In my story I have built up a system of life-forms which at their earliest stages of evolution were created by a single very intelligent entity.

As time goes by those lower on the pecking order start noticing similarities in the way those in power speak which leads them to think the world they live in is not built up of individuals but people in power controlling many avatars living different personalities in each avatar but still aiming for the same goal.

The problem with knowing who the one controlling you or who is potentially your enemy comes down to knowing how many separate powers are in play or is there just one entities psychology you have to work out.

As the single entities power has been split down into hierarchical levels those higher on those levels have developed their own identity as well as possibly new goals, which means there is no longer one goal from one individual but other personalities need to be considered and how to overcome their abilities.

My Question is: As a low tier life form how can you tell if the one that controls things is a single entity or multiple powerful entities?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So basically, the God or gods are trying to influence mortals, and the mortals see a pattern leading them to believe they are being influenced, but they don't know if it is the Creator or other gods influencing their society? This is the faith model of monotheistic religions who believe God is the creator but the devil is trying to influence them to do evil. It is based on faith, prophesy, and discernment of the intent from a body of doctrine. What instructions did your Creator leave it's people about how to discern it? Also look to political ads for an additional model (PACs, lobbyists, ect $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 20, 2020 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus That is an interpretation of my issue but I would rather stay away from the religious point of view as that can cause offence and see it from the social aspect, how group interactions and high level professional systems work. $\endgroup$
    – user79527
    Sep 20, 2020 at 17:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What's wrong with simply asking? After all that's exactly how children (lower order life forms) learn about the culture they've been born into from their parents (higher order life forms). $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Sep 20, 2020 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas that is an option but that is like expecting honesty in business or getting a straight answer from a politician. $\endgroup$
    – user79527
    Sep 21, 2020 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ How so? It might be helpful to include cultural references like this in your query. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Sep 21, 2020 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


Machine learning.

Specifically unsupervised cluster recognition algorithms, of which there are many designed to perform various subtly different tasks in ways that all boil down to the sane fundamental goal:

Take a collection of data points with a variety of variables. Using nothing but these data, discern good boundaries for separating datapoints into clusters of this/that/the other.

The advantage to these algorithms is that they don’t care about your preconceptions. They can and will pull subordinates into appropriate groups based on the variables you’ve observed. Do it right and the machine will point out differences in behaviour that even you didn’t realise could exist.

The disadvantage to these algorithms is that they don’t care about your preconceptions. They will make incredibly dumb decisions on occasion and they don’t ‘know’ if the data you’re giving them is good, bad or ugly. Entire doctorates can be (and have been) dedicated to tuning a particular algorithm with a particular dataset in mind, and even working out how to gather the data you need to feed them is an area fraught with both technical and (certainly in your case) ethical concerns.

So pose as a social media giant or a mobile phone provider. Spy on your users (sorry, gather analytic data for improving customer services). Employ statisticians and data scientists to look for patterns so you can show relatable content (or increase advertising revenue, whatever) all while secretly trying to cluster individuals based on the variables you believe are of importance in identifying your higher beings.

You will be wrong. Often. But take heart! Every mistake is another step on the path to enlightenment. If you think you know something about how a certain cluster should behave you can create a test for it. Run the test, check the results, discern what other data you need to learn more. Gather enough data and eventually you’ll either be able to map all of your higher beings or you’ll come to realise the differences between them are inconsequential.

Oh, and you’ll be in charge of a multi billion dollar company that holds half the world’s personal data...

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, Machine Learning. The modern version of this cartoon $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2020 at 16:30

You explain in comments that you want to stay away from the religious perspective and focus on the social aspect

But, as The Bard once intoned... "A rose by any other name..."

The short version of the answer:

Humanity has been trying to determine a way to objectively prove the existence of one or more higher life forms (HLFs) from the advent of time. Some call the HLFs "gods." Others call them "ancient aliens." Semantics. We haven't figured out how to prove the existence or motivations of HLFs in tens of thousands of years.

