The evil empire has this organization called the IG. They are a state within the state and represent the emperor's will.

They serve as more than mere bodyguards. Protecting the imperial household is only one of their duties. They are also expected to be front line soldiers, be administrators, artists, spies, assassins, generals, and pretty much whatever else they show intelligence in. This is to just tell you the background, not a point of argument as it would clutter things explaining why and how.

The corner stone of the IG is absolute loyalty to the emperor which is achieved by brainwashing children and instilling in them absolute obedience to the emperor.

The main methods of recruitment that concern us here are:

  1. Orphanages
  2. Slaves put into orphanages.

Orphanages do more than merely provide recruits to the IG, I'm only limiting it to the IG here. The orphanages accept all males and females below the age of 16, above that there is other systems. Whatever the cause for putting the child into an orphanage might be the empire accepts all and cares for them.

The second things is that the empire does not deal in slaves internally and so the slaves are either bought from abroad, a big trade actually, or are the children of slaves in the empire already.

Once there they are taught basic subjects and even advanced ones, as well as sports. And whoever shows a talent in a field they are given the chance to do that for a living or so on. Like if a child seems to be a good musician then the orphanage tries to find them an apprenticeship so they can be taught better music by a master and have their own life. They are also generally cared for not treated like test subjects but I digress. So. Orphanages can screen children and they cooperate with the IG to supply them with good applicants.

Once a child is marked for the IG training it's outside the scoop of this question.

I'm is not concerned about the morality of the practice, nor the economics. I'm not worried about the training or why that system works or not...etc I'm only asking and focusing about what I'm asking about. No need to get distracted with anything else here please. Frame challenges are fine of course.

The dilemma now is that the older people get the more difficult it becomes to brainwash them. Catch them young? The younger the less likely for them to show intelligence or athleticism in anything. Yes Capablanca or Mozart are the exception I'm afraid.

Why do they need special people? Because why waste precious imperial funds on an average person?

Lastly the tech is only up to 1650.

So a compromise is needed where the kids in the orphanages are taken to be IG trainees at such an age so they are easier to brainwash, but old enough to show intelligence and/or athleticism . So can that work? If so how?

Please understand I'm aware that people mature in different rates and a universal standard answer is not easy. I'm looking for the best compromise What I'm looking for is like how in real-life countries have an age for maturity or sex or drinking despite the fact that people grow up in different rates. I also put systems in the training to amount for that but I digress.

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    $\begingroup$ Spartan agoge. Ottoman janissaries. Communist Little OctobristsYoung PioneersKomsomol. Capitalist Boy ScoutsGirl Guides. (And your terminology is incorrect. Children are not brainwashed, because there is nothing to wash; they are educated and indoctrinated.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 7, 2020 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ For the record a lot of people who spread conspiracy theories started doing so in their adulthood. People can be easily brainwashed at any point in their adult lives. Children, however, are more likely to be indoctrinated as per AlexP's comment above. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2020 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, Please read: "The dilemma now is that the older people get the more difficult it becomes to brainwash them. Catch them young? The younger the less likely for them to show intelligence or athleticism in anything" It's a two fold thing. Young enough to be easily brainwashed and old enough to show intelligence. I literally said that. I'm using brainwashed to facilitate conveying the meanings instead of getting into a moral argument if this is right or wrong. To the modern audience, for example, this is brainwashing. So. that's just your opinion that it is wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Dec 7, 2020 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw, My research so far is that it is far younger ones. Say before 14 or so. People are different of course. Conspiracy theories are not a complete way of life in the way this IG is supposed to be. It's like Liberalism or leftism compared to your big five personality traits. Once set your don't just go from being very high on neuroticism to being very low because of pretty much anything. Side note. This is why a lot of parenting torments children. They are growing up to be introverted, example, but the parents are like: why can't you be normal and just be social! smh $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Dec 7, 2020 at 3:26
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    $\begingroup$ Surprisingly, education is one of the few important activities which has not seen all that much progress in the last 2,500 years. We don't really have anything significantly better than what the classical world had two and a half millennia ago. If the Ottomans and the Spartans and the Romans found no shortcut, we can safely say that at the present level of knowledge there is no shortcut. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 7, 2020 at 3:30

1 Answer 1


The real question here is what you actually mean by "brainwashing"

If you do some quick Google research about the possibility of abused children becoming abusive parents you'll see an amazing thing: Across sites both authoritative and less so, you'll see articles that say they're not particularly likely to become abusive and articles that say they are. Curiously, the issue separating the two points of view is often what they're looking for.

