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In the movie "In Time," they live in a universe where Time is money and life. You age normally until a specific age, where your 'timer' starts and you have 1 year to live. But you can work and get more time, or spend it and die. You can steal it from others, etc. Naturally, this leads to the rich living forever since they never run out of time. The poor are forced to produce more and more for less and less so that the rich can live in comfort in their fancy blocked off cities.

I have a similar universe where your life-force is bought using a currency (essence). But to prevent a similar scenario to the movie, there are a few limitations.

How essence works:

  • It is stored inside of you and only you can remove it from yourself.
  • It takes no space and has no weight.
  • There is a limited amount of essence in the world. Any essence not in a person is in the atmosphere.
  • As long as you are alive, you are consuming essence and returning it to the atmosphere.

The essence cycle

  • When a person runs out of essence, they die.
  • If a person dies prematurely, all their remaining essence is released. It decays quickly and returns to the atmosphere. If you're in the immediate vicinity and you're fast, you can probably collect about 1/4 of what they had before it vanishes
  • When a child is born, they take a small amount of their mother's essence and begin consuming their own once the cord is cut.
  • You naturally absorb a little atmosphere essence naturally, but the rate decays with age. All other things irrelevant, you can live to about 30 years old before your expenditures overtake your absorption.
  • Essence in the atmosphere is difficult to harvest. Each major country has a technique to harvest it, and the central government of each country controls that harvest and disperses it. They have various efficiency levels, but globally they harvest about 50% of the atmosphere essence a day. How rich your country is depends on how efficient you harvest.

Some limitations to living forever.

  • As you age, the amount of essence you absorb naturally decreases exponentially.
  • As you age, the amount of essence you need to stay alive increases at a small exponential.

The only way to increase your life expectancy more is with technology. If a person wants to live longer, they need to live long enough to see medical tech improve. As technology progresses, they develop better harvesting techniques, better use of essence (so instead of 1 year for 1 globe, maybe 1 year for 0.99 globes) or better diminishing returns (0.91 instead of 0.9).

So you have the following:

  • you need to hold onto money to live, so I doubt banks will be as popular
  • holding too much essence becomes a detriment to your country as you age because you'll consume it too fast
  • hoarding it can literally cost other people their lives

I can imagine a more communist-like government running these countries since it becomes everyone's best interest to share and stay alive.

What kind of laws would develop to ensure maximum efficiency of a country? I'm looking specifically towards criminals, immigrants, warring, and any general loopholes people may try and exploit.

You wouldn't want to waste a criminals essence. You'd either reform them or get rid of them.

Would you want more people to immigrate? They have essence, but it's only yours for so long, and your country only has so much.

Do you want to war continually to push more and more essence into the atmosphere? Wars can be an easy way for strong countries to gather more resources.

Extra Notes:

All lifeforms have their own different types of essence, so you can't go around killing all the animals and trying to take it. If they're similar enough, it is possible to use it, but not as effectively. (We can probably use monkey essence but it would have something like 10% the efficiency.)

If you want some math, your absorption/expending ratio drops below 1 at age 24, so you can't die from being broke before 24. You're overall net hits 0 (with their modern technology) at age 79. So if everyone shared perfectly and everyone would live to just about 80. I had specific numbers if it becomes relevant.

You still have to eat and sleep and such. Essence is just an additional requirement to staying alive. You can starve to death and have your essence released to the atmosphere.

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    $\begingroup$ I was about to comment that I thought there was a movie about this. I feel like if you can grab essence when someone dies, murder might be rampant. Why work a hard day's work when I can murder a high life-essence target and grab a fourth of that every so often? You might have outlined a way around this, but I'm a bit tired. That's off the top of my head. I'll give this another look in the morning, but murder as business would be something to watch for. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 24 '16 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, do people still have to eat to stay alive? If not, cool! If so, :( $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 24 '16 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ Everything else is normal. You'd need food and nutrients and water and sleep and yada yada. I'll edit it. $\endgroup$ – ChronoD Mar 24 '16 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ Communist governments are horribly inefficient at "everyone's best interest". $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Mar 24 '16 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ The Craft Sequence books by Max Gladstone uses something like life force as currency. I cannot remember all the details, but I'm pretty sure it was bankable and transferable by coin, and as such could be taxed in the way that gold backed currency (or nothing backed currency such as most countries have today). $\endgroup$ – Sailing Judo Aug 24 '18 at 19:36
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"If a person dies prematurely, all their remaining essence is released. It decays quickly and returns to the atmosphere. If you're in the immediate vicinity and you're fast, you can probably collect about 1/4 of what they had before it vanishes..."

"Essence in the atmosphere is difficult to harvest. Each major country has a technique to harvest it, and the central government of each country controls that harvest and disperses it."

This seems to be a recipe to encourage Nazi-like death camps. General warfare doesn't do much good, because you can't efficiently harvest the essence of an enemy killed on the battlefield.

But put someone in a death camp, and hold him/her until you can put him into a special chamber designed to harvest as much essence as possible, then kill him under controlled conditions. That way you get a lot of essence. Unpopular groups... would simply disappear, captured in government pogroms and sent to the death camps.

And all nations of the world would find a reason to justify this. The cultures which would not, would fail to compete with those which would, and would themselves be wiped out.

Furthermore, people in general would be far more likely to agitate for the death penalty for even minor infractions of the law. Possibly even for merely eccentric behavior... or a strange appearance. Phrenology, anyone? This would be a world in which "witch hunts" and the like would be commonplace, because there would be a real benefit to communities to single out unpopular individuals and sentence them to death... so their essence could be harvested.

I don't think this would be a pleasant world in which to live.

"you need to hold onto money to live, so I doubt banks will be as popular"

Not seeing that, at all. Having a large retirement account becomes much, much more important! People would have a strong motive to start saving for it as soon as possible, and scrimp and save whenever they could, to extend their lifespan.

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    $\begingroup$ This gives me enough of a direction to go off of for reworking my premise a bit. I'm trying to set it up so that it doesn't degrade into murder cults. Thank you! $\endgroup$ – ChronoD Mar 25 '16 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ And all nations of the world would find a reason to justify this. The cultures which would not, would fail to compete with those which would, and would themselves be wiped out. --- Why is this the case? It isn't that uncommon to see societies get negative traits for the individual if those traits help the society on the large scale. But this seems like it would just raise the average age. A country made of people in their 20's and 30's should out-compete a country with a smaller population in their 50's. I imagine we'd see some murder to keep luminaries alive but why widespread? $\endgroup$ – Zwuwdz Oct 7 '19 at 21:21
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They would probably be a law forbidding you from selling or buying life essence without some kind of license.

Those on death row forfeit the right to their life essence, and it goes to the government when they are executed.

The government might also allow those who commit minor offenses to trade life essence in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The government would take the life essence they had collected from prisoners and from the atmosphere and sell it back to the people.

There would probably also be animal life essence that you can buy at your local pharmacist. It would be very expensive still, though.

No private citizen would be able to sell or buy life essence without a less special license. But there would probably be a large black market for life essence.

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