You wake up tomorrow, and it's Wednesday again. Everybody remembers it, but whatever was physically done today is undone. Your favorite mug, which the dog knocked over, is un-broken. The kid down the street who got hit by a car -- his leg is just fine, and the bike is okay, but he remembers the pain.

People are pretty freaked out, but no one does anything rash. (Mrs. Kendall keeps Johnny home, though, and he doesn't get hit.) Mostly we look for news on the subject, but nobody knows anything, or if they do, no one is talking. But then the next day, the same thing happens. Lilly has gone into work for the past three days as a dental assistant, but she has had to work on the same emergency root canal every day. The next day the patient doesn't show. Who wants to go in for dental surgery every day for the rest of their life?

With no reason to suspect tomorrow will be any different, her roommate buys a gun to commit suicide, just to see what it is like. The next day, he's alive again, but with the horrifying memory. But now there's proof that there are no consequences, so he robs a bank. The next day, he wakes up with no gun and no money, but the cops remember what happened, and they arrest him.

QUESTION: I could go on, but the local is easy. My question is about the global. What do societies do? What does the government do? Anything that anyone does that takes more than 24 hours to complete is a waste of time, unless the intended result is mental. Nothing can be stored on a computer or chalkboard or anywhere. Still, everyone can memorize what they can, and agree to collaborate again the next today.

How it happened is irrelevant. If it was caused by mankind, it isn't something they can just undo. But it just as easily may have happened somewhere across the galaxy, and there is no way for humanity to stop it.

This takes place today, in our world, with no technology we don't have today. (Of course, if 100 years of research and 12 hours of production can make an advance, we could build it every day.) How do we deal if this goes on for years, centuries, millennia?


Most of the above is simply setup so that everyone understands the scenario I propose. My question is both simple and specific: What can a government do to retain control and prevent lawlessness in this situation? One answer so far has suggested that it couldn't, and no others have addressed this question. If an individual's actions have no consequences beyond twenty-four hours, when locking them up and even killing them doesn't last, how can a government maintain order?

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    $\begingroup$ I feel your bounty makes the question a tad too broad. I'll certainly try to include some more about that stuff in my answer when I get to it tomorrow, and there are definitely good relevant points there that should be addressed - but IMO there are just a few too many extra questions in that bounty. You can't edit the bounty text I don't think, but you can leave a comment if you want to de-scope a little. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ One thing about crime: the only persistent thing in this universe is human memory, so crime is going to be reoriented around things that have long-term mental effects. Killing is no longer murder, but it is still an assault that causes pain, possibly severe. Rape will still cause long-term mental scars. And so on. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ Me? So no matter how badly I screw up, tomorrow I get a do-over..? I go skydiving - I go Rocky Mountain climbing - I go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu..! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ One last question, as the comment-police must be in a frothy frenzy by now, I CANNOT miss this book when it comes out, how will you let us know? I propose you set up a mailing list and add it to the Question. I know this bends a few site guidelines, but in my opinion it is worth that to read the final document, whenever that may happen to be... $\endgroup$
    – Marv Mills
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ I wrote a long and detailed answer for this question several days ago. I was shocked when it was gone the next day, and wrote another long and detailed answer. The day after that, my answer was gone again, much to my dismay. Since then, I've been content to simply watch other people's answers come and go while I've been teaching myself Attic Greek and juggling. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 12:38

25 Answers 25


This is a really interesting scenario, and one I've had a hard time thinking up some responses to.

  1. Lack of information distribution
    You will find lots of people doing lots of the same stuff. Information in our world is mainly distributed electronically, through social media and email. However, it is highly likely that many people don't check all of those every day, so won't see information about the situation coming in.

    So, for example, I imagine you will have a lot of people experimenting with what they can do - the suicide and homicide rate will go through the roof, and if you want to imprison all these new murderers you'll need to build more prisons. You'll get an increased crime rate overall - it's horrible to think about, but people discovering this may be tempted to let the worse side of their nature out. Lots of murders - the victim will be alive again tomorrow. Lots of rapes - she won't be pregnant tomorrow, so there'll be no DNA testing of the baby. Lots of really nasty stuff - torturers, for example, can now maim their victims even more without fear - they'll come alive again if they do die.

  2. Children
    To expand a bit on Gorchester H's comment: children are going to be very weird. For as long as this continues, they're gaining knowledge and experience, and you will end up with mature adults in kids' bodies.

    Any baby who would have been born on that day will be born, and they'll develop, but any pregnant woman will remain so for eternity. Unborn babies will never be born. New babies, while they can be conceived, will simply disappear the following day.

  3. Science
    Scientists would be trying incredibly hard to figure out the reasons for and solutions to this - even if there are no solutions, they don't know that. New methods will be developed for memorising information quickly, and the neuroscientists will be much in demand for a while as they perfect a machine that allows us to implant things into a brain. Engineers, too, as they perfect the manufacturing techniques that allow us to manufacture this machine as quickly as possible.

    It will still be possible to distribute information electronically, so scientists across the world can communicate, and plans for machines like this can be sent - as long as they are received and memorised on the same day.

  4. Acceptance
    Gradually, people will get used to this world. People will get used to the fact that although they can commit crime without repercussions, law enforcement will still get them, if anyone reports it - people can still be sent to prison. (Trials, however, will necessarily become very short, and house arrest will become more common as transporting people to prison every day gets tiring.) New methods of doing old things faster will become popularised and normalised, and our society, although changed beyond recognition, will slowly sink back to a regular rhythm.

  5. Society
    Society, as a whole, is no longer a viable concept. Big cities break down into small communities: you will interact most with the people around you and that will be your community. Travelling anywhere will get strange, as different communities implement different policies to deal with the stuff that goes on in their neighborhood every day; perhaps a morning task for each community will quickly become posting a notice at the borders explaining the stuff happening there.

  6. Government
    Government as we know it, in simple terms, fails on the spot. A centralised government will not be equipped to deal with all the small communities and their policies that spring up - and they can't possibly go round inspecting every community, every day - they just don't have the people. Moreover, what could they do about it? Someone implemented a community policy they don't agree with but that doesn't break any laws? - well, there are plenty of people breaking laws they should deal with instead. Someone implemented a community policy that does break some laws? - well, are you going to arrest every member of that community for trying to help themselves, only to have them released in the morning?

  7. Law and Order
    Laws would get rather confusing. The law documents - the paper/electronic law documents - would reset at the start of every day. So, if you want to change a law, you have to remember which one you changed and then permanently disregard the old documents for that law. You also have to make sure every police officer in the country knows about the law change, at which point he loses his reference for arresting people under that law. His arrest can then be called into question - did he really follow the law to the letter? What if he remembered it wrongly?

    Arrests, as many here have mentioned, also change drastically. They'd stick around for a while, as you can at least detain someone for a day, while people figure out what to do, but expect them to be replaced in the long term. You either have to spend huge amounts of resources on keeping people in house arrest, or you need to implement quick punishments. You can no longer lock someone up for years on end, so to get the same level of punishment you inflict a worse punishment for a shorter time. Someone here suggested that torture might be taken up: for petty theft, 10 minutes of torture. For rape, maybe several hours.

    And, of course, you will find several crimes losing their definitions. Murder is now insignificant - kids are killing each other on the streets for fun now, and all it does is cause someone some minor inconvenience until the next day. It's now a bit like kidnapping someone and then releasing them a few hours later - annoying, but no damage has been done to the victim and they just lost a day.

  8. North Korea
    Since you mention North Korea specifically, I shall make a prediction. One of a few things could happen: either

    • The leadership denies that this is happening and directs everyone to go about their daily routines as normal. Everyone who can emigrates - who wants to do the same thing for years on end? Perhaps without end? Soldiers desert, border guards desert, everyone leaves Kim Jong-Un on his own.
    • The leadership blames America or some other Western country, and launches an all-out assault. Nukes go flying. On the first day they hit, everyone in the target city decides that tomorrow, they're going to get away from the city as fast as possible so they don't get hit tomorrow. A game of nuclear cat-and-mouse ensues, with North Korean spies racing to tell their bosses where everyone is today, so they can be nuked.
    • They're as confused as everyone else, and try to actually be friendly for once. Information is shared about causes and effects, and scientists work together to try to solve their problems. The entire North Korea issue is solved.

    (Essentially, I have no idea - they're just too unpredictable)

  9. Humanitarian Societies
    I predict a two-way split here, between two frames of mind as to what to do:

    • Number 1, the "it no longer matters" point of view - anyone who was going to die today will anyway, and anyone who wasn't, won't. Trying to get aid there won't help, and it won't last anyway so why bother?
    • Number 2, the "keep calm and carry on" approach - people who were going to get aid today still deserve and/or need it, so we should just try even harder to transport stuff there. We should also spend some time teaching them how to support themselves so we don't have to bend over backwards to get this done.

