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Imagine if one day, in the future, random children were born with the ability to cast magic. This magic comes naturally to them, like an instinct, so they need not be taught how to use it, though practicing does make it easier to use. Without refining their skill, the magic these children create are almost purely destructive, such as generating beams of burning light or conjuring up cyclones.

Although the magic itself has no side effect, except lethargy when overused, the ability to use magic comes at the cost of knowing more or less everything about the magic, including how to increase your power (by consuming the 'souls' of other magic users). This occasionally leads to the rare psychologically unhinged child/teenage mage who will attempt to consume others to strengthen themselves

The odds of a child being born with magic is roughly 5 children per month, worldwide. Not common. Magic can be inherited, though no one (in universe) knows that yet, because all the relevant magic users are still in their late teens (at most - this is a relatively recent phenomena).

So, the question is, what would be a realistic reaction by the government (and society) in the face of these magic users? Would they basically go all X-Men crazy on them?

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    $\begingroup$ I thought I clicked on parenting.stackexchange, saw this topic at the top of the list and thought "wait... what?" $\endgroup$ – Erik May 27 '15 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of society? A modern western culture would deal with this in a dramatically different way than an eastern culture would have delt with them a few thousand years ago. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 27 '15 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik. I saw this title among the How Network Questions and thought: "What an interesting question for parenting." Then I read the ability to cast magic. My reaction was the same as yours. $\endgroup$ – Nolonar May 27 '15 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ This question reminds me of Fine Structure. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Hanley May 27 '15 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ These people are going to become very noticeable very quickly, their existence being a secret is unfeasible. The moment one of them consumes another there'll be a panic and a strong incentive to hide or not use powers, even stronger than those already prevalent. Assuming the oldest is 16 there will be a minimum of 960 people with such powers on the planet. Basic maths suggests around 5 of these will have fathered or carried a child in a teen pregnancy based on the number between 12 and 16, and the average teen pregnancy rate of 24.5 conceptions per thousand, possibly even 4 years old $\endgroup$ – Tom J Nowell May 28 '15 at 0:02

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Would they basically go all X-Men crazy on them?

Government: YES. People: No (for reasons I shall explain).

  1. Lock them up.

Secretly. They are people after all. With the rates listed in the question, they're infrequent enough within the population to be too well known about. If the population knew you were abducting kids, they'd be rightly furious.

As tragic as it is; teens run away and go missing all the time, many are never heard from again. This gives the government a perfectly plausible cover-story.

The only people that will know the truth will be worried mothers, and conspiracy theorists. The public will disregard both as crazy.

  1. Study.

Determine how much of a threat they are to the country. Laser beams mean that any public figure that goes out in public could be target for an assassination attempt.

Cyclones have huge economic impact.

Blood samples will be taken, analysed, and compared. If magic ability is in some way genetic, then DNA testing will eventually find it. All it requires is a large enough group of people for patterns to be seen in genes.

  1. Weaponisation.

Sounds horrible. And it is. But smuggling human weather-machines into a foreign country is easier than smuggling a nuclear bomb. And they're reusable! There's going to be a new Cold War fought because of this.

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  • $\begingroup$ I totally didn't think about the cold war idea. Hmmm. +1 $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz May 27 '15 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ Oh dear. This could already be happening and we never know! $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 27 '15 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre. For all we know, Worldbuilding might just be a government-run repository for all kinds of crazy ideas, and they've got a magically gifted kid who can make any of our ideas come true. Imagine all the doomsday scenarios we've thought up to this day. Creepy... $\endgroup$ – Nolonar May 27 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Now every time I see news of extreme weather, I won't know, global warming? OR superpowered shenanigans? $\endgroup$ – Maxim May 27 '15 at 21:16
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The first reaction will be disbelief. And that is entirely understandable, since it is something that has never existed before, and sounds far too fantastic (or lunatic) to be true.

After that, especially once it is established to be true, governments will try to seize these children. At least the official version will be that they are a threat to themselves and, most of all, others, but it is to be expected that at least some group will try to weaponize them.

Failing that, they will have a regrettable accident.

