non-infected will be mostly dead long before that) starving quite quickly.

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As other posters pointed out the death sentence would still be enforceable.

Jails would be more expensive but still quite viable: suspend someone in rubbery/taffylike/sticky jell that can stretch as far as their arms and legs can move but otherwise suspends them away from anything solid with their head sticking out.

They could shout "hulk smash" all they like while they flail around but if they can't reach anything solid to tear or smash they're still gonna be sitting there in the tub of sticky goo.

Alternatively suspend someone in a cage above boiling water or molten metal (depending how resistant to heat they are) with a trigger that releases the cable if the cage bellow is breached. They can break out but only if they're suicidal.

For less serious crimes by people who still want to be part of society something like minimum security prisons operating largely on the honor system and being shunned socially would still be viable.

Personally I think your society might have more trouble with toddlers. People will accept pragmatic harsh punishments for criminals but you can't use or threaten extreme or lethal force against super strong toddlers having a temper tantrum.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, with skin that's unable to stretch or be cut, giving birth will be impossible. $\endgroup$ – Samuel May 6 '15 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel For some reason I am now imagining tectonic plates shifting. $\endgroup$ – Pharap May 6 '15 at 23:19
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First a period of anarchy, then a period of re-establishing society. police will always be dispatched in groups as 2 are need to confine one in most cases.

As punishment, jailing will no longer exist as it would take too much trouble. The only thing I can think about to effectively jail them is either put them in a cell deep under water or deep in space so that they destroy it, they die.

Death sentence will be one of the few punishments available, along with banishment. Depending on how strong their skin is death sentence can vary from twisting a neck to just throwing them into space and let them die there.

Cities and settlements would also have larger police forces. As they need to dispatch multiple officers to each call, they would soon run dry.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see how it follows from what the OP wrote that two police officers would be able to apprehend one infected person any better than would one. Can you edit to clarify why that follows? $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 6 '15 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling One officer holds the suspect in place while the other takes care of calling for backup or driving or whatever? $\endgroup$ – Leushenko May 6 '15 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I took that as an irrelevant thought. I don't see how that is different from our current world, so I just ignored it. $\endgroup$ – Evorlor May 6 '15 at 19:05
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Your description of humans does not prevent them from being restrained.

Solution 1:

Strength and semi-invulnerability are not sufficient, because in order to apply strength you also require leverage. Imagine an infinitely strong man next to a wall of steel. The result of punching the wall isn't that the wall would break - it's that the man would be pushed back. Without leverage, he has no way to apply his incredible power to the wall in a way that would destroy it.

Now obviously with a wall there are ways to get around that - he could crouch down and brace against the floor. But imagine if you designed your prison with curved, slippery walls that melded seamlessly to the floor. You can't tear apart a wall if you can't brace against it.

Solution 2:

Stick criminals in deep pits, and they'd be unable to escape. Infinite strength does not imply the ability to jump any distance - you're limited by the speed of your muscles. The same goes for throwing objects.

If you made your pits out of dirt, destroying the walls would simply be a quick way for your criminals to commit suicide, as they'd suffocate and wouldn't be able to make their way out of the dirt quickly.

Solution 3:

Underwater prisons. As was pointed out, humans can still presumably drown. They can break the walls, sure, but that lets in the ocean and is just another way for them to kill themselves.

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First of all the ramifications of your idea are far greater than enforcing laws! I mean, how would you vaccinate? Perform surgery? Are the eyes that tough? If we are throwing out physical limits how much can we assume. Do we need to eat, excrete? More questions immediately present themselves.

If we are to assume all other variables of humanity and physics remain constant (impossible) and we accept your premise, then I have an ideas.

Your thesis is reminiscent of the growth of lethal weaponry. It's an arms race. The firearm gave lethal force to everyone and anyone regardless of physical strength. Just about anybody could acquire one and in the US there are locations where any non-criminal is likely to have one and criminals will have one illegally. The existence of all this lethal force does not necessarily translate into more crime.

Anybody can simply kill anybody else today, yet it is a rare event because there are consequences. You drop the gun when the police arrive or you will die at the hands of people also with guns but in greater numbers. Even if you beat the cops you are now a wanted fugitive that nobody will want to deal with.

You propose what seems like an extreme version of the arms race. Everyone with super strength and super-skin seems a bit like everyone having a lethal gun and body armor.

There is crime, and it takes a squad of cops/SWAT/etc to subdue even one perpetrator. Citizens can also contribute in the arrest. Incarceration is the only challenge and there are good ideas in the other answers (sticky material, underwater) that address what even a super strong and physically tough human needs such as air and freedom of action. Maybe a desert island prison.

When humans die and bacteria inevitably digest all the parts that aren't super skin, can we use that skin wrapped over sharp pointy projectiles that are themselves super hard and shoot them at humans? Would they penetrate?

