The universe in question is one in which the Solar System has been colonized thanks to the perfection of a nuclear fusion reactor that doubles as a high-thrust and high-efficiency hydrogen engine. Mars as well as all of the Jovian, Saturnian, Uranian, and Neptunian moons have been colonized either on the surface or in orbit, and a station exists below Mercury's orbit that has a solar-powered superlaser that it uses to perform long-range spectroscopy on the asteroid belt to search for resource-rich asteroids. Also, cybernetics and functional mind uploading using nanotechnological replacement of brain tissue have been perfected, and low-g or quality-of-life enhancements are common, plus completely cybernetic bodies that you can have your mind uploaded into or that you can remotely control using a VR-like interface.

Naturally, someone had the bright idea to set up a bunch of space sports, namely shipracing, involving using as little fuel as possible flying past all of Jupiter's moons without refueling; they can use gravity assists and orbit around a moon for a bit if they need to, and it's likely that a single race would take several days, but the prize money is very good for just intermittently burning to accelerate towards a different moon and then just playing board games and watching the leaderboards in the time between moons. Then, much later once the respective space agencies let the outer colonies have greater self-control, the slightly-less-sane among the mining colonies on the outer planets' moons decided "hey, what if we set up fight-to-the-death sports in zero-g with cybernetic bodies so nobody dies?" So the participants in these "death" games load their minds into cybernetic bodies equipped with high-power RCS thrusters and given weapons and simply instructed to destroy as many other cyborgs as possible until they get destroyed themselves, getting more and more prize money for each "kill".

Here's my issue: what kind of regulation applies to these sports? More specifically, since the colonists want to keep these sports as legal and as unobstructed by bureaucracy as possible, what do they have to do to ensure that these sports are legal in major world powers like the USA, the EU countries, China, etc. and don't get shut down over safety issues or doing stuff that's straight-up illegal?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why would the sport being illegal in country A shut it down in a region where A has no jurisdiction per your own condition? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 18 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ I dunno maybe the winners must cleanup all the space debris in a given time frame or pay a hefty fine plus disqualified from future races😱 $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 18 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ Jupiter already has nearly 100 known moons, and Humanity doesn't have any permanent observing outposts in the Jovian system to find more. you're probably looking at a couple decades or more for a successful minimal fuel run that's relying on gravity assists, without a tightening of what constitutes a moon. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Jan 18 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Ender's Game minus the plot twist? - The rule for orbiting Jupiter is you need twelve feet of lead surrounding you. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Jan 18 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ Can you let go of '… nuclear fusion reactor that doubles as a high-thrust and high-efficiency hydrogen engine…' and look solely at the kind of regulation dangerous space sports get? $\endgroup$ Jan 20 at 20:44

4 Answers 4


If nothing outside such competition can be destroyed or damaged, neither directly nor indirectly, then it's possible that practically anything can be allowed. The more there can be collateral damage the stricter the regulations will be. So, regulations should make sure that whatever happens in the competition stays in the competition. If something happens, damage has to reimbursed and regulations will tighten.

Of course, it should be possible to opt out: a colony or a ship can proclaim that they can take care of themselves, and thus attract spectators who want to be in the middle of the action.

  • $\begingroup$ At least in most modern countries today it is not possible to "opt out" on your saftey in all cases. Allowing someone to go to the middle of the combat zone of active spacewargames would be essentialy assisted suicide. Completly forbidden in most developed countries and heavily regulated in the vast majority of the remaining $\endgroup$
    – datacube
    Jan 18 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ @datacube True to some extent, but not entirely. For example, in martial arts, the participants do opt out. They can be kicked and punched violently, their bones can be even be broken, and it's not illegal as long as they take part voluntarily and certain rules are adhered to. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ good argument, I didn't consider that. However that applies to participants that are trained and well aware. Also one could argue that the participation is only possible with those risks, while spectation does not need to have the risks. I think a better comparsion would be the "edge of the street" high adrenaline spectators on the side of offroad races. Sometimes the smallest error on the side of the driver would cause a dozen deaths because they come to near to the course (in most cases illegal but tolerated behaviour) $\endgroup$
    – datacube
    Jan 18 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ @datacube Yes, I definitely agree, and that is an aspect that must be taken care of, very carefully, if such an event is to take place. Maybe it could be handled by sponsors whose guns and other methods protect against or annihilate everything that approaches something worth protecting (because everyone out there needs it anyway: eg. asteroids are a danger all the time even without the race). "Trackside protection by YTHER FIGT Corporation". $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 8:51

That depends on the legal status of those uploaded minds, and it opens a figurative can of worms which goes well beyond death sports.