The Long Version:

Please keep in mind that we field questions about religion on a regular basis. So, let's start with an observation from the Good Book (Luke 6:43-45, KJV).

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

In other words, a lower life form (LLF) can detect the presence and intent of an HLF by the consequences of said life form's actions. But that's the hard part. What actions? What results?

Whether you consider the HLF to be a god or a technologically advanced alien1 doesn't matter. You, the LLF, are stuck with three things.

  1. The intentionally observable actions of the higher life form (HLF). For example, if your HLF pushes the water aside to allow a group of people to cross a sea on dry ground, that's an intentionally observable action that helps you, the LLF, to detect and understand the HLF. One could, perhaps, conclude that the HLF was benevolent and favored you.

  2. The unintentionally observable actions are more problematic because it's a challenge to objectively identify them. The LLF starts to cross a street and suddenly feels the need to stop. The result is an avoided collision that might have taken the LLF's life. Was that HLF influence, or did the LLF's brain put a lot of little pieces together fast enough to cause a life-preserving reaction? You'll find people on both sides of the discussion.

  3. You will always perceive your world through a very complex lens. That lens injects your attitudes, education, beliefs, etc. onto the interpretation of what you experience. Said another way, if you were one of those that experienced walking though the dry ocean bed, you might conclude that that the HLF is protecting you from your enemies. In the longer view, on your world perhaps the HLF did that to benefit your enemies, and not you. Without an explanation of "the big picture," it's really, really, really, really, really hard to objectively determine whether or not the actions were one thing or another.2

Here's the rub — without some way to "scientifically" (aka "objectivly") prove the existence and motives of an HLF, all that's left is interpretation. That's religion. Even when the HLF is kind enough to leave evidence (intentionally observed actions, speaking through intermediaries, etc.), because the HLF isn't there 24/7/365 to be touched, photographed, talked to, etc., there will always be doubt about what any individual believes to know or understand.

So, what can you do?

In your world, you need to determine what the intentionally and unintentionally observable actions are first. Once those are identified, you can begin working out how your LLFs can interpret them to detect the existence of and motivations of the HLFs. In a fully fleshed-out world, that would mean that the culture, education, and religion/philosophy of an individual LLF will influence how that LLF can perceive and interpret the "fruit of the tree" or actions of the HLF.

But I'd start by identifying the actions. Because human experience is that working from the LLF's "blind" perspective is very difficult.

1Clarke's third law states that a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. That's really important to understand. The name we give the higher being is simply semantics and won't change the methods for detection and/or understanding.

2If you don't believe this, talk to a teenager about their high school experience. All the alliances, betrayals, etc. You'll soon discover that deciding who's your friend, your enemy, and what their motives are is hard between two LLFs, much less an LLF and an HLF.

  • $\begingroup$ Let's address your two comments separately. Unless you explain, clearly and specifically, the extent to which your LLFs and HLFs are separated, you're stuck with the fact that I and everyone else who reads this will think "oh, yeah... gods...." If that's offensive to you (it appears that it is), that's your problem for not understanding your audience. It's not my job to make you feel better. My answer wasn't written for the sake of my own pride - despite what you might think. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 20, 2020 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ As for your second comment, I regret that you didn't find my answer to be clear. Assuming a substantial difference between your LLFs and HLFs your HLFs can only be detected and understood through their actions and how other LLFs perceive those actions. You, as the author, are required to develop those actions first - then there can be a discussion of how LLFs will perceive and interpret those actions. Because, whether you like it or not, humanity's been trying to prove the existence and motives of HLFs for a long time - and we haven't done it yet. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 20, 2020 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ Ok but this isnt God so we dont need to think about why sub atomics particles exist this is about a ruler of a lesser field and you already know the sub ordinates in power so you already know the hierarchy system but it is about deciding who or what aspect is important. $\endgroup$
    – user79527
    Sep 20, 2020 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ So this question isn't about higher (order) or lower (order) life forms at all? It's only about a political hierarchy? The phrase "life form" has a specific context. Are the individuals, stripped of whatever political power they have, all the same species and/or beings? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 20, 2020 at 21:05

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