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Strength is only useful as long as you can gain purchase on a surface. Therefore, you can restrain a prisoner as long as you can keep them from being able to touch anything, and you can secure an area by making it impossible to get near it while touching anything. So you'd trade in traditional concrete walls and steel bars for more abstract obstacles made out of force in some fashion:

  • In a soft sci-fi/magic setting, just call it a "repulsor" and get back to the story.
  • For a harder setting, it is known that organic material can be levitated by sufficiently strong magnetic fields. You could suspend criminals inside magnetic levitation chambers so that they can't touch the sides, and thus can't escape; or for a possibly more efficient design, you could construct a prison block and levitate the whole thing. Either of these would use a huge amount of power, though; think "bigger than CERN" for the smallest possible practical prison. The authorities will need to get to work on fusion power or something to make this happen.
    • Maybe more socially-conscious infectees use their great strength for power generation? Or maybe that's convict work.
  • A more power-efficient option for solitary containment cells or temporary measures might simply be to use a jet of air instead of a magnetic field. Humans aren't designed to swim in air, so manoeuvring would be extremely difficult for the criminal; more importantly, a system using multiple nozzles would be easy for a computer to control and compensate for any movements, keeping the criminal centred.
    • You could also use computer-controlled reactive air jets outside a prison, or as a temporary movable barrier, to stop people simply getting a running start and jumping right through a mono-directional levitation field, by stopping their acceleration, knocking them off balance, or stopping them once they're airborne and can't apply any more force.
    • Computer-controlled water currents might also be possible, and maybe more energy efficient for a larger storage facility, but run the risk of being too easy to break out of, since humans are passable swimmers.
  • Stop people getting up close to static barriers (like the outer ring of a levitator) by covering the ground in a thick layer of a substance that gives them minimal leverage, like sand. You can still walk or drive up to the facility on a sandy surface, and an intruder can run over it or jump off it, but they can't dig their toes in and pull, so this takes away at least one of the advantages of super-strength.
  • In the end, you can always store anything that really needs to be secured out in space. Even if the infectees are strong enough to launch themselves into orbit or beyond, there's nothing they can do once they get there. Just don't put your base on the Moon, where there's a non-zero chance they could aim correctly from the ground, and it'll be fine - human reflexes aren't good enough to target the International Space Station, let alone Mars or Ceres or a moon of Jupiter.
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  • $\begingroup$ Can't you use your strength to push against a magnetic field? Maybe better would be using magnets stronger than they are to pin them down. $\endgroup$ – Josiah May 6 '15 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Josiah If the field's lifting your whole body (through, not just surface contact), moving your arms isn't going to change what the field is pushing on. $\endgroup$ – Leushenko May 6 '15 at 17:57
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Some really cool answers here. I want to add my two cents:

Some of these superhumans will die of diseases which require vaccination or surgical involvement. Cancerous tumours cannot be removed, infections of the gallbladder and appendix are suddenly very lethal. Not to mention childbirth. If the skin can't be pierced, how do you sever the umbilical cord? Are people perpetually attached to their mothers’ birthing organs? That would be a total mess for going to school since you have to have your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother accompany you at all times. Having intercourse? While your mother's watching? Or potentially your mother and your lover’s mother along with their other children?

I expect these superhumans would have enough troubles of their own to bother with disturbing public order.

Also, the internal organs will have to be just as impenetrable as these people’s outsides, otherwise significantly denser muscles (supported by significantly denser bones) would just crush their innards. If an internal haemorrhage occurs in these circumstances, it might never heal due to sheer physical forces acting inside this super body, then veins get clogged with coagulated blood, it enters arteries, and the person suffers stroke/heart attack as a result of blockage.

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  • $\begingroup$ To expand on this: Make the super strong criminals weak by constantly infecting them with a cold or the flu. Regardless of it's strength, sapping a human body of energy is going to stop them from doing things. This is non-lethal, doesn't require needles, and isn't impacted by an individuals strength. Plus, have you ever tried to do something while you're sick? I'm usually mentally incapacitated. $\endgroup$ – Mark May 7 '15 at 19:30
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Reminds me of situations in some online MMO type games with lax moderation. They also feature superpowered characters and they tend to fall in two camps: grade-A assholes who ruin everyone's day and a smaller group of nice guys who try to keep things running smoothly, usually with the only method they have, which is killing the other group on sight.

You will probably end up in a similar situation. Since there's the actual threat of death in the real world, there will probably be less assholes, but ultimately it'll be a case of "the only sentence is death" since there's really no alternative way to deal with people.

You will either end up in extreme anarchy or a very, very strict society where the rules are enforced harshly.

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Even if all body parts are super hard I cannot think this will also be the case for the brain as it needs to be soft.

I think law enforcement and military will concentrate on causing traumatic brain injury either killing or incapacitating the target. This can be done with high caliber impact weapons. These can deliver a mighty punch to the head. Another way would be microwave weapons cooking the blood of the victims.

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