In conclusion - you'll have short-term anarchy, but as everyone realises there's no point to this, your society settles down into lots of small communities, and life continues. Until, of course, the sadistic entity that caused this releases it again, and we have to try to remember what life was like before...

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    $\begingroup$ I love the combination of different points gathering together: 1. "people discovering this may be tempted to let the worse side of their nature out". 4. "[People will get used to the fact that] law enforcement will still get them, [...] (Trials, however, will necessarily become very short, and house arrest will become more common as transporting people to prison every day gets tiring.) New methods of doing old things faster will become popularised and normalised". $\endgroup$
    – nilon
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ 5. Gold for sociologists: "Society, as a whole, is no longer a viable concept. [...] you will interact most with the people around you and that will be your community". 7. "And, of course, you will find several crimes losing their definitions. Murder is now insignificant - kids are killing each other on the streets for fun now, and all it does is cause someone some minor inconvenience until the next day. It's now a bit like kidnapping someone and then releasing them a few hours later - annoying, but no damage has been done to the victim and they just lost a day." $\endgroup$
    – nilon
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Why would the police bother to put someone under house arrest? There's no point whatsoever. What do you do when EVERYONE has committed murder and they ALL need to be put under arrest? Even the police? $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:35
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    $\begingroup$ You can't leave North Korea, you'd wake up in the exact same spot as before the same morning, except now the government would know that you've tried to escape. $\endgroup$
    – tox123
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ It's strange to say repeatedly that crime would have no repercussions. Of course it would: People would remember it. If you robbed or injured or murdered someone, that person would remember it the next day. Crime would have no repercussions in terms of punishment, but vast repercussions in terms of relationships between people. Bill Murray's Phil in Groundhog Day got away with so many ridiculous activities only because no one but him remembered it the next day. $\endgroup$
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 19:51

Since the short, medium and long term are already done, I'm going to take a shot at the very long term. The one where, eventually, human ingenuity and curiosity tries to adapt and figure out what's going on and how to fix it.

There isn't a way to physically create anything, since any paper and even electronic storage will fail. But there's still memory in the brain. And there's a lot of it.

Project Last Hope

Once you get beyond the various terms of anarchy, depression, hedonism, listlessness and such, at some point people will turn on their computers and go on the internet. And there, after browsing for a long time, they will run into a website that's rehosted every morning, a few minutes post-reset. It will be called "Last Hope" and will feature something that would have seen ridiculous to anyone from before the happening... the world's largest, fully organic, hive-brain storage system.

Once people learn of this initiative, every morning they will log into the system and rebuild their little part of it. Each person will memorize their part, whether it's a block of code, a list of numbers and data, an algorithm, or a set of instructions. People will remember small chunks of the Last Hope website, which is rebuilt by thousands of people logging in to a massive, shared FTP server to each rebuilt their 10 lines of its content, which is strewn about in thousands of different, linked files in order to be online as fast as possible.

Then after the website is rebuilt, a segment of the project will start trying to contact whatever people haven't found out yet; whether by going door to door or emailing or posting on every message board in the world. Anyone with an internet connection and an eternity to waste will eventually find a link to the Last Hope project someday.

The rest of its members are divided into thinkers, tinkerers and storage.

Thinkers will be scientists (either from the old world, or learned ones from the new world. There's forever to get them up to speed, after all). They will be researching what caused the resetting and whether anything can be done. They will use Last Hope project's hive-storage to keep their work going forward.

Tinkerers will be engineers. There might not be an option to build any physical tools, but we have millions of interconnected computers that can perform a lot of work. It's their job to figure out how to get as many computers as possible into their network as quickly as possible. They are looking for exploits and bugs and make lists of compromised machines that can be used the next day. They will also improve existing algorithms; there is infinite time to tinker with them but finite time to run them, so the faster a piece of code runs, the more it will do. And since they cannot store their informatiom on the computer, that's where the most crucial part of Last Hope project comes in.

Storage are all the people who have good memory or trained to have it. They all remember their tiny parts of the project and every morning, they rebuild their tiny part and then attempt to memorize more and more chunks. They might not understand what the thing they memorized does, but they know it helps. And it's only 30 minutes out of their day, if they don't want to (or cannot) contribute more.

But together, in millions of brains, they will remember and rebuild the largest, most powerful computer program ever written by humanity. Every morning, shortly after reset, every bug in existance is exploited, every machine reachable by the internet is connected, and in mere minutes a program is put together out of a million different, small files, that will crack numbers and run data and do an unimaginable amount of work.

It might take years, maybe even centuries or millenia or longer, but progress will be made. In a single day of computing, with a million minds put to the task, we will crack any problem the universe throws at us.

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    $\begingroup$ I want to read this book so badly. $\endgroup$
    – DanielST
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ @slicedtoad I feel your pain... $\endgroup$
    – 1089
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, enough is enough. Somebody needs to write this. Why has nobody written this? $\endgroup$
    – naiveai
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ This is glorious. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget about the anti-project; Eternal Hope- for those who want to remain "immortal". A civil-war in which the goal is to make people working on the Last Hope Project, well.. forget stuff. $\endgroup$
    – Glurth
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 3:34

Immediate - The World Stops

Most people live with relatively long-term goals in mind. They eat so they won't be hungry, sleep so they won't be tired, go to work so they won't be broke. If you only live for a day, that all changes: why work when you will never be paid? Why sleep when you will never wake up? There's a lot of things that people do that won't really matter any more, and though some will keep doing it out of habit, many will take some time off in order to discover the rules of this brave new world.

Unfortunately, this may mean that some things break down. Many human-run services will become unavailable (restaurants, theme parks, prostitutes, etc), so there's a lot of fun stuff you won't be able to do. Other things, like driving, will now be very dangerous, as people don't have to worry as much about things like property damage or personal safety. I'd say walking outside might be problematic, better to stay indoors at this stage.

Short Term - the New Normal

At this stage, people will have gotten used to how things are now. I note here that human conversations will remain largely unaffected by this change; one effect of this is that people will be able to talk about their situation with new vocabulary. Everyone will find their personal universe: the total time and area that they will ever be able to explore. If you wake up at half past ten PM in the middle of nowhere with no legs, that'll be a pretty small area; on the other hand, if you wake up at the crack of dawn with a personal helicopter with a full tank of gas, you should be pretty happy with yourself.

At this point, a lot of short-term problems will be perceived as permanent. If you wake up with a sore back, you now have a sore back forever. If your significant other is on vacation this week, you will never see them ever again. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any good things that you can get from this that aren't counteracted by other effects. However, some things can be fixed: inmates can be set free, and if they do anything wrong during the day you don't even have to worry about locking them up again. Of course, this presumes that someone will actually take the time to let them out, but I'll get to that.

Medium Term - Make it Work

At this point, the world settles into a routine, something that works reasonably well for everyone in power. Since everyone's personal universe is pretty small, government will only work on a small scale, but I'm sure communities and leaders will develop. There may be conflicts, but since most people are reasonably moral I don't think violence would be permanent; for instance, the local serial killer will eventually be foiled, and then part of the daily routine will involve catching him before he wakes up. Not only that, but other injustices will be prevented; if someone ever finds that guy with no legs, they may make a plan to wake him up and carry him back to the community each morning. Someone can go let the prisoners out of prison. Someone else can make sure everyone wakes up at a reasonable hour (except that serial killer, and other criminals). These jobs will have to be mostly painless, and people can take turns doing them.

Honestly, overall I see this working out pretty well for most people. Small government will rule, which means that no one can get away with hurting anyone else without getting punished by it. Petty arguments will be rehashed every single day, so eventually people will have to start agreeing, even if it's to disagree. There may still be a lot of nightmarish situations, mostly involving either people with incredibly small personal universes or people with little power in a bad community, but as time goes on I think a lot of these problems will get solved as everyone comes up with new ways to get things done and just generally get smarter over the years.

Novelty and memory will be of the utmost importance, and both of these pretty much rely on human cooperation. People will have to entertain themselves somehow, and the best way to do that is to entertain one another. Perhaps everyone would learn to play instruments (a great experience both for player and listener), or dance or juggle or something like that. As I said, conversations will be unchanged, so I think people will have a lot of them; anything to keep the world feeling fresh and new.

So, in the end, I imagine something of a utopia of mind; the world will look the same day after day, but with every reset people will work together better, and everyone will become just a bit happier. No idea how long it would take to get it right, though.