All this, of course, will only happen if any officials ever find out. At the rates you describe, it is fairly likely that the parents would quickly teach their children to keep their powers a secret. It should be feasible, too, since anyone accidentally noticing what happened would first not believe it themselves, and if they did and told anybody no one would believe them.

By the way, all this consuming souls business sounds a bit far-fetched to me. At those birth rates, those magic wielders will not get in touch with each other any time soon, and thus have no chance of finding out that "consuming the other one's soul" would be possible, let alone useful.

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    $\begingroup$ per the OP, the knowledge that consuming other magic users' souls makes you more powerful is innate, it comes with having the magic. The part about likely never meeting another magic user is true enough though. $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor May 27 '15 at 14:50
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The Government angle has already been addressed in the other answers, but one idea that they haven't touched is patronage.

While I'm sure governments would love to have these magic user under their auspices, what about powerful individuals/large corporations? This sort of rare potentially dangerous gifted-ness has been fleshed out in cyberpunk novels where hacking has this pseudo-magical role.

We live in an era of multinational corporations and exceedingly (scarily) powerful tech companies. Would the governments find out before Google?

Now obviously this is setting dependent (much like the comment about Eastern vs. Western cultures). But methods of data flow/aggregation are integral to the question, if your setting is more pre-industrial then cyberpunk is perhaps not as good an analogy as it necessarily includes a large data network.

But if its more modern, than the reaction of the people to find the magic users first will matter a lot because it will color the reactions of the masses if there's already a legitimized place in society for these individuals created by their influential patrons.

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  • $\begingroup$ While I disagree with Google being scarily powerful, (they tend to not actually spend much money on influencing/controlling the government... in comparison to Monsanto, the banking sector, the medical sector, & oil companies... these companies, as opposed to Tech companies, write a lot of US law... or influence decisions by the Supreme Court). However, the general point is a really good one... the ultra rich & powerful may beat the government to the punch. $\endgroup$ – MER May 27 '15 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MER We're talking about two different but equally valid forms of power. You're talking power in the political sense. But information can be a form of power (e.g. insider trading, blackmail, etc). The information that magic users exist, where they are located, what their interests/weaknesses are, etc. would be valuable/powerful. And believe me, google would know. $\endgroup$ – Jared Smith May 28 '15 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, they would likely have the statistical data to identify & locate them, under the right conditions... (as in a youtube video of a certain kid, along with a blog post about the same kid, & location data for both as well as identifying information to confirm it's the same kid etc... while their own emails or IMs or searches placing them in the same geographic area could make them suspect but not identified)... I suspect facial recognition software & public surveillance would be much simpler to ID them, so facebook tagging data or homeland security... $\endgroup$ – MER May 28 '15 at 22:22
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For one thing, I think that the government would initially try and recruit these magical children into their own personal army. Having soldiers and spies that shoot lightning is a tremendous asset to them.

For the crazy bloke, I reckon that the government would either send out agents with powers themselves, issue out an arrest warrant, assassinate him/her or try and make him/her a member of their army as a necessary evil kind of agent

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Initial Reaction

The initial reaction of the government and people will be fear and panic. People have always been scared of what they cant explain using the rules and laws upon which their perception of the world is built. This is a gut instinct which has helped us survive over the years ,.. its evolutionary.

So watching someone conjuring up a cyclone the initial reaction will be to treat this person as threat.

Later

The next step from the government would be to track such individuals and occurrences.

What the government does with these individuals once (if) they are apprehended depends totally on humanitarian stand of the government.

They may treat this individuals as people who need help or as a threat and act accordingly.

Any smart government will not think of weaponising such individuals because that gives too much power to these individuals over the Government itself.

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Sadly, I think most people's first impression would be fear, also because these children would seemingly be unable to control these newfound abilities. No parent would want to allow their child to be put in the same classroom as one that, at least to their understanding, randomly has these devastating attacks which potentially could kill.

It would just take one accidental death to merit the encampment of such people, however the government's motives would be shrouded with the excuse that the scope is to study them and better understand them. If scientists are unable to have predictable controlled behavior in these people, they will likely never leave these encampments (though there might be visiting hours or else I doubt if the government could get away with this).

