In the movie "Elysium" there is a luxurious micro-nation called 'Elysium' that is based on a large orbiting space platform, that is only obtainable for the super rich elite. Someone hacks the computer so that everyone on earth is recorded as a citizen. To illustrate the significance of this, the Computers AI then immediately dispatches medical drop ships to the outskirts of major cities to start giving needed medical treatment.

I always considered this scene dumbly naive. (Almost like something someone would put in a movie.) For example: Given the original population of Elysium, why were their medical drop ships that large and numerous in the first place? And would curing cancer really improve the quality of life for earthlings in any 'revolutionary' way? In the grand scheme of things, wouldn't this just increase the prevalence of starvation?

What would be the ultimate result for humanity after they are all given citizenship to Elysium?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know enough about the movie to put together an answer $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ Can you include more information about the movie, for those of us (like @bowlturner and I) who have not seen the movie? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ Elysium was an idiotic movie. With the level of robotics and automation, the productivity of the world would be such that everyone would be living at a very high standard of living, and the problems depicted simply would not exist. Even if we take the desolation of the Earth as a given, the space colony could gather resources much more cheaply and efficiently in space and simply ignore the Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides Part of the point of Elysium was that they could be sharing the wealth but weren't. Thus the allegory. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ Their wealth was depicted by the main character working essentially as a slave ion a factory building robots by hand. Evidently the owner/manager never read "The Wealth of Nations". That alone demonstrates that the film makers had 0 grasp of economics. This is even more unfortunate since I generally respect Jodie Foster as an actress. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 1:20

3 Answers 3


Elysium is a fantastic concentration of wealth in the ultimate walled community. I don't recall specific population numbers, but it is clear they represent far less than 1% of the human population. The people of Elysium control the means of production and police forces. Unemployment is rampant and they use Earth as a pool of cheap and very disposable labor.

The ending of the movie, where everyone is made a citizen of Elysium and receives health care, is a stopgap measure to solve the focus of the movie: healthcare. But, as the question correctly surmises, this isn't going to last long. Elysium's health care system designed for the small population of Elysium cannot possibly keep up with the entire population of the Earth.

In the movie's simplistic solution, somewhat realistic given the desperation of the characters who kicked it off, Elysium will likely rapidly exhaust its resources attempting to cure the world's problems alone. This might leave people slightly better as it eliminates Elysium as a brutal, exploitative superpower, but it doesn't do anything to alleviate their basic economic and political problems.

Even if Elysium could sustain this, lowering the global mortality rate and increasing the average human lifespan without other changes would exacerbate the existing population and poverty problems. Our current population explosion is, in part, a result of the death rate dropping faster than the birth rate along with a greatly increased life expectancy.

At minimum, the birth rate would have to be lowered to meet the new lowered death rate and raised life expectancy to avoid a population boom.

Looking a bit further down the road, Elysium's magic cure-all machines are only a band-aid on the much larger health problems of extreme poverty. It would be better in the long run to treat the cause (extreme poverty) then the symptoms.

To truly effect real long term change, the means of production and wealth accumulated in Elysium would have to be distributed differently. The world in Elysium is highly automated with sophisticated robotics and technological advances. This high level of production efficiency means it is possible the entire population of the Earth could be sustained in comfort, but it is unlikely that enough jobs could be available to give all humans meaningful work and distribute the wealth.

Instead, wealth would have to be distributed through some other means. Guaranteed Minimum Income is one such possibility.

Elysium is, of course, an allegory. These are all exaggerated problems we're facing today. Like today, rather than dealing with the big, long term problems, the filmmakers chose a short term fix to wrap everything up for that neat Hollywood happy ending that leaves you wondering.

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    $\begingroup$ It's kind of like increasing the minimum wage to $15 or $20 in the US. Yeah, that'll solve everything! Everyone makes more money with no other consequences! $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel we have a minimum wage closer to $16.88 here in Australia, and faired the GFC better than US did. If the US was to follow I wouldn't assume that it would be a net negative event. Elysium on the other hand failed to address any of the critical issues that lead to a world of billions of people fundamentally failing to organise themselves in any substantial way. $\endgroup$
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 7:54

My theory: as everybody is allowed to enter Elysium, there will be fights. The bad guys and gangs with all the modern weaponry will race up there and start to fight because "This mansion is mine! I saw it first!", followed by the rich dudes saying "Nay, it's mine!", and everybody starts destroying stuff "before that other dude gets it". And the security robots will do nothing as they are all Elysian inhabitants. And, if all the droid workers can go up to Elysium for free, why should they risk their lives if there are babes and booze and weird food up there, only waiting for them? Economy crashes (once more).

So, the greed and envy and violence and distrust and hate that made Earth such a nice spot in the first place sweeps over to Elysium - and within a short amount of time it will be as dirty and rotten as the rest of the planet.

  • The End

I always thought that rather quickly Elysium engineers would re-program the core again to remove the extra citizens, the robots would retreat and the status quo would be maintained. As the credits roll only a couple of people remain on Elysium from the original compliment and it appears they didn't remove the original admin's citizen status so it's a matter of time.

Arguably if Elysium did remain open to everyone the resources would deplete but it seems like the city AI would take over and attempt to solve all the problems. Roll on the rise of the machines :p

  • $\begingroup$ While this may be accurate as to the movie, it doesn't answer the question: which is how could they handle things if they wanted to do so? $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 3:00

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