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    $\begingroup$ @MBurke I used to be a tutor, and I loved to teach people things, especially things that I liked doing. Plus, since you'll be seeing these people for the rest of eternity, making them good at something should pay off eventually. Honestly, once people are motivated to learn, the teaching bit comes easy. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2015 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ @MBurke you should see this world like a post-scarcity society. Everyone has enough food, reserves, electricity for one day. So people don't have to work at all and can freely think about personal fullfillment - people will want to teach and communicate, get better at things or simply give what they can give. If I had no obligations for the rest of my life, I would gladly teach some hours every day :-) $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ ah, but would people retain "muscle memory" - you may learn in your mind a new task - but would your hands retain the skill to do anything proficiently... $\endgroup$
    – Mateo
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ On the subject of personal universes: I think at some point it would be pretty easy to walk up to the guy with the helicopter and ask to borrow it for the day. The whole concept of property and lending falls apart. You no longer have to worry about something getting lost, damaged, or stolen. No matter what, it always shows up the next day. $\endgroup$
    – 16807
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ @MarioCarneiro - I suppose I object because the concept of post scarcity is such a western one. If you travel and see how most people live, having the little they have day after day for eternity would not seem like post scarcity, it would be a state of never-ending desperation. Is it post scarcity if the crust you found in the bin yesterday is magically back again the next day? Not by any reasonable definition I can think of. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:24

It would be anarchy. Cyclical anarchy.

I'm assuming the reset occurs globally, not per time-zone at midnight. Though a reset-terminator racing around the planet is a pretty cool idea.

Many people would have various ideas about what is going on. Some might think it's purgatory. Others might see it as hell.

Find Bill Murray
I imagine anyone within a day's travel from Bill Murray would have some questions and/or beatings for him. He might even gain a religious following, since he's been depicted as escaping such a situation. Trying to right all one's wrongs would be a little more difficult if everyone else still remembered those wrongs though.

The best avenue for research would be why the brain is the only thing which is not reset. Crude experiments could be performed: does an implanted flash drive stay there from yesterday? What about dura mater tattoos? Do dogs also remember? What about mice?

Steady State
Likely things would eventually degenerate into cycles of hope and despair. Multi-day runs of depression might give way to a renewed will to try and do something positive with the situation. But everyone will burn out on anything after enough time. Even if people begin to work together, someone is going to crack. That person doesn't just leave, they come back again and again, not having release from the stimulus that drove them insane.

Varying Situations
People would become very familiar with anyone within a day's travel of themselves.

  • Some would envy those who were just waking up at the start of the reset, ready to do something for 24 hours, others would envy those who get to sleep away the repetition.

  • They'll pity the recently wounded, who must suffer through their pain over and over again.

  • There might be one man who always murders his neighbor who wouldn't have woken up until 6 AM. Spawn camping, as it were.

  • There would likely be isolated people who have no idea anyone else is experiencing the same thing, because they're more than a day's travel from other people.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for bringing up time-zones. While some will wake to the same day over and over, others half a world away will be out fishing in the afternoon and suddenly find themselves back in the office at 3:00PM the previous day. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ A reset terminator has one fantastic implication: material products can be preserved, they just have to be constantly moved west ahead of the terminator. $\endgroup$
    – Joe
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe What happens at the poles? $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2015 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ Let's assume material products could be preserved by shipping over the reset terminator. Consider the people on a space station - they cross the reset terminator every 90 minutes. Do they get cloned? If so, that violates conservation of mass. Also, they would eventually collide with themselves and die, after which they would reset and collide with the orbital debris from the collision, eventually causing a never ending rain of debris upon the earth. $\endgroup$
    – 16807
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ The comment section for this answer is thus far the part I've had the most fun reading for this question. $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 3:04

TL;DR: A very bloody anarchy, followed by an intellectual bloom and finally listlessness.

If every day is the same day, law enforcement becomes moot. Sure, you could arrest Fred for robbing the bank, but what's the point? You can only hold him until midnight before he's back on the street. Even if you could rush him through the judicial system, there's no point: he won't stay in confinement. You could repeat the process every day, but how many people are going to be doing the same thing? Because Fred didn't rob the bank, now George can. So arrest George too. Because Fred and George didn't rob the bank, Alex did. So arrest Alex too. Eventually, the police spend all their time trying to keep up with arrests when the criminals are just going to be free at midnight. So, law enforcement goes out the window (don't worry it'll be back at midnight for a brief showing.)

The arts will take a hit as well. Anything that has a material result, such as a painting or a hand-crafted chair, is going to be a no go. Authors, painters, and architects all lose their work every day. Gamers will suffer as well. Know that boss you struggled with for a week that you finally beat? Sorry, but you have to face him again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that... In short, anything that has a material product is out the window (don't worry, this will make a brief appearance each morning, too).

So now we come to the point about anarchy. We have removed any useful application of law enforcement and there's nothing people can do to keep their hands busy without driving themselves insane. So people go out on the streets and (gasp) interact with each other. At least we remember the conversations we had... Oh wait. Jane remembers that Joshua beat her up yesterday, so she's going to take out revenge before he can do it again. This leads to the largest mass killing the world has ever seen. And each day, it just gets bigger. At some point, escalation results in the vast majority of human society vanishing from the face of the Earth each day, at least until it's clear that it doesn't matter how many times it happens and we give up on the concept of "An eye for an eye." When will that happen? Not sure. It's kinda been around awhile, even modern societies have the death penalty (you killed Clemont, so we kill you).

Scientific communities, on the other hand, will be both rewarded and annoyed. The people working in Cern on the Large Hadron Collider are never going to get any more work done, it just takes too long to prepare everything and analyze the massive amount of data that comes out of it. Philosophers will have a field day, however, they can debate to their hearts' content and remember everything that was said from the previous day.

After all the anarchist bloodshed, there will be a growth in philosophy and theology. Death becomes meaningless (except to those unfortunate enough to be slated to die every day) and the value of life vanishes. If this effect happens across the universe, we'll never be able to answer questions like "Is there life out there?" We can develop all the theories we want, but we'll have to start from scratch on everything we produce.

We have no production any more, which leads to an interesting consequence. If there's no reason to make anything, then why go to work? If the majority of the population isn't going to work, then why should the people who run the public utilities go to work? Why should they burn away their day when everyone else is sitting at home watching reruns of Law & Order (not that they aren't already)? It's not like not going to work is going to impact anything. If something breaks, it'll be repaired tomorrow. No problem. So we lose some power generation.

Let's look at the extreme case of power loss, though. Active nuclear facilities are always in danger of going critical. Let's suppose a critical part fails one day. Now we have a new catastrophe and, the next day, the workers are back on the job, much to their displeasure.

After all is said and done - quite literally in this case - all that's left is to do nothing. So, after all the bloodshed, tears, and philosophy, we come to the point where everyone just lazes about, waiting for the next day when they will do the same thing. This'll lead to listlessness and, for those of us with extremely active imaginations who now have no reason to apply that ingenuity, depression. For the more depressed, suicide becomes a daily thing to avoid the daily lack of activity (don't worry too much, they'll be back tomorrow).

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    $\begingroup$ I just realized, suicide wouldn't even help. It would just mean you have a smaller chunk of day to experience on an infinite loop. I'd rather listen to a whole song for eternity than just the refrain. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the arts: Oral poetry and storytelling would make a comeback. You can't physically write a book, but you can write one in your mind and tell people. worldbuidling.SE moves entirely to chat. $\endgroup$
    – evankh
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ One small nitpick... "Active nuclear facilities are always in danger of going critical." Actually, "critical" just means they are working properly. What you want to avoid are things like "prompt critical" and "meltdown". $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ "Gamers will suffer as well. Know that boss you struggled with for a week that you finally beat? Sorry, but you have to face him again tomorrow." But it will be so much easier because I'm going to finally use every single potion I've picked up along the way, without feeling like I should save them for later like I always do. $\endgroup$
    – Zack
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ Geez... I'm now sitting here imagining some poor soul living the same 120 seconds of "Wake up. Load gun. Kill self." for all eternity. You'd go slightly madder with each iteration. I've never pictured such a truly hellish vision before. Well done. $\endgroup$
    – RubberDuck
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 18:01

If we were taking more of a science fiction take to this:

It would be an interesting twist, if there were a time zone delay...

Think a phenomenon that cycles around the planet, racing the sun to delay the reset. This reset would probably be based on matter and it's position. So once you stop it would be back to original day 1 state. Items that don't get hit, would be missing from their original position/state.

In time things like this may happen:

  • Flying city where people live normal lives, would be quite a story about getting it started, say a cargo plane in constant refuel, fuel vapor gets hit and resets back to base camps.
  • "normal" people taking to shooting things out of the sky to prevent people from cheating eternal-life...
  • Depending on the origin of the phenomenon - terrestrial or solar? One way trips into space?
  • Would people discover a type of shielding - say the scientists researching dark matter deep in the earth are unaware of what is going on? Keep getting repeating transmissions, would sending someone out - would they reset back or be gone forever? Say maybe a quantum state where matter is bound to a starting point?