So you have a digital mind which can be uploaded to different bodies. That implies it can be copied. What is the legal status of each instance of this mind? Does the law recognize an original with special rights, and the others are different? Or does each running instance become an individual, legally speaking? What happens if such a mind is run on cloud infrastructure?

This would affect if the AI could rent out copies of itself to work, and collect the salary? Or would the act of creating the copy turn the "newly cloned" AI into someone who is entitled to collect the salary for the work? Or imaginge an AI has an account on Earth. It uploads one copy of itself to Saturn, the other to Mars, and then a technical accident destroys the computing center where it did run. Does one of the "cloned" AIs inherit that account, or are they legally one and there is no death at all? Could the lawyer for the non-running backup copy made last year on Luna sue?

If that is resolved to either restrict the right of AIs to software-clone themselves indefinitely, or forces them to care for the clones, or emancipates the clones, then most Western-style jurisdictions would ban sending them on death sports.

And on a completely different angle, there is the orbital debris problem. Earth scientists worry about the Kessler syndrome, a chain reaction of orbital debris hitting orbital infrastructure and creating more debris.

It would be entirely reasonable to have pollution reduction laws for all space activity, with debris creation defined as pollution. It would be legal to create debris unintentionally ("Oops, lost that screwdriver. Well, it will come back in a thousand years.") as long as reasonable reduction attempts are made, but it would be illegal to create debris for no good reason.


Storybuilding vs. worldbuilding

As you read my answer you'll see me point out issues that are "storybuilding." Questions about storybuilding are off-topic. We'll help you build your world, but we won't help you write your story. Questions about law and other civilization-building questions are sometimes tricky because civilization worldbuilding is about structure and the moment the question isn't about structure it's storybuilding.

Thus, I hope not only to point out where you will have creative choices to make, but also the difference between structure questions and story questions.

It's important to know that I'm not going to tell you what specific regulations will exist. That's storybuilding and a violation of the Help Center's admonition against brainstorming. I'm going to identify worldbuilding issues that will guide you with your story and help you decide what regulations you want.

Let's begin.

The World's Most Concise Overview of Regulation

  1. You have the right to do anything you want until that action interferes with someone else's rights.
  • Storybuilding: the author must establish what "rights" people have because there's no objective "correct" answer.
  1. You have the right to do anything you want unless you're consuming a resource the government (or a corporation/individual with enough influence to change laws) deems critical.
  • Storybuilding: the author must choose what resources are "critical" because there's no objective "correct" answer.
  1. You have the right to do anything you want unless enough people complain about it.
  • Storybuilding: the author must determine whether such people even exist and if they do, what they're complaining about because there's no objective "correct" answer.
  1. You have the right to do anything you want unless cultural morality has established social mores and/or taboos.
  • Storybuilding: the author must identify cultural morality and how society reacts to violations of said morality because there's no objective "correct" answer.

The numbered items are worldbuilding, the establishment of structure. The bulleted items are (obviously) storybuilding because they represent an arbitrary choice made by the author, usually to address matters of narrative necessity.

Issues involving regulation

Jurisdiction: I wonder if it can be possible to colonize the solar system to the extent you describe and still have regional, nationalistic jurisdictions. But let's roll with it. The U.S. would have no jurisdiction concerning the space controlled by a (e.g.) Chinese colony and no nation would have arbitrary jurisdiction in any area of space deemed "international waters," which means you're dealing with international treaties. Oversimplifying something awful, activities in international waters are a free-for-all other than the basics: no stealing, first-come-first-served salvage, don't mess with somebody else's stuff, save the whales, etc. In a nutshell, what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours if there are arguments we'll make a treaty and so long as we all respect that you can do anything you want. But does that mean there's no regulation?

Heck no.

Maritime law is messy and complex. It's a LOT of regulation — and you're subject to your universe's intrastellar space version of it. Can I explain what aspects of maritime law might be involved with your universe? Nope — not only is that storytelling, but it's a violation of the Help Center's book rule. But it would be a good idea to do a little study about maritime law and what it means to, e.g., own or live on an island that isn't claimed by any nation... if there is such a thing anymore (and that's important to you, too...).

Activists: On the other hand, if there's a single person in the universe who can be offended by your gladiatorial fights, no matter how safe for the participants it may be, there will be someone with a sign protesting the violence. Laws and treaties change and they often change because someone's complaining about something. Activists are a convenient way to invoke change in a story. Wouldbuilding describes the rules of activism. Storybuilding is identifying an activist and how he/she acts. In other words, if you want regulation under the circumstances you've described, then you can use your universe's version of Greta Thunberg to rationalize those regulations.

