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A few years ago, all adult humans (>=18 years) gained the power to kill another person just by thinking about it as described in this question in an event known as ThoughtKill. Assuming that most of the population has survived and national identities have also survived, how could a nation be lead while preserving the anonymity of the leaders? Policy still needs to be set, plans made.

Would this herald a Golden Age of politics where policies survive on their merits instead of the force of the personality of the leader to push that policy? Clearly popular politics won't survive because all it takes is one unhappy and murderous person to kill a candidate.

Let's assume that the Internet is still working but with a slightly reduced scale and power than it did pre-ThoughtKill.

A few things to remember:

  • To kill someone, you have to really mean it. Casual thoughts of "I wish so and so was dead" won't do anything.
  • You must have a clear mental picture of a person to kill them. Having murderous intent for a racial or socioeconomic group won't do anything.
  • Thankfully the gift doesn't extend to people below age 18.
  • So far, murders by this method are untraceable.
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  • $\begingroup$ The question about the implication of ThoughtKill on political leaders seems much less important than the implications for humans to form hierarchical organisations like corporations and families. How can any kind of social structure (which by definition is based on a hierarchy of the weak and the strong) persist in this situation? A political leader is little different to a workplace boss for most people. $\endgroup$ – rumguff Sep 5 '15 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ Would wearing masks prevent the mental picture? $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Sep 5 '15 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Do you just need a mental picture, or do you need a name? $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Sep 5 '15 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode Enough of a mental image to pick someone out in a police lineup. A name is not enough. $\endgroup$ – Green Sep 6 '15 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ I have the feeling that drivers would be a lot more courteous if they knew cutting someone off could be a death sentence. Traffic deaths might drop dramatically as everyone overcompensates. $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Sep 26 '16 at 20:50
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There are multiple ways a nation could be lead under such circumstance.

One would certainly be a true democracy where each meaningful political decision is made by plebiscite. There would still need to be political institutions that prepare such plebiscites as well as executing them. Since no decision is made by a single person neither in preparation, decision or execution, this would avoid the loss of political leaders. It does require serious planning, education of the voters and time. In such a world it could be mandatory to have certain time a week dedicate for working through the plebiscites as otherwise the nation would not properly work. In order to complete this task using the Internet and computers or perhaps even a dedicated network for just that purpose could greatly improve efficiency.

Another way could be that in a fixed time interval e.g. 4 years a groups of citizens get randomly selected (computer based). They form the heads of the government organizations. They personally meet and work on their assigned areas (laws, taxes, military etc.) but voting takes place anonymously. In case somebody dies a new citizen gets randomly selected and takes the place.

If technology would have greatly advanced, specialized A.I. could also complete the job of governing a nation. Assuming that specialized means that they are just made for their distinct purpose to solve complex tasks, but are not human-like. If this would be possible and the systems are very reliable, decisions could be made very fast, adapt to situations right-away, optimize processes. Additionally they are not bribeable, not racist, not emotional and most importantly not killable.

In general the problems are not just for politics but for everyday life. So assuming that a somewhat functioning society and economy should exist, it might actually be a situation where partly ideas of communism might even work (Not my personal political opinion). One part that would be crucial due to possibly very spontaneous deaths and low life-span, that the right amount of people are educated in certain fields (e.g. medicine, agriculture, economy, law etc.) so that there will always be a person to take another persons place so that we do not run out of knowledge and skills. If a certain job has a specifically high death rate, more people are needed unless there is a way to avoid this while still being efficient at work. This could mean that each person is assigned to such a field at birth to make sure everything works. As most things in life in that world would still need human interaction another usual problem would be envy. So if somebody would have a better live for some reason, like being rich, that would certainly increase the risk of death. So if everybody would get equal support by the state, taxes, medical support, payment etc. it would probably be better for everybody's health.

Some jobs are especially at risk like judges. This would mean we would also need to change a lot of organizational structure throughout society. For courts that could mean that every decision is made by a jury.

As you see there are plenty areas that would be affected by this. Perhaps humanity would learn with time, that using this ability affects everyone negatively. If people would use their ability to much it could potential threaten the survival of the human race.

I will update this answer if more solutions come to my mind.

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A good example of this type of environment would be from the anime Death Note. There are of course differences but in one of the earlier episodes it displays a level of misdirection that I think might work in this scenario. If they associated the communications of the leader with a different person, possibly a long dead leader. The world wouldn't be able to separate the two so as long as he wasn't publicly linked between the two identities he should be safe from thoughtkill.

On a society level I think that the best 'actors' would be the ones to rise in power. Since, any person who could be linked by public image to personal image would be vulnerable they could try continuing with diplomacy, but society wouldn't be able to know if the person leading them was the person they elected. This would make it impossible to actually follow diplomacy. However, a person who came to power through force would be able to keep it. Because if all that's required is to pick them out of a lineup; then the way to maintain safety is to use tools to mask your identity but use locations to mark your power. For instance, in the U.S. a likely place of power would be the White House. The person in power would have to rule from the white house using tactics so that he wouldn't be uniquely identified.

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