Anyway this was just some thoughts on possible tangents/loopholes to explore...

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for sharing these. I will certainly keep them in mind. A team (or more than one) dedicated to circumventing the effect is certainly something I'm thinking about. But since I don't know what caused it yet, I don't even know if their attempts will be doomed to failure. If it is non-terrestrial, 24 hours is such an arbitrary number. Maybe after a few years someone with an atomic clock will notice the window is shrinking... Or particles that got quantum entangled yesterday will remain so after the jump... So many ideas. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ oh, or a team of astronauts that were exploring space shielded somehow by an asteroid - come back unaffected. Objects they bring back may become like relics - the only objects that are showing change day after day - like a cult forming around a writing utensil, because the words written with it stay. $\endgroup$
    – Mateo
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How about dragging the plane's fuel canister behind, occasionally dipping it into the reset-terminator to refill it? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Samuel the canister would probably be subject to the reset as well - i'm imaging an event that would sweep the earth based on its movement sweeping across the earth similar to how light from the sun hits it - so anything hit goes back to it's original quantum state - unless you find a material that it doesn't effect, something in the core ? because with this line of thinking we are also assuming the phenomenon wouldn't go straight through the earth $\endgroup$
    – Mateo
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Right good point. That makes me think this would be bad. If you moved from your spawn point then when the reset-terminator passed over you, you would be reset section by section. I'm not sure showing up in slices would be ideal. If it's restricted to time zones for some reason then standing on the border means half of your will reset followed by the other half an hour later. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:56

Fundamentally, this is

  • a post-scarcity society
  • in which everyone is immortal (if the loop keeps happening)
  • in which nothing new can be created
  • in which there are no physical ramifications of anyone's actions

I say post-scarcity because the amount of food in nearly every home and every grocery store is more than enough to feed everyone for one day, no matter how much they eat. Your car will always have gas in it. You've got a closet full of clothes. There are empty homes and apartments and hotels that homeless people can walk into and live in every day. We've got plenty of electricity. And so on.

The results of these factors (post-scarcity, nothing permanent can be created, everyone's immortal) will lead to people bettering themselves. They'll learn arts, languages, new skills.

All "creating" will be reduced to things that can be done in one day. People will find they can accomplish more in teams. There might even be fun competitions to see which teams can create "more" (the biggest machine or contraption, the most elaborate work of art, the most incredible computer program) during The Day.

We'll find out who we like hanging out with, and over the decades and centuries many of us will make new and different friends.

As others answers have stated, we'll quickly find out how far we can travel during The Day. That will be our particular universe. For the novelty of it, since we're immortal, we'll wind up exploring every nook and cranny of it.

We'll also eventually place a premium on communicating with people outside of our particular universe via video chat, telephone, etc., and using those same technologies to explore other parts of the planet that we can't (comfortably) reach during The Day. After a few years or decades we'll want to see more than our personal universe has to offer.


And most importantly, no one will have to eat healthy or go to the gym. Hooray!

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ But only post-scarcity for the lucky subset of the world's population (probably a large subset though) that has access to food that day. Some unfortunate people will surely not. $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:47
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @sumelic: For the majority it won't matter. Unless you are at the edge already, not eating (or even drinking) for a day is no problem at all. $\endgroup$
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 12:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @PlasmaHH: But who wants to be perpetually hungry and/or thirsty? Yes, you'll likely survive the day, just to wake up hungry/thirsty tomorrow/today. Eternal suffering. Sounds a lot like Hell. $\endgroup$
    – P Daddy
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @PDaddy: as I said, unless you are at the edge, not eating is no problem at all. It is amazing what stuff humans can get used to. If you havent eaten anything for several days (and especially when you are used to doing this quite often), adding yet another day isn't going to be a much of a deal, and since you only ever add that day, you will quickly get used to it (it isn't as if hunger will get any worse with every groundhog day, it will stay the same, and your mind can adapt to it). Actually the human evolution in that regard is largely based on not eating for quite a while. $\endgroup$
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ @zeta I think you miss the point. In my home, I have enough food for one week. The reason I don't share it with the have-not is that I will need that food latter. In this Groundhog world, there is enough foie-gras for everybody (and no concern about animal well-being) as most rich people won't want to eat it each day anyway $\endgroup$
    – Madlozoz
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 15:19

There are some excellent answers here about science, philosophy, crime, and "What if you're having a bad day" scenarios. I want to talk about entertainment.

People would read every book, watch every movie, check out every TV channel, view every YouTube video, and go through everything on every DVR they could find.

After they had consumed all of that, the celebrities of the planet would be those who don't rely on a script to tell or act out a story. The celebrities would be those artists who can create a beautiful new painting every day. The celebrities would be improv comics. The poets. Dancers. Bloggers. Vloggers. Anyone who can create a work of art within the scope of one day that can also be enjoyed by others before the day is done. (The art could be something they'd started before time started looping; they would be a celebrity if they could complete it in a new way each day.)

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    $\begingroup$ I like that. "The transitory nature of my art in this permanent world is what gives it value". $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 22:51
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ If the internet doesn't break have way through the day. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2015 at 0:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of finishing the same painting a different way every day- I wonder if any artists have tried it? $\endgroup$
    – evankh
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 3:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about the arts too. No new recorded TV is going to get made, but as people have memory they can still rehearse a play. Learning the script is going to be very difficult though, as it can't be written down (or edited umpteen times until it's perfect). So +1 for the point that improvs will be the new celebrities. $\endgroup$
    – AndyT
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 9:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AndyT People would find it hard to learn a new script, but all the things that exist already are fair game. Your troupe of actors could download the script of whatever play they were rehearsing at the start of the day and pick up their rehearsal from where they left off the previous day. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 5:06

Disclaimer : This is not as generic and complete an answer as the others have already given. This is just a part that I feel is very important to include.

Initial effects have already been stated by many of the other answers, so I'll focus on the long-term.

As @DaaaahWhoosh said in the comments...

Memory will be the most valuable resource there is

I would have to disagree with @FrostFyre's end-game which is

all that's left is to do nothing.

What I think is people would realize that there is still one thing persistent in this world - their memories.

In a world with no permanent or long-term needs for health, exercise, dental check-ups, or what-have-yous, we'll focus more on what I believe is the core reason for living - having fun.

Eating good food, enjoying intimate relations, having good conversations. The things we'd love to do if we didn't have money problems, if we didn't have work, if we didn't have (long-term) responsibilities. Happiness would be everyone's goal.

Playing games are still viable. Sports? Your body won't physically improve but the way you play can grow with your memories. Want to play RPG games? Well, there's tabletops (D&D, Pathfinder) and the players can just recall their campaign. Their memories hold their "saved games". MOBAs? No problem. You just won't have a persistent game history, but you will definitely grow and improve as a player.

tl;dr, happiness will be the main goal. Our memories will be our main resource and our activities will revolve around what our memory can "turnover" the next day.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was having trouble thinking of how this could be a positive thing for me, since most of the things I find value in are related to the permanence of physical things on some point or another, but then tabletop gaming would probably be one of the few things that would be made easier in some ways by an event like this. $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ This forces the follow-up question of whether all of these accumulating memories are somehow more indisputably agreed-upon than they were pre-Reset - because [to oversimplify] we can commit to memory how much progress the party made in the dungeon, but specifics of hit point loss, spell use etc. may have no durable and objective record outside of our heads ... $\endgroup$
    – N. Presley
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 3:06

Time is the new power. Whoever woke up first that day is the new authority within a certain range of travel. Disagree with them? They will kill you first the next day. They will find like minded people and wake them first.

Only way to effectively stop new criminals is to kill them before they wake up. Eventually suicides will start hiring people to kill them before they wake up.

What of the enforcers though? After 100 years of methodically working through their first 3 or 4 waking hours efficiently killing every new criminal, crazy, or suicide in their area? What of their mental state? Will they even remember why the kill certain people?

Even if they started out lawful in their application of force, as lines blur over a century how will it change?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think this is an interesting answer, but how exactly would you hire someone? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Trade on experiences, good will, power, and old fashioned barter. If your the only one who has a particular food item or movie within a days drive you now have a valued commodity. $\endgroup$
    – PCSgtL
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 16:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure, but imagine for a second what that would look like. A person wants you to kill them every day before they wake up in exchange for their delicious food (or awesome car, etc.). The day they propose this to you and you agree they show you how to get into their homes and kill them painlessly and how to pick up your reward. Everything resets and now you have two options. One is to go and actually kill them every day and take your reward, the other is just to take your reward without killing them. What incentive do you have to follow through? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Also, in order for suicide to mean anything you have to make sure it happens forever and without fail, and how exactly are you going to keep incentivizing the same person forever? The first week or month or year I might want to use your Ferrari, but what about after that? What about when I have tried all of your food and toys and anything else you have to offer me? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 17:30

This is a thought provoker!

