In my story I want to have a sub-class of humans who are very domineering and greedy. They are obviously pro-slavery, and believe in survival of the strongest.

I'm wondering how this mindset would conflict with intelligence. I can't see these kind of humans sitting down and reading, nor engaging in activities that are intellectually stimulating. I think friendships would be sparse and not very strong bonds due to lack of trust and lack of desire to share anything. I also feel intelligent people tend to be more empathetic and less likely to be domineering.

So my question is, how do these serious, angry, domineering humans have fun? Would they instead be more animalistic and actually lack intelligence? If they don't have fun but are also intellgent what is their motivation to be greedy and gain more? Basically how do you reconcile brutal greed with high intelligence?

  • $\begingroup$ When I read your first paragraph, my first impression was that they'd be a group of Ayn Rand fans. Then again, I've never actually read any Ayn Rand, so my impression might be inaccurate. $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Sep 8, 2015 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Then you should read something by her. The fountainhead for example. It's not that plainly "all mine, can't be bothered to care for anybody" as it is often described. Plus, her english is truly beautiful. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:57

3 Answers 3


In fact that does not cause any problems, absence of empathy is not contradictory with intelligence. Unless, of course, if you define empathy to be part of intelligence, which is arguable, but, here, let assume we consider intelligence as capacity to produce logical reasoning (which is more or less a very common way to define it).

The class of humans you describe is very similar, in its ideology, to nazis. Yet it never prevent them to enjoy (German) culture, (German) music, (German) painters or chess games. Did they lack intelligence ? According to our definition, no, they did not. However, the belief they were intrinsically superior did lead them to irrational behaviour. But since, according to their belief, their conclusions were logical, we can not label them as stupid.

Moreover since they believe in "survival of the strongest", this notion can include "the most intelligent", leading these guys to strongly train their intelligence.

But by becoming more intelligent may they start to question the system, and become less domineering and greedy ? Well, if you study Greek philosophers, you will notice that very few of them actually criticised slavery (Aristotle and Plato did support it for example). Here is a bit of a wikipedia article about this particular question. In other words, if your society is based on slavery and domination, criticism against them can likely never emerge, even if everybody cultivate their intelligence.

To conclude : how would this human have fun ? Exactly the way you do, probably simply refusing to have fun with "inferior beings" and possibly having a preference for competitive game over collaborative one.

  • $\begingroup$ I found your answer very useful and insightful. However I kind of want my society to be one where there is one ruling class and one slave class. Nazi Germany still had a vast amount of (Aryan) middle class people who functioned quite happily. I'm thinking more like Egyptian-era slavery. Interestingly the Egyptians were very intelligent if I remember correctly, so maybe that answers my question. $\endgroup$
    – Varrick
    Sep 7, 2015 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Varrick Egyptian slaves were mostly prisoners of war at the time of Roman rule - at which point the Egyptians considered the Roman practice of enslaving people for debt barbarous, and the Greek institution of slaves as part of the caste system even worse. There are many interesting flavours of slavery to choose from! $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Sep 8, 2015 at 6:52

Intelligence is the ability to solve problems in a quick and efficient manner (there is obviously much more than that, but most IQ tests, SATS and similar tests used to assess intelligence are preferentially designed around those parameters).

So using intelligence to dominate others isn't a particularly unusual use of the faculty, in fact if you look at schools and work places, there is usually a rather subtle use of intelligence to gain allies, manipulate social networks and otherwise gain power and access to resources. Using intelligence coupled to force or coercion is perhaps an extreme response, but it could also reflect the social and cultural environment you are in.

If you think back on historical societies, the Feudal period in Europe was dominated by armed men who were quite willing to use force of arms to settle disputes and gain access to power and resources. They also needed to have a certain degree of intelligence, otherwise someone who was more effective would displace them. Knights, men at arms and the nobility in Europe revealed in outdoor sports, hunting and competitive games. Nobles eventually became patrons of arts and science as well, and certainly someone like Ludovico Sforza would not have spent time and money being Leonardo da Vinci's patron if he didn't find Leonardo interesting. In Japanese history the Samurai class eventually developed very refined tastes in poetry, visual arts and ceremony, as well as coupling meditation with physical activities (many Japanese martial arts emphasize the spiritual over the actual physical use of weaponry), and Kolaru points out that the National Socialists were big fans of German art and culture.

Perhaps the key here isn't so much that intelligence separates the tastes and enjoyments of people, but also the opportunities. A European peasant, a Japanese rice farmer or a person enslaved by the National Socialists would not have very much opportunity to partake in these sorts of recreations, regardless of how natively intelligent they are (and the really smart ones would be using their intelligence mostly to escape from their low station in society).


The setup you describe could either be something very open and clearly visible, but assuming your greedy domineering people were also fairly intelligent, they might as well follow a somewhat more covert approach.

It is not necessary for the slave to know he is a slave. In fact, he might be a lot easier to handle (and to be made do the things your ruling class wants him to) when he thinks he is in fact a free man, and maybe even had a chance to become a member of this fabled and famous rich ruling class.

To make sure he stays where he is, though, he heends to be led in many small ways.
First, make sure his struggle is just hard enough for a big majority never to actually improve their situation. Make sure housing is expensive, so are schools.
Also, make sure that your common slave is constantly told that he needs to buy all the nice stuff your companies are making, in order to be recognized as one who might actually climb the social ladder.
Most of them will fall for that, and of course they cannot really afford all those thinigs. But since they see them as an investment into a brighter future higher up in the social ranks, it is perfectly acceptable to just borrow the money. (From your banks. Or those of your fellow ruling class members).

Of course this lifestyle is exhausting. But hey, the slave knows that it is only until he becomes a member of the top tier, so that is okay, also, holidays in just the right places (so his fellows know that he is on the way up the ladder) are almost entirely inside his budget, and the commercials keep telling him how perfectly relaxing they are!

The right gadgets for the children, of course, are absolutely necessary. First, to compensate for the time your slave spent trying to climb ladders instead of playing with the kids, and also, of course, to signal to his fellows how close one already is.

Noo, no worries. Those mortgages are no problem, and the credit card balance is perfectly under control! As soon as the next rung of the ladder is climbed, all this will be paid for in no time!

In the meantime, the ruling class can play golf, take their yachts for a cruise, and laugh their backs off watching the futile struggles of the slave race.

Of course, this is entirely fictional. Such a setup could never be established among modern, civilized humanity.

  • $\begingroup$ A nice satirical piece on humanity, but my humans are more greedy and more domineering than normal. Maybe it's the case where if I want them to be intelligent they will use sly methods of control, where as if I want them to be less intelligent they will work in a direct master-slave relationship. $\endgroup$
    – Varrick
    Sep 8, 2015 at 13:56

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