The ones that show promise to control will be of most interest to scientists. The government in particular will push scientists towards the extent that these people have to use these powers to say, assassinate a target. This information is invaluable not only to wield that power but also to know how to protect against it in the most certain case that other countries have such children in their possession.

Protocols for the secret service would most certainly change. It would no longer be enough to check for weapons. You'd also have to perform background checks on anyone who sees the president (save for political figures, family, and other people who are more trustworthy).

Security checks before entering a plane flight would be a nightmare. If a seemingly normal child got aboard a plane and due to uncontrollable attacks managed to puncture a hole in the plane, the plane would most certainly crash. Before you could purchase airplane tickets, you would probably have to go through a mandatory background screening, and this would be relatively expensive. Other than the cost of the ticket, you'd likely have to pay a tax so that a newly founded government agency could perform a background check just so that you could be able to board a plane.

The country itself would revert to the witchhunt days and the days of "secret" communists. Children accused of having magical abilities would be quickly picked up and thrown into the encampment despite not having actually shown any particular magical ability. The process would be long and difficult to prove that that child never actually demonstrated magical ability in order to free him or her.

In other words, I suspect that everything would become that much more complicated, and this is not even considering the types of things one with magical abilities could perform but only with an uncontrolled "burning ray of light".

If enough magic users came together in one place, they will already naturally loathe being there, and this prejudice would only encourage them to begin to think that they are different than everyone else. It would take little for such people to begin considering themselves superior and to start protesting and rioting.

It would all create a sort of dystopia and not at all like the kind of world you'd think when you imagine the birth of those who could use magic. ;)

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    $\begingroup$ you know that after he said all thoose childs are at best in their late teens. So Lets say it started 20 years ago. Then by 5 childs a month means 5*12*20 = 1200. So there were 1200 childs with that ability taking thoose of age under 6 out and those that died by illness or are starvated because they were born in poor country it makes maybe 400 childs/teens worldwide. Not a count were it is imaginable they would get to know about each other, meet and form up any kind of group if you consider all their cultural differences. $\endgroup$ – Zaibis May 27 '15 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ And errhhmm... "will be of most interest to the scientists and they will mostly want to know to what extent can these powers be used to say assassinate a target".... So you say scientists are that people that have interest in assassinating people more then any other group? 0o $\endgroup$ – Zaibis May 27 '15 at 12:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Zaibis They would be in a group because you put them all in an encampment together. In response to your latter question, scientists simply want to learn about how something works. The government would obviously have good reason to want to know specifically about this aspect for security reasons. $\endgroup$ – Neil May 27 '15 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ You wouldn't even get the big mass of them. OP doesn't sound like anyone is going to accidently shoot laserbeams before he can controll it. So of that 400 people over 20 years you get maybe a few dozen 'catched' so that is maybe overall 1 per year. and who knows what will happen to these people within that time period. To me you scenario sounds not plausible. But I m8 be wrong anyway, hopefully we won't ever find out ;) $\endgroup$ – Zaibis May 27 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ in connection to that you should then also name the covermant. $\endgroup$ – Zaibis May 27 '15 at 12:25
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The Movie "Jumper" comes to mind, where children are born with the ability of teleportation, which practically makes them limitlessly powerful, because they're essentially uncatchable and unstoppable (teleporting into bank vaults to steal money, teleporting around the world to escape capture). They're in constant danger though, because of a radical, religious, secret society that believes it is their God given duty to eradicate all the jumpers.

"Only God should have this power"

They believe the jumpers an abomination, an insult to the power of God, so they hunt down all these children and use special technology to catch them and brutally murder them.

it is most likely that naturally powerful children would be considered a threat, and that someone, whether a private or government organization, would try to would seek them all out and destroy them.

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There are already good answers (and even accepted one), but I want to add some information about statistics and genetics that would influence the reactions.

First, considering that you have about 5 new magic users per month. For 18 years, that make 1080 magic users in total (0.000015 % of the population).