But, since we're talking about stories, my mind immediately jumped to the 'gotchas' that would make forming a society difficult.

Would people still work?

If each day was a repeat, would there be a compelling reason to clock in each morning at McDonalds to cook for people? Would a bus driver bother getting the bus going? Why plow the snow if tomorrow is the same?

Would basic infrastructure be working?

Would anyone bother to reboot the web server for the day? Change that lightbulb? Or, perhaps the bigger issue...would anyone that works for the power company bother to go into work to actually provide power for the day?

I'm thinking that would all fall apart pretty quickly.

The next question would be...would it return? If everyone remembers each same day from day to day, perhaps verbal agreements could be made. Joe, you come in 'tomorrow' and fire up the generators. Bob will come in the 'day after' that. Then Sam.

So, initially, people may go the free-for-all route. But that can get old. And at some point, humanity may wish for a semblance of routine and return to the routine and start going back to work to bring back a bit of order.

The success/failure of that may be varied from locale to locale but, over time, if enough regions leave the power on, and the cable on, word can spread.

If all of that succeeds, one scenario is a form of Utopia. No one gets older. Everyone works minimally (only infrastructure and service jobs are really needed). And there's plenty of time for leisure. Everything is free (as why bother with money for a day?) There is a catch, though, and that, of course, is that society somewhat stagnates as there's no way to record information for the next day. It all has to be stored and shared verbally. Day by day. That might slow down the progress of human knowledge significantly. On the other hand, with each day a repeat, and all that leisure time, perhaps word of mouth is ideal and we all slowly learn all of the things we never had time to before.

There would be casualties, though.

As others have pointed out, for most people, this would be a nice way to spend each day. But for anyone that is suffering at any level, this could be a nightmare. If you in your last days of a painful disease, or are injured every day in the first 10 seconds. Or simply depressed. Having to spend every day in agony over and over will surely create despair.

Or those that are alone somewhere without an easy way back to civilization within 24 hours. Being alone for the rest of your life could drive someone insane.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, DA. You address a lot of the issues I'm looking for. What of governments though? If there is one thing they tend to be good at, it's holding onto power and controlling people (TWO things... If there are two things, etc., etc.). How do governments adapt and give the façade of control needed to stay in power? $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MBurke I'm not sure what there would be to control, though. The economy would mostly disappear. There'd be no large scale infrastructure projects. Wars would be moot. Etc. $\endgroup$
    – DA.
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ Well, that in itself might be an answer. Would governments all collapse? Would dictatorships like North Korea still maintain their control? Would we have 'griefers' on an epic scale launch nukes? Would China actually blame the US for starting this and try to nuke their research stations to stop it? I think people would still tend to look to the people 'in charge' to solve things, and I think they know who to get in touch with whom to put the right thinkers together. I also think some just like power separate from money or anything else. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MBurke they wouldn't collapse as much as just be irrelevant. There's nothing to control when one only has 24 hours. You may have people launching nukes, but after 20 or 60 or 1000 days of doing that in a row, even nuke-launchers would get bored and carry on with more enjoyable tasks. As there's only 24 hours, there's nothing for leaders to 'solve'. $\endgroup$
    – DA.
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ "Or those that are alone somewhere without an easy way back to civilization within 24 hours." A modern day re-make of Gilligan's Island, except that instead of just barely missing rescue each week, they would be just within sight of civilization at 23:59. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:43

Death would be meaningless

More or less. The memory and pain would remain, but after the tenth, twentieth time, I'd imagine it wouldn't be that bad. You'd get used to it. And with death lasting a matter of hours, the fear of it would diminish rapidly. With death being so meaningless I wouldn't imagine it would be such a huge crime as it is today: at most, you're wasting someone's day (killing someone in a particularly painful way must remain a crime, however. We wouldn't want sadists running free).

Griefing would become a major annoyance. We've all seen that one guy who waits for you to spawn before killing you immediately in every online game ever. The second of pure annoyance when you wake up and spot your neighbour beside your bed, shotgun in hand, would be enough to cause people to do it. You'll remember, and you'll wake up annoyed as hell, but in truth, in this new society, it's not much more than camping in a video game.

In the same vein, pranks among children (and some adults, most likely) would become popular. Setting up death traps to kill your friends would be hilarious once the fear of death has faded. As always, with pranks come bullies who take things too far. The bully would set up similar pranks, except his (or hers) would be painful. In our society, we steal our friend's phone as a joke but the bully would smash it. In this new society, we would jump out from behind a corner with a pistol, where the bully would jump out with a blunt knife.

Games would have much larger stakes. Who needs paintball guns when we can just use rifles? And computer games would vanish. Wanna play GTA? Let's go rob a car, it will be back in the morning and would we be really inconveniencing anyone that badly by taking their car, when it will be there when they wake up anyway? Assassin's Creed? Forget it, let's just go assassinate the grocer.

But that's short term. Long term, huge arenas would be constructed, video games made real, with spectators and bets.

Who remembers that old TV show, Raven? Y'know the obstacle course where if you get hit you sorta fade out of being, and appear beside the course, unharmed? That show would be a lot more fun when if you mess up, you die. I mean, who cares, you'll be fine come the morning.

Regarding JDługosz's comment

Good catch! Advertising would be as normal, I'd imagine. Word of mouth, flyers, posters, very basic local T.V. or radio ads: since people retain their memories they would remember the adverts -- for sanity's sake, all adverts bar word of mouth wouldn't really be needed too often: once a week, once a month (assuming, of course, that the society retains these concepts with every day being Wednesday).

For the construction of the actual arena, I'm sure a simple thing can be knocked up in a couple hours, especially since people would be faster and faster in constructing it over time due to practice and the urgent need to get it done quicker will result in shortcuts being found.

This sparked a new idea: blood games would return heavily. Gladiators would become popular and there'd be no real risk.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How do you construct a huge arena if everything is reset at the end of the day? How would such a venue be advertised? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 11:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As far as griefing is concerned: 99% of society is made up of nice people. After a while someone would figure out they need to make sure that everyone is Ok. Police would make a rota to check up on everybody. One day they find the guy who was killed at 6am. The next day they find the murderer. From then on, the murderer will be handcuffed to the radiator at 5:30am every morning. $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for making an Answer of your Comment so I could give you the +1. :) $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @gnasher729 yeah some sort of punishment would come into place eventually; though i suppose you could take it further and allow the society to elaborate more into a video game world entirely, in which case griefers would more likely find themselves murdered by gangs of high level player-- er, i mean, those equipt to deal with them. $\endgroup$
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about anyone else, but I think if I got killed multiple days running, I would go insane. Even if it were painless, I'd wake up the next morning shaking--like a really bad nightmare. The thought of getting killed again would give me an instant panic attack. It might get better over time, but I definitely wouldn't be participating in any live-action video games just because "there's no real risk." $\endgroup$
    – DLosc
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 2:47

While most answers deal with the short term impacts, lets try to explore some of the long term results of it. I think it very much depends on how our memory capacity will work and deal with this situation.

Unlimited brain capacity

This is more unrealistic, but hey, we already have groundhog day (and in the original he was trapped there how long? 10000 years?).

You will remember everything, and since the environment you interact with is limited, you will reach a point at which you have done everything that your moral allows. Everything that is fun to you has been repeated to the point that it is no more fun. I think this will inevitably lead to an adjustment of your morals to be able to do more. As a result, the moral of the whole society will shift into a more archaic version. For example, in the dark ages, it was fine to kill someone for various minor things, and the society accepted it. Now that killing is just another way to hurt someone badly, it will play no role anymore. Shoot someone in the head? Who cares, really, he will likely not even be able to remember any pain. So all that counts is pain that can be remembered. But even then, after yet another while, we went through all of this, are used to it, and don't care anymore. Lying on someones table and being tortured to death? Just yawn and wait for the reset. Novel ideas will die out at an exponential rate, so after a while everyone is bored to death; going anywhere has no meaning at all. Occasionally someone comes with a new idea what to do, which will spread over the world rapidly. These occasions get exponentially fewer. And less exciting from our point of view. I can imagine a situation where someone twitters a new recipe for cockroaches. Exciting. Never tried that taste. Will it taste good? Doesn't matter. It is something new. Input. Where can I get one? And the hunt begins. People will kill each other over catching a cockroach. Eventually everyone did taste one, and will fall back to some dull semi sleep state. Neuroscience indicates that what keeps the brain alive is new stuff, new input. If there is none, we not only tend to be bored, we reduce brain activity. In our case, this might lead to being able to sleep through days, weeks, months, years, centuries... eternity?

