If there would be a civilisation similar to humans that would conquer space travel and successfully colonised a few to a dozen planets but would be mostly non-violent people.
Still, the government has decided that to mine a rare mineral from one of the planet they would need people to work there non-stop to constantly produce the highest possible quantities of the material.
A drug would be invented that would in one use turn a person into a mindless zombie that would have: no need for sleep or rest, no sense of self, could be fed through a tube by automised system and go back to work instantly. The zombies would, however, keep their creativity to an extent that they could take administrative roles and creative positions that computers could not do.
NOTE: it is important that the drug is taken only once and cannot be stretched out to be a part of an addictive drug to make people use them.
Also, the government cannot use force, it cannot be applied to criminals (unless desired by the individual), it cannot be a part of blackmail or intimidation tactics, the user must completely agree on this fully knowing the consequences.
The motivation of government in not that of greed, but the information value that the mineral provides, allowing space-travel, teleportation and space-time manipulation on a grand scale comparing to that what the aliens currently have.
Finally, the drug is a one-way gate - the effects cannot be retracted, the state they would be in is permanent.
So far I have thought of following conditions where people could agree to take the drug:
- A form of suicide the would help others.
- To pay off the dept and elevate ones family out of poverty.
- As a price for being a celebrity with vast fortune for X years.
However, that would make a few hundred thousand people, the planet's population should be around 10 billion. How to make people accept that on such a large scale?
EDIT: the whole population must be zombies, it cannot have human overseers or staff.
After considering many great ideas I have chosen the best solution in my opinion:
The aliens who need a whole planet population to be zombies would have painted the role of being a hero, similar to the military service. The people would receive high praise for their decision and their families would have a honourable status in the society. I would like to note again - it's only one of 10-12 planets currently colonised by the alien species.
While some corruption and violence could take place, in my design the aliens would come to a society beyond crime ( punishable crime rate is at less than 0.0001% and serious crime is hundred times smaller ).
At the same time the government would not address the details of the horrors on the planet: people often working themselves into the grave within 10-15 years with working conditions suitable only for zombies - only work 24/7.
Thus with proper social engineering it wouldn't be impossibly hard to get 10 billion zombies with the total population over ~500 billion.
(For all those who likes math, I'd like to note that it's not 1/50 of the population every year, the zombies can exist anywhere between 10 to 50 years).
As for the zombies themselves, the drug would have following effects:
- Almost complete lack of notion of self - somewhat similar to lobotomy, but with more work capability.
- Rapid cell degradation with rapid regeneration. Thus the effect of rotting as the zombie works too hard and capacity for prolonged work as most stressed parts of the body is regenerated.
- From the previous rule the zombies brains would also lose brain cells and thus complete wipe of memory ( even long-term memory ); the new cells would not have the connections to maintain the old memories. As the zombie "exercises" a part of the brain constantly ( motor skills, language, administrative duties that require loner-term memory ) that part would remain intact. So they would be fully capable of work but family/friends and personal ambitions would simply degrade with the brain not "refreshing" the memories.
And some notes for to answer as to why zombies and not robots:
- Lack of AI to take complex decisions that only a person could do. The zombies would lack the notion of self, but not brainless.
- Zombies would operate heavy machinery, and there would be partial automatisation, but someone has to operate the machines, repair, fix and take decision.
- The story has an idea of government being able to produce selfless workers that would give their all. Albeit at a horrible cost. And the realisation of "what have we done?" later by the people as an individual and as a collective.
I hope my world is "watertight" in sense of the events are plausible and could somehow draw parallels to our society by the reader himself.
Thanks to all for their answers and comments, it's truly amazing of how many great ideas and criticism I received.