Here's the problem (and I'm simplifying something awful): All children basically grow up with personalities that are 1/3 the father, 1/3 the mother, and 1/3 their own. It's not that abused children become abusive parents per se, it's that behaviors of their childhood are quite literally locked in place. If the child is genetically prone to violence or chaotic behavior (fight-vs-flight turned to fight), they're very likely to become an abusive parent. If they're genetically prone to running and hiding from the abuse, assuming they don't commit suicide before adulthood, they're likely to become highly introverted, socially stunted people with trust issues (fight-vs-flight turned to flight).

Remember, that was hugely simplified. Human behavior is not paint-by-numbers and it's not 2-dimensional by any stretch of the imagination. But there is a fundamental truth that the behaviors of childhood stay with us unless a substantial amount of effort is put into changing them.

Therefore, You're not really indoctrinating that young, you're encouraging behaviors

If my own family is any indication, indoctrination from a young age is not in any way proof of loyalty as an adult. My siblings and I all grew up in a very religious household. As adults, a third of us have left the religion, a third don't particularly practice, and the remaining third are devoted members of the faith.

But the behaviors we learned from that religious indoctrination, behaviors that ranged from intense frustration over the religion's teachings about morality to strong convictions of faith... those are the keys you're really looking for. As has been pointed out in your question and in comments, adults are more likely to create and buy into conspiracy theories than children.

But the people who are more likely to do that all have behavioral characteristics in common.

Conspiracy believers tend to be people who...

  • Are naturally inclined to gossip.
  • Are naturally self-assured (conceited) that they are correct.
  • Are naturally distrustful of authority.
  • Have naturally low self-esteem (react positively to to "social encouragement").
  • Etc.

In other words, you do want to work with them at a young age, but not in the way you're thinking

The IG wants to do two things.

  1. They want control over what is taught in school. This is not, necessarily, to indoctrinate, but to control how information is delivered to children so they can evaluate the resulting behaviors.

  2. They want to closely monitor child behavior from the perspective of "counseling" the children. In this way they can detect at the earliest age the particular set of behaviors that best align with loyalty to their ideology.

If you feel that wasn't specific enough, it wasn't meant to be. Every ideology will have a different set of complimentary behaviors. Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, Nationalism, Isolationism... there is not a single set of behaviors that is perfect for them all. Capitalism tends to prefer greed and risk-taking. Communism wants community solidarity. Fascism wants feelings of superiority. Etc. Oh, there will be overlaps, but the specific recipe will change from one ideology to the next.

So, what's the ideal starting age? That's easy. Kindergarten.

This is because there isn't a perfect age to capture all or even most who would be loyal believers. You're not harvesting, you're molding. Some children won't fit your pattern and how you deal with children you know won't align with the IG's goals is an important part of your world (an example of this is the murdereuthanasia of disabled children by the Nazi state because they're imperfections were considered detrimental to the state).

But in general, you're crafting loyal citizens by encouraging sympathetic behaviors at a very young age such that as they grow older they don't question the ideology they're taught.

And why kindergarten? Because that's the first time when parents really start letting their children "out of their sight" and begin to trust the organization to improve/help their kids for a significant period of time.

And if you, the reader, don't think this isn't going on in nations world-wide right now, you're really blind. It's just not as vulgar and obvious as it was in the nastier regimes like the Nazis. But it's obvious to see, both for good and for ill, when you stop loving-or-hating any ideology and simply look at the ideology's operations and actions. Indoctrination isn't intrinsically wrong any more than a hammer is intrinsically wrong. It's how and why you use the tool....

  • $\begingroup$ If I wanted to engage in that answer it would be long. I agree with certain parts and disagree, based on my research, with others. The things I find refreshing is that you do see that it is happening now in the world. Few people want to consider this actually. The biggest problem is still unsolved, here. I said I know its best to start young. But the younger they are the less they indicate intelligence or talent. We are completely forgeting the comprise about BOTH low enough to control but high enough to show intelligence. It's a long question I know, but can't help it honestly. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Dec 7, 2020 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Seallussus I get it, it's also not simple. That's why my response is start at kindergarten to teach, evaluate, and encourage sympathetic behaviors and teach doctrine when those behaviors indicate ideal conditions for the individual. I'm afraid it's the best I can do. Engineers make lousy psychologists. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 7, 2020 at 21:30

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