Limited brain capacity

This is somewhat easier to grasp, after all, we tend to remember less, the further away events are.

If this continues, we will forget things. Forget that we met someone (given there are enough other people around us), forget that we did this or that already. Forget that someone did something awful to us 500 years ago. We will always have something new to discover, new to learn. At least if there is enough in our vicinity and we are not one of the poor bastards that are in any way confined. We will have much more ways to improve on our morals and live to moral standards. If there is enough to explore within the time it needs to forget it, there is little reason to act as a bad guy, unless of course you are a psychopath.

After a while we will forget how this all started. It will just be the state of how things are. In the beginning people tried to figure out what causes this and how to revert it, but after running into many dead ends, they will forget about that. There are so much other things to see and to explore.

Some general other thoughts

There are other random things that may play a role. For one, why not start a global nuclear war from time to time? Nice fireworks, and really, if you are sitting for hundreds of years in front of this button, and hitting it has little difference than altering some peoples memories, why not do it?

Also, I think we will lose all means of timekeeping. At least after we forget the beginning, there is no sense at all to talk about time. Who cares about when something happened, or if it happened at all.

Wealth and money will lose their meaning. Yes, you may rob a bank (though likely there would not be anyone working there today) but what are you going to do with the money anyways? No one will want it. We will organize ourselves to get anything for free that is within our reach.

And finally, behind this is lurking another interesting question... if after a billion or more years of this, groundhog day suddenly ends, what happens? No one will notice during the day, but only when the reset didn't happen...

  • $\begingroup$ Oops - this is exactly what I'm getting at (re: the nature of memory) in a Comment to the OP, and I'm sad that Ichabod hasn't responded to this. (It may not be a direct response to "what would happen globally", but I think it's crucial to resolve for the purposes of speculating on long-term repercussions.) $\endgroup$
    – N. Presley
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 3:10

The question states that memory survives. But beyond that, nothing changes. Society will become based on what can happen in 24 hours. As noted in other answers, the long-term problems of society are largely solved. There's no more food shortage, there's no shortage of fuel, or any material goods, no incurable disease, or global warming. In fact, there's not even a way (or reason, really) to execute large-scale war.

Science will focus on four topics: ameliorating pain, intensifying pleasure, intensifying pain, and getting out of the loop.

The Final State

With no threat of death as we know it, and no long-term problems to solve, government will eventually have one simple mission: maintaining order. Governments will be necessarily weak, since people can decide on a daily basis if they want a revolution. The exception could be large families with weapons, who could consolidate power over small areas and become despots. I think even family ties will eventually erode though.

Business will be transacted with verbal agreements before professional witnesses; probably older people. They will have the job of publicizing any agreements made and ensuring that both parties keep their word. Breaking a contract/being dishonest will incur a penalty, plus lose the ability to make deals in the future.

The mechanisms of enforcing order will be generally limited to 1-day events. Execution will be a common form of punishment, probably for small offenses, since it causes intense immediate pain, but no long-term effect. While multiple days of pain can be threatened, the time involved in tracking down a criminal will probably mean that only the worst of criminals will be punished more than one day in a row. Public, corporal punishment will become normal, with the degree of shame or pain determined by the severity of the offense. Especially recalcitrant criminals would eventually be driven insane by mental duress of repeated executions or stop committing crimes.

Good behavior will be rewarded by corresponding pleasure. Economies won't exist anymore beyond mutual favor trading. People with large amounts of Ben & Jerry's in the freezer will find themselves very rich in the new economy; while cash/durable goods will be not valuable.

The focus of those who seek to learn will be to find simple, effective tools that can be built quickly, like the website mentioned in the other question.

Daily life of most people in Western societies will focus on exchange of favors - for example, borrowing the flat screen TV for a day in return for supplying the food for a party on a day. That may take several days of smaller tasks to bargain with the store owners/people who just went shopping. Tourism will also be popular, since the fuel is free, it will just be the time for the pilot to fly to wherever you want to go.

A merchant class will develop traveling 6 hours across what used to be borders of less developed countries, bringing valuable items.

Less developed societies will focus on learning for a while, eventually perfecting techniques of raising the standard of living within an hour or two and enjoying it for a day.

Since you'll have the same ingredients to cook with every day, spices may become very valuable...but that's a rabbit trail.

The most valuable people will be those with skills at bringing pleasure and novel experiences; eventually there will probably be guilds as people focus on learning one area really well. Highly valued skills you might not expect would include pilots, translators, woodworkers and smiths who can quickly create functional objects, operators of large machines, musicians, and artists.

Getting There

After the initial shocks of anarchy, which I don't think will last very long, governments will devolve significantly more power to localities to prevent losing them all together to independence movements. Government will shift to focus on immediate protection of people in it's circle; otherwise people will rebel and form their own governments. The capitals and surrounding areas will remain under government control, and military bases will probably remain loyal since the soldiers respawn there each day.

Eventually, smaller governments will become the norm, the size of 6 hours of travel. Those with control of weapons will stay in control at least in the medium term.

Governments, even the most despotic, will be eventually insurrected by ideas, which spread as military power does not. Eventually ideas, the basis of revolutions, will soften key parts of the military, and the government will loose the ability to project power.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is an awesome post for one so late to the game. I hope it gets the upvotes it deserves. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 18:07

Is it THIS world we're talking about? Because we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we fail to talk about belief systems.

A great many people would probably keep track of "what day it would have been" if days had never started repeating, and we would likely still celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries, even though only our minds are aging.

Those who had accumulated vast fortunes would now have the opportunity to splurge, and make this world their playground... Up to the point people still value currency when they've only one day to spend it. With the exception of vending machines and such, it would be much easier to spend money in the morning than it would in the afternoon... Though I can't see people entirely doing away with certain creature comforts or long-term investments, on the off chance that time "starts up again".

Many religions would disappear, or be reformed at least. Everyone could, and probably would, experience death at some point. When the day resets, the now-living would realize just what happens after death, at least, on the first day post-mortem.

That is, if death still happens in this world (see Torchwood: Miracle Day).

Society might change in myriad ways depending solely on this "afterlife experience"... Are there deities in the world? Do we all see certain ones, or do we each see something different? Are there grim reapers? Are they more like Discworld or Dead Like Me? Is there an astral plane? Is it more like What Dreams may Come or Wristcutters: A Love Story? Is that "tunnel" people talk about something everyone experiences? Are there really loved ones on the other side, or just a cold dark void? How could we experience cold and dark, unless we're still experiencing, and why are we experiencing it? Do we reincarnate immediately, or do we all stay trapped in our bodies while coroners drill into them, like in that Tales from the Crypt episode? If the latter, then we would most certainly change coroner practices!

Unfortunately, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Abrahamic faiths would still be a thing, even if the afterlife was "just darkness", since they would tell you "the dead lay dormant until the second coming" or whatever. Any "afterlife evidence" pointing to any other religion is just "a trick by the devil" to "test our faith", and any astral plane is "proof positive of purgatory". Some would call Groundhog World 'Hell', and some would call it 'a gift from God for a second chance'. Evangelists would call it a sign of the second coming, and we would all be sick of hearing that quote in Proverbs about the dog vomit. Of course, if it was a Sunday that was repeating, people might get tired of going to church every single day.

New religions would most likely spring up, specifically to explain the repetition phenomenon. "We have all died, this is the afterlife!" probably would be the callphrase of most common religious view. Death-cultists, who consider it a glory to die and explore the afterlife experience (or lack of one). Kill-cultists, who believe this is a new game of some kind, and the object is to kill the most people, or all people, to achieve "the next level". New militias and enforcement agencies would certainly spring up to attempt to prevent these types of terrorism...

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely THIS world, and thanks for this perspective. Certainly a lot to think about here. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 18:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "[...]even though only our minds are aging." This brought a lot of thought to me - what if signs of age are still presented in minds? $\endgroup$
    – Mateo
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As in, what if our minds might cause our bodies to show signs of age? Or what if age-related mental conditions might be caused over time? Hmm... I do imagine a lot of people will experience mild to severe anxiety attacks once they discover the Temporal Singularity... People stranded on desert islands and those who are otherwise slaves to routine may not even notice for days... But if your neurochemistry is reset every morning, then it shouldn't last... or should it? What do we mean when we say "our minds are aging"? People's brains aren't being transported back in time... are they? $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 20:51

To recapitulate the problem: At some fixed point in the day (maybe midnight, maybe 6am) everything is changed to the exact same state as 24 hours earlier, except that people's memory contains the complete 24 hours. Difference to the "Groundhog Day" movie is that in the movie, only one person kept their memory. I would assume that not only the memory remains, but also memory-based abilities (so taking driving lessons or learning to play an unknown piano piece would work), but body building and the physical changes that you have while learning to play the piano wouldn't work.

