4
$\begingroup$

Set in the modern day, a meteorite lands in the pacific ocean and green flash of light sweep the entire globe. All of a sudden we are blinded to the presence of another human being, it seems that the entire human race is cursed by the homo sapiens blindness, the inability to recognise or even be aware of the presence of another human not even image or silhouette of a person. Could such a curse bring humanity to extinction because of plummeting birth rates? Is there anything we can do to ensure our species survival? Kindly use magic sparingly.

Note:

Homo sapiens blindness is a variation of face blindness but much more severe, there is no cure.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can we still smell, hear, touch each other? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Mar 9 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm: yes, you can smell, hear, touch each other. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Mar 9 at 10:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Since blind people are well capable of doing so and we can still see the environment including cars and such I dont think society would stop functioning. People would wear stuff that isnt censored like a large flag to indicate their presence in the street and if video+pictures can still be seen (with a delay if necessary to circumvent the limitations) people would still be able to look at each other and communicate through sounds. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 9 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ Would you still see clothes floating in the air, though? $\endgroup$ – Roberto Mar 9 at 16:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This sounds similar to the Silents in Doctor Who, or possibly Saturnyns. It does seem likely that the effect would be similar to the SEP field from HHGttG. An important question would be, are humans still registered subconsciously, i.e. can you walk around without bumping into other people? $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 9 at 16:41
10
$\begingroup$

Face blindness makes you have a hard time telling people apart. Prosopagnosia is what it's called. Regular humans have a specific centre of the brain devoted to memorising the tiny differences between people's faces, like nose shape, freckles, etcetera. Those with prosopagnosia lack that function, and cannot tell people apart any better than you can tell two different pieces of wrinkled paper apart. Possible, but very strenuous and requiring concentration and context.

Being unable to even be aware of a human person standing next to you is quite absurd in comparison. It means you would get a literal blind spot in part of your vision, without even noticing there being a blind spot. Imagine if someone was standing very still in a clothes store; could you see them assuming they were a mannequin, with them promptly leaving your field of vision as soon as they turned around? If someone covered your eyes with their hands, could you see through them? Would you not notice that you had gone entirely blind? Do your furniture steadily turn invisible when your dead skin cells and hairs build up on them?

It's therefore not going to help to try to compare this to an actual disorder. This is a magic spell, plain and simple. And one with a lot of fuzzy edges. Besides what I already mentioned, what about shadows we cast? What about video recording, or printed photographs? What about video recording in infrared? Printed X-ray pictures? CAT-scans?

What about sensors that do not rely on a human watching them, but are programmed to warn the operator when a human enters the field of vision? Are they disabled, or are the warnings invisible too? They might be audible as well.

So, this is a profoundly broad concept. It has been done before; in one of the latter Sword of Truth books (great novels as long as you ignore the occasional political lean), someone gets cursed with a spell that makes people forget her as soon as they see her. She can effectively sneak anywhere, and people would notice her for a millisecond, but forget it before they can raise alarm. Opening doors and leaving behind footprints is what gave her away in the end.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a variant where a specific pseudo-scientific instrument makes people see something, acknowledge its existence, but decide not to give a damn.

How would this impact society? Depends on your rules. You say that audio is not affected; people would, I imagine, start wearing little speakers, emitting their personal ringtone constantly, whenever they are on the move. They might wear big inflated belts in crowded areas, so as to do no harm when they inevitably bump into people. In more secluded locations, speech and breathing should give away someone's rough presence.

Society would not collapse. Breaking into valuable places is not easier; folks would just buy more locks. Only attacks and murders on the street would be easier, but wary victims would also have an easier time hiding.

The only thing that could possibly collapse is the fashion and make-up industry, depending on whether recorded imagery is affected.

The rest depends on what rules you set for this magic spell. But please, do not compare it to prosopagnosia. That's like calling broomstick aviation an extension of housekeeping.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The remarks about crime bring up the interesting question that if they can't see people "in person", can they see images of people, like photos or video ? Could a simple video camera "give people sight again" as it were ? $\endgroup$ – StephenG Mar 9 at 11:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How would attacks and murders be easier? Even just trying to hit them accurately enough to kill them is difficult! The basic strategy of escape would be "run 10 meters, step aside and you are safe" assuming you arent too loud. But your assailant is also loud, and he/she has trouble assessing who's who after running. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 9 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan I imagine murderers/robbers would stand quietly at the side of the pavement and listen very carefully until someone with their indication beeper would come close; and then catch them with a net, or kill them with a long knife that's harder to miss. But, wary people could just disable their beeper at the risk of bumping into folk (which is what the inflatable belt is for). $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Mar 9 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a variant where a specific pseudo-scientific instrument makes people see something, acknowledge its existence, but decide not to give a damn" The device is called the "Somebody Else's Problem Field Generator", and it actually appears in the third book (Life, the Universe, and Everything, in which Slartibartfast has one on his knock-off TARDIS), not the first one. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Mar 9 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG, if it works like a 'mental blind spot', then no, you would not be able to recognize people in photographs. Shadows and infrared I could see going either way, but at best you would know that something is there. Possibly, as soon as your brain recognizes 'person', they get edited out of your awareness. Looking at photos would probably be interesting; you might notice that the background is occluded and not know why... $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 9 at 16:44
2
$\begingroup$

Hand shakes would be rather awkward. I also think pick pockets would have a field day.


So long as smart phones continue to be a thing, I don't see a long term problem. Texting and phone calls and group chats oh my. Better GPS and some augmented reality goggles and you'd at least see icons of where nearby people are located. (and someone could "turn invisible" by disabling their GPS). We can still hear each other, so communication isn't going to simply come to an end.

Some forms of mental visual editing like that are stopped when the sense is disjointed from its origin. That's a crappy way of saying that in some cases something an affected person cannot see directly is just fine when viewed in a picture, or (more importantly) VIDEO. If I can magically see people just by holding up and activating my phone's camera, this condition is suddenly less of an issue.

I think pervasive Augmented Reality (AR) could address this. Cameras on your person could see and identify people around you. Couple that with those people's own phones efforts to provide position and identity to those around you. Now you have sufficiently non-human digital avatars where the people used to be, but you'd be able to shake hands again. Customizable avatars would lead to lots of strange visuals, comedic or otherwise, depending on how you want your world to go.


Completely different way to address the issue: Pets. Everyone keeps a pet with them, lap dogs mostly I imagine.

One could even write things in such a way that it appears that the pets are interacting and talking with one another until you "zoom out" and show all the people having trouble interacting with one another directly and using intermediaries instead.

"Life of Pets 3: Alien Induced Neurological Damage"


Regardless of what coping mechanisms people come up with, Identity Theft would become much easier, at least initially.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Picking pockets gets a lot harder, not easier. The thief can't see their target, so they'll have to clumsily feel their way to their target's wallet. A pickpocket's target is normally blind to the thief anyway, so there is no difference whatsoever for the target - the whole point of picking a pocket is that the target doesn't notice until it's too late. A good pickpocket is already effectively invisible, making the target invisible too just makes it harder for him. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Mar 9 at 14:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about how many "picks" take place when the thief and their victim collide. I suspect there'd be a lot more collisions, but yes, targeting would be tricky at best. $\endgroup$ – Mark Storer Mar 9 at 17:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.