The reaction of the government and/or the people vary greatly with the distribution of those magic users. And it comes down to how they came to have that gene.

Genetic inheritance

Are those 5 children per month already sharing a genetical origin? Meaning once upon a time there was a wizard or a witch who had plenty of children, and some centuries later, those who inherited the traits start to develop magical properties?

This would concentrate the magic users in some culture. Say, e.g., that the witch was Polish. Most of her descendants would be located in Poland and around, probably a substantial part in Russia, Germany and the USA. Maybe a few more in Western Europe.

It depends on when the said witch was living, but as an example, that could possibly make 700-900 magic users in the region where she used to live in Poland. 50-100 in both Germany and Russia. 40-140 in the USA. Some 20-30 in the UK, Irland and France, add a few others in Baltic, Slavic and Scandinavians countries and there you are.

Of course she could have been travelling. Or be long ago where her genetic pool have travelled more (e.g. Huns, Mongols, Ancient Chinese, etc.). That would spread the occurences, but probably still along the commercial ways of the time.

Assuming a concentration in Poland, you have to consider that 6-15 are already dead: stillborn, death in infancy, etc. Which in that case would be negligible.

In that example, the government of Poland would probably learn about the strange situation and by discussions with EU, and NATO, most of the Western World countries would know about it. The high concentration, coupled with the occurence of cases elsewhere would directly point out to the genetic origin of the effect, and they could predict (to some extend) the likelihood of the new-born children. A few missing out in bastard lines. It would be pretty hard to abduct the children without being noticed, because of the high concentration. Furthermore it would be hard to bloc that information to spread that in some region a lot of children are strange. Nevertheless, I expect, the governments would try to impose a martial limit on the inhabitants. Probably closing the whole region off. The few cases that could be seen outside would probably be sent to study institutes.

Genetic mutation

Now instead, we could suppose that Magic (itself), or some other way creates mutations in the genes of babies-to-born. This could be equally distributed. If that were the case, all countries would be affected, proportionally to its inhabitants.

That would make a different count: about 150 born in India, 200 in China, 150 in Africa, 75 in Europe, 40 in the USA, etc. Considering the infant mortality rate of some of those countries, it is likely that already 100-200 are dead by now. Ignoring the children under 3 years old, which might be slightly unnoticed, we are down to, say 800 children in total. Most of them being in India, China, South-East Asia and Africa (around 510).

It is likely, in such a case that some regions would consider the children devil and basically lynch them. Countries like China, having sufficiently large amount of users, would embrigade them into some "schools" to see the military/economic potential, without caring about the parents too much. The USA and Europe might just set plans to identify and abduct them. The rate being low enough to get unnoticed in those countries. Secrecy from the main public might be kept to some extend.

Now would the genetic factor be identified? It is not so likely. Indeed in countries with stronger states, the children could be found from a relatively early age and kept separated/isolated for studies. In other countries, you might see some teen pregnancies, but there, the tracking is fuzzier.

Conclusion

The mode of acquisition of the "magic gene" greatly influence the reaction, the spread of information and the number of users.

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With the family being witness of the strangeness of the children, there is probably some fear that would ensue. Both from the direct family and from the people very close to them. If the child is loved before the magic start emerging, the family (and close friends) will probably try to protect him/her.

The first reaction would be for everyone to tell them NOT to use magic. Wiser relative and adults might try to teach them techniques to "control" the strange things they do if those things aren't too strong.

If things get out of hand, but the child is otherwise loved and compliant, the family will probably try to hide him/her. Maybe send him/her to a far away place where there is relative who could take care of them: "You will be living on the farm with Grampa for now"

Of course this only work when the child was not a problem before magic started and with the assumption that some open minded people find more important to help the child then to get rid of him. Family who are more afraid, who find that unnatural or "demonic" might refer the child to the church or even to the health care system.

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The best investigation of this I've seen was by Timothy Zahn in the book A Coming of Age

In it he posits a society that was thrown into turmoil when children developed telekinetic ability (which they then lost at puberty). Societal stability eventually achieved by indoctrinating older children to supervise their younger peers.

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