It should be clarified whether seasons are changing or not (presumably not) and whether the time of change is the same around the world in absolute time, or in local time ("same in absolute time" would mean different clock times depending on where you are on the earth).

Some things wouldn't be of importance anymore: My physical state and my wealth at the end of the day (at the switch point). I would still continue living for many years, except that I am not ageing, and I start every day in the same state except my memory and some abilities are changed. If someone makes the day unpleasant for me, that's bad. If someone makes every day unpleasant for me, that's very bad. On the other hand, a pistol duel one minute before the switch might be harmless.

I assume that people want nice lives. So any work that is of long-term benefit would be pointless. I wouldn't bother fixing my leaking roof. Working for money is pointless if I have enough for the day. Since working for money is pointless, charging money is pointless as well. Which means nobody needs money anymore. So how does this affect things?

Someone works at McDonald's. Gets shouted at by their boss, but needs to keep working. Not anymore. People still like their burgers. So they come to McDonalds, nobody works, the second day even the manager isn't there. So what happens? People contact the workers at home. Offer them money. Or nice presents. Someone says "if you serve burgers for two hours, you can drive my Ferrari for the rest of the day". Suddenly McDonalds is open again, workers making burgers, paid in whatever presents people give them, volunteers being shown how to do it, and everyone has a good time. The manager tries to stop it because the restaurant takes no money, the police are called and decide that no harm is done. Two weeks later the desperate manager puts fire to the place. Next day the restaurant is back, police tells the manager not to do that kind of nonsense again. So everyone just has a good time.

Four dozen people in town wake up with hangover every morning and have no tablets. After a week they have enough of it. They ask their chemist, and for two weeks they try various treatments until they find what works best. From now on, every morning the chemist puts a box with four dozen hangover treatments out of his front door, he knows by heart what to put in there, and four dozen people come to the chemist, pick up their medication, and leave some present for the chemist.

Book reading circles would get lots of new members. People would come together to learn to play music. Lots of fun when you get better and better. I could see that in a few weeks or at most months, people would organise their lives to make everyone's live as comfortable as possible.

How would this work with crime? Relative powers (police vs. criminals vs. everyone else) wouldn't change. Some crimes wouldn't be crimes anymore. Like selling drugs - assuming that drugs are not addictive through the switch; if they are then selling drugs might become a bigger crime than it is now. Theft would (1) not matter, and (2) be pointless. However, over some time the police would know every single criminal and drug dealer. So everyone causing physical or mental harm would be known to them, and they would probably act on it. What would be the punishment to keep someone from beating his wife? Question is whether psychological treatment would help. Question is whether punishment would help - being handcuffed in the morning without food and water for a day, longer for repeat offenders. At some point these people would give up and just leave every morning, and do something that's fun instead.

So all in all I am quite optimistic how this would work out. People will try extreme and dangerous experiences, but not very often.

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    $\begingroup$ And there are so many things that I missed out. For example: People starting the day in a bad condition, worse than hangover. Prison inmates - you could release them every day as long as they behave. The biggest game changer would be "groundhog month" or "groundhog year" instead of "groundhog day". I can't even start to think about the implications of "groundhog year". $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 14:15

I think people will come up with a new unit of time thats not days, weeks, and so on. Something that has to be memorized since nothing physical can be saved. I'm actually not so sure how this can be done and communicated on a global scale without losing accuracy. Actually, using this data, some one smart can think of why this is happening. A whole new science can be born out of studying how time works in different parts of the world.

P.S. Finally we can have Time Cops :)

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for editing your answer - this is a good answer now. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 11:19

Society only continues when people do the same thing they did yesterday, no one will want to do that when there on no consequences, no rewards.

The only constant is memory so over time people will literally live in their own thoughts. We'd develop lucid dreaming to do anything we wanted, the 24 hours would not matter as one thought would run into another "day's" thought.

Over time we would figure out how to communicate telepathically, maybe link up each others minds, and create a new worlds inside all the Earths' people's minds; or a single World created by everyone.

Worringly, perhaps we are living in that World now...

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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting concept, basically they'd be rebuilding the old version of the world using the only resource that didn't reset every day. I like the idea, though I don't know how plausible telepathy is, even when you have an infinite amount of time to develop it. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2015 at 14:21

My take on this is to think of how a particular project would work, and the types of people who would contribute. I choose putting on a new performance of a play. Once everyone has viewed every recorded performance until they are bored of it, new performances will be valuable projects.

Of course, it requires a director, producer, and cast. The producer will need to have a very good memory, or have an assistant with a good memory, to keep everything organized.

In the early stages, the main outside help they will need is someone with a good Internet connection and printer to print copies of the script each morning.

Dress rehearsals and performances will need a lot more help. Actions will have to start at 12:01 to get everything done in one day, so the root of the phone tree for the project will have to get into a list memorized by someone who was awake and near a phone at midnight. Their contribution to society will be to place wake-up calls to a few memorized numbers each morning.

Someone who lives near a fabric store and has a car will be in the early phone tree. Their task is to break into the fabric store, with the owner's permission, collect the fabric, thread, and notions for the costumes, and deliver them to the costumers.

Each costumer will have rehearsed drafting the pattern, cutting it out, and sewing it for one costume. When they are just rehearsing they can sleep in and start at their normal getting-up time. On dress rehearsal and performance days, they will be in an early phone tree so they can start drafting soon after midnight, and be ready to cut out when the fabric arrives.

Similarly, the set builders and painters will rehearse constructing the sets, working out how to build them in no more than 18 hours. They may need someone to break into a hardware store, with the owner's permission, to collect paint and other materials.

The lighting people will rehearse hanging the lights and setting up the control boards so that they can do it in 18 hours. If the performance is going to be streamed to the Internet the camera people will also have rehearsed setting up.

A successful performance would be to the advantage of a large number of people, so I assume a lot of cooperation to make it happen. Even if the fabric store owner does not like theater, the chef who loves live performances is much more likely to ask them to dinner if they cooperate.

Society could operate either on informal barter, or on a "currency" with accounts managed by people who have both very good memories and very good reputations for honesty.

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent idea that someone who is be coincidence awake at the time of the switch or wakes up five minutes later would start calling people on the phone and waking them up. Since we can go without sleep for 24 hours, why waste time sleeping. Assuming that tiredness doesn't survive the switch. $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ @gnasher729 I suspect that many people will prefer to wake up at their normal time, but someone involved in a special project would be willing to put in some 24 hour days as needed. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2015 at 19:28

I won't give a complete answer because the other answers here are sufficient. But I don't think the concept of money has been fully explored.

This might work well with Erik's Project Last Hope answer.


History (skip if you don't like historical economics)

Most small tribal communities worked with credit systems1 where "gifts" were remembered and repaid with more "gifts". Money was not needed because it wasn't hard to remember that you had given your neighbor a pair of shoes (after he complained about the hole in his). The cycle of gifting was a fundamental part of their societies and worked very well on a small scale.

But this made short (village to village) trade hard and long distance trade impossible. So, if trade became desirable, people turned to some form of bartering. And, out of convenience, more efficient bartering techniques were developed along the lines of:

  1. A general purpose value item (like hides) becomes an intermediary that avoids the "double coincidence of needs" implicit to bartering. i.e. Everyone trades their stuff for hides and then the hides for other stuff.
  2. Large, well known traders start making trades between each other in promises (notes) to avoid having to transport and actually own the item in question.
  3. Coinage develops as a more stable and permanent replacement to the intermediary value item. (This usually coincides with a local gov taking over and taxing everything).

And then something happens and Fiat currency emerges. But I'm not an economist and my views of fiat currency are rather biased. So rather than making amateur mistakes about it, I will leave it out.


Fundamentally, money is a way of storing value for the purpose of trade between strangers.
Specifically, it is:

  • an abstract form of universal value
  • tied to something mostly permanent but fairly arbitrary (like rare metal)
  • Accessible and tradeable

Groundhog Day Money

On the local scale, we would likely revert back to a credit-based society (of some form) since credit (positive or negative) would be the only type of value that would last beyond midnight. But this means knowing everyone you interact with or forming "tribes" that remember interactions on different scales.

Once you want to move past this kind of society, you need some form of money.

Since memory is the only permanent "thing", it must be memory based. And therefore information based.

Naively, you could try to get people to remember how much money they all have. But this would require a significant portion of the population to be involved and prone to all sorts of errors.

Instead, we should look at current tech: what do we have that stores value as information? Bitcoin, of course. Memorize the block-chain, memorize your address, what could go wrong?

Custom Cryptocurrency

So Bitcoin has some problems of course. First the block chain is huge (20gb atm and growing). That's a lot of data to memorize. Even your address is a bit long and random.