Science Isn't Perfect: You're trading on the belief that a consciousness can be uploaded and/or moved around pretty much indefinitely without consequence. Science doesn't actually work that way. Nothing's perfect — especially when it comes to safety. In a world where moving consciousness around is a common-place thing there will already be regulations in place governing safe transfer, registered technicians (think "licensed contractor"), educational qualifications, certified equipment, and (worse) an entire body of law concerning the issue of duplicates (if you can move it, you can copy it) including legal rights of doppelgangers, legal disposal/control of doppelgangers, etc. All of this exists outside your sport, but acts to regulate your sport — and it will be can be voluminous and messy. If you want a real life example, look up the laws governing self-termination (Voluntary euthanasia) in U.S. states or countries that allow it.

From a story-based perspective, you can add flavor to your story with psychological studies into the effects of transferring consciousness too many times or the effects of copying said consciousness. This invites regulation in the same way that video games are labeled "mature audiences only." The greater the risk, the greater the regulation, which brings me to...

If it ain't real, it's not a sport: Unless your story wants this all to be dark-web, black-market, back-room cock fighting kind of stuff, then you'd have minimum-age-adult-consent and being-of-sound-mind regulations for two reasons:

  1. While our world today is filled with people who have enormous fun playing video games wherein "people" die and plenty of red pixels are generated, half of the reason such games exist is that they're inexpensive. You'd find, I believe, far fewer participants in something as expensive as actual robot-on-robot action when there's no more emotional investment than what's found in a video game. Nobody actually dies in video games... but nobody feels actual pain, either. Add the pain and, worse, the agony of death and suddenly you have a massive psychological impact to the players. Consider the regulations surrounding boxing, ultimate fighting, or any other form of "blood sport." If you want a taste of this, consider watching Will Smith's movie Concussion, and pay attention to both the efforts to protect the players and the efforts of the U.S. football industry to avoid the regulation.

  2. And if you had the "whole experience," (pain... death...) then what's the point of playing with a copied consciousness? Oh, you could "save yourself" by having a backup copy somewhere... but that copy never had the experience. Where's the fun in that? Where's the adrenaline rush (if you have a digital version of that)? Where's the risk? Where's the educational experience that makes one a better athlete? We're back to boring! I'm not saying NASCAR people are only in it for the risk and chance to see a magnificent crash... but I need only look at the number of spectators along U.S. highways to know that without all that risk of real pain and real death, you wouldn't have a profitable sport. And that means no consciousness backups — and that invites regulation to ensure the idiots contenders really are bored stiff prepared for the consequences. Thus, it would be helpful to review the safety regulations involving auto racing.

Money: Finally, where there's money, there's regulation. That's just a fact of life. If there are rules above worldbuilding that are immutable, one of them might be, "money changes everything."

  • Who cares if two rednecks head off to the middle of nowhere and beat the crap out of each other? With the possible exception of spouses and close friends, nobody.

  • Who cares if two rednecks regularly head off to the middle of nowhere to beat the crap out of each other? If it's a good fight: bookies, food sellers, T-shirt hawkers, spectators...

  • Who cares if two rednecks advertise that they'll be in the middle of nowhere beating the crap out of each other? All of the above plus the land owners, marketers, citizens-concerned-about-juvenile-diliquency...

  • Who cares if two rednecks hire managers to help them monetize the fact that people are interested in watching them beat the crap out of each other?


And governments get involved notably when the industry is bad at self-regulation, such as not having consistent and well-enforced rules (aka "regulation," it just lacks governing sanction). If you want a humorous look at the development of government regulation in U.S. sports, watch the movie Leatherheads.


Potentially.... Very little or none at all.

The Isle of Man TT

This is a Motorcycle race, that is run once a year, through tight, twisting English Country Roads, with stone walls on one side, houses on the other and in some cases sheer cliff drops as well - with competitors on 1,000 CC Superbikes going at some cases over 200 MPH, with an average speed around the course of just over 130 MPH.

On average every year that it is run, someone dies.

Here is an Onboard view of the Lap - which really gives an idea of the Speed and Lunacy of the TT

And yet, it still runs. Not only that - every time someone says 'Should we do something to make the TT safer' - there is spirited and passionate debate about why it shouldn't be.

I happen to be in the latter camp - I see the TT as akin to climbing Mount Everest - No one is forcing the riders to ride - the type of person that wants to ride the TT would do so without any prize money or fame or recognition solely for the thrill of challenging oneself against a potentially deadly event and seeing if you are skilled enough to come out the other side alive

So long as the Colonists maintain jurisdictional independence (Isle of Man has such independence) then, even in the modern bubble-wrapped age, there are still deadly sporting events happening today - and therefore there is no reason why it would require Regulation - it only requires the group of people running it to have a backbone and say 'Piss off, we aren't changing shit'


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