But this is all because it's meant to be stored and processed by computers. Also because it's meant to be "mined". (Interestingly, you could keep mining bitcoins if the blockchain was memorized).

We have different needs for our cryptocurrency.

  • Small, non-growing "blockchain"
  • Extremely robust system for distributing the blockchain to be memorized and collecting it again in the morning.
  • Blame mechanism plus redundancy. (motivate people to not make mistakes and make mistakes survivable)


I imagine this to be relevant sometime after local affairs have settled. Some form of community has stabilized in your local area and you are once again interested in "progress" and a feeling of something other than futile repetition.

It starts small, maybe goes through a few phases, and then starts spreading around the world as people realize they can start progressing again. That their actions today will actually have some effect on tomorrow.

1 Contrary to popular belief, tribal communities were almost never "barter" economies but something closer to credit economies. See Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber


It would be a global reenactment of the Zimbardo prison experiment

People are not basically good, they act in a way contingent with the society they find themselves in.

The notion that most people are basically good is false. Most people appear to have the capacity for casual brutality if the situation allows and expects it, as demonstrated by Zimbardo.

It would after a while become apparent that the only things with value are experience and memory, the more extreme the better. Experience can take many different forms. I would anticipate that many people would simply take a gun and go hunting. Expect fighting in the streets degenerating into fantastically detailed levels of barbarism as the decades, centuries and competency levels of the participants progress.

Those with access to the nuclear launch codes would use them, not once but day after day. Death from above would be frequent, unpredictable and arbitrary. Those with access to enhanced weaponry such as warplanes would treat them as toys, strafing neighbourhoods and stadia.

People without access to such advanced toys would band together to storm military bases, fighting each other for access to the biggest bang, the best experience.

It would be hell by nightfall, mountains of burning corpses, screaming madmen in bulldozers, aircraft exploding in mid air and raining burning bodies down onto neighbourhoods. Children with the minds of war ravaged old men murdering their parents in their beds and laughing. There would be no escape, you would be trapped forever.

No permanent consequences, no right or wrong, kill me today and I'll come right back at you tomorrow.

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    $\begingroup$ There would be permanent consequences in the form of people's memories of how you behaved yesterday influencing how they treat you today. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Zimbardo's experiment is interesting and happened in certain (widely criticized) circumstances. You wrote "People are not basically good": that's ok for placing people in a wide spectrum of greys. But on the other hand you have "Most people appear to have the capacity for casual brutality". The key point is the capacity, a potential that runs both ways, for bad and for good. So the conclusion shouldn't be evil rules. Seems reductionist to say that people are simply "evil" (Philip's ted talk has that title). $\endgroup$
    – nilon
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 23:22

I suspect this would happen in the following stages:

  1. Confusion
  2. Experimentation
  3. Lamentation
  4. Re-organization
  5. Acceptance

Similar to Groundhog day, the first several days would be confusing to most people. I think they would figure it out after a while, but not at first. This would gradually lead to the next stage, experimentation.

Once it became known exactly what was happening, there would probably be a mixture of reactions. I suspect that the general thought would be that people would experiment to see what was happening. I can imagine a number of things being tried, like someone cutting themselves, breaking stuff, and other very noticeable things to see if it would stay, while some of the more adventurous would try killing someone, perhaps. I think people would generally be pushing the boundaries further and further, until they realized exactly what was happening. Scientists would run experiments, likely looking at the stars and planets to see if they exhibited the same behavior, seeing how far the bubble was. Perhaps they would try other things.

Next would come a phase were people would be confused, and wonder why this was happening, and try and stop it from happening. Riots would likely happen in this phase. So would some desperate experiments. Many people would just stop coming in to work. For those things required for normal life to continue, there would likely be some difficulty in getting people there to provide them (Water, power, food, etc). People working stuff that only matters in the long term almost certainly would stop working, as there just wouldn't be any point. Many churches would have higher attendance, especially at first, as people reacting to the drastic change in their lives.

Long-term, acceptance would happen. Society would re-structure itself. Likely a new system of time would somehow be created. People would probably come to some kind of an agreement on how to improve life for those around. Those who committed certain types of crimes would be dealt with, so they could not continue to do so. People would try to figure out how to get the most of life. They would likely be concerned about having adventures, seeing and experiencing new things. I suspect that people would take things to the extreme. In fact, I suspect all people would be pushed to the extreme. People would be pushed to be more conservative or liberal in general, further from moderation. Fear of death would not be a real thing. Some people would continue to work just to avoid boredom.


The first thing that comes to mind for me would be an analogy to Albert Camus - The Myth of Sisyphus.

One would have a choice as to whether or not to accept the fact that today will be the same as tomorrow.

In the movie, reality was deterministic for the first few awakenings, then Murray's personal growth and new choices changed reality into a less deterministic one.

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent. I'll have to read that one! Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:18

I think there would be some big changes, but not the ones most people think.

As others have mentioned, this is a post scarcity society. No global warming, no resource limitations. Most people have enough 'money' to buy or do whatever goods they want. But there would be no sellers.

So they go to university to learn something, or to a posh restaurant. But there are no staff, everyone is taking the day off because they tried to go skydiving (which was closed, incidentally).

However, a new economy would develop, based around the existing services and luxury goods industries. Most other industries would be discontinued.

Existing money would have to be replaced. Each person would be required to memorise the net wealth of 3 individuals at the end of the day. A basic algorithm would ensure 3 people memorise each person's wealth (with jail or financial penalties for lying).

So while people are not forced to work, plenty of people would (not every day, but when they want more money).

Education would become a huge industry.

However, it would be a fundamentally unequal society, based on the location you are when things reset. In remote and rural areas, almost nothing would be available, regardless of price.


What of government? What laws will be put in place, if any? Drugs have addictive effects beyond the physical, and there will be great temptation to use. Will the penalties become worse? How can they be enforced? Social programs? Military intervention and distribution programs? What about organizations? The Humane Society, Red Cross, Shriners, Knights of Columbus? How do they remain relevant? Do they? I imagine they will try...

First: How do you keep records? In a scenario where everything except for human brains resets each day, how do you write down new laws or contracts for others to study? You might think that you could have people simply remember them, and recite each day, but over the long term that's not going to be viable. The record-keepers will quit eventually.

Second: You can't build anything new or permanent. People would have to re-create the infrastructure every single day, and that's not going to happen.

Third: there's no point in doing any job. There's enough food lying around to last the day, and you don't need anything new if it'll just be recreated.

So losing access to record keeping is going to destroy large-scale governance. Additionally, there's really no economy - why should you care about cash, or gold, if it goes away the next day? Because of these two factors, the only things valuable are:

  1. New experiences/education.
  2. Protection from hostile actors.

So worldwide, society will fragment into two rough groups - conformants and hostile actors. These will organize on a local basis into government analogs, but they will be much more fluid than anything we have today, and smaller. I suspect the largest groups will number in the thousands.

Conformant Groups will be people who, roughly, want to live their lives as close to normal as possible. They'll group up for protection, traveling a few hours each day to static locations where they can set up a defensive perimeter, and trade knowledge/education/ideas/sex.

Hostile Actors will be individuals or groups who want to take advantage of others without fair trade. They'll be looking for drugs or sex, since almost everything else is worthless long term. Individuals will probably try to infiltrate conformant groups, although this will be tough since they'd rapidly be found out. Groups would be offensive, looking to capture/assault conformant groups for their use.

This will be a fluid situation - a safe spot one day means that a group of hostile actors might try to get their first today. However, I suspect that long-term conformants will massively outnumber hostile actors, because there's simply not much point in going for the rape and pillage thing when there's a reset at the end of the day. So most of the world will be "safe", with islands of hostiles that can't be dug out easily.

We're also very US/Eurocentric. What about the rest of the world? How will China, North Korea, African nations respond to all this?

I suspect eventually almost all of the world will follow the above pattern. You can't keep big governments together, and eventually everyone will fall into localized groups that promote their interests.

One thing I do think about most of the rest of the world is that in rural areas, you'd likely see local cults develop around charismatic figures. Without access to first world transportation, these cults would be able to form into hostile actor groups and control/gather all people in their area, basically having permanent slaves. Eventually they'd run into conformants that can defend themselves, though, at which point their expansion would stop.

I also wonder if maybe the US/Russia would identify these and eliminate them with the "stop doing bad shit or be nuked" rule, where they have "known" rural cult areas, and watch them with satellites. And if they see the bad behavior, they just launch a nuke, because the long-term negative effects will go away eventually and no one will really be killed.


This rambled on a fair bit. The main point is it won't be possible to keep large scale governance, so people will organize over time into smaller groups that let them stay protected while doing what they want. Or they'll go for the rape and pillage deal.


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