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In what circumstances would a large group of super power people chose to dedicate themselves to preventing other super power people from breaking the law, instead of getting some job in which their superpower gives them an edge?

In the comics we usually get great answers for why individual heroes became crime fighters, but I'm looking for something more general that would apply to lots of people at once. Preferably your answer should be political, social or environmental, but I will take any answer that I think makes sense.

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closed as too broad by Aify, Hohmannfan, Gianluca, bilbo_pingouin, J_F_B_M Apr 4 '16 at 13:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a fiction web-serial called Worm in which this happens. There, it's basically because they're paid to do it by a government agency, if I recall correctly. $\endgroup$ – Patrick Stevens Apr 4 '16 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ Close-voters: Please don't vote to close without leaving commentary. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 4 '16 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ I vote to close as primarily opinion-based as ... well, it kinda is opinion-based, right? What does people make do good, fight with little personal gain and take blows everywhere? Why not simply rob two or three banks and live a happy live ever after? There are probably as many answers as there are people. $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Apr 4 '16 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Fairly relevant circumstances? How about a culture that encourages that kind of decision... like, yanno, comics? I'm guessing in a world like enough to ours, where there's a nice, long history of these kind of really popular superhero stories, a person who suddenly found themselves with powers might take the superhero route because that's what they think they're supposed to do - like kids who want to be like their storybook heroes, like young adults who want a cause to believe in, like people who think no one else can, or that it's their responsibility. Because superhero comics. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jun 16 '16 at 2:33
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By building of the societal implications and urges present in normal society, and bringing them in-line with the existing structures.

It would simply be approached in a similar manner as recruitment for the armed forces/police etc. The want civil minded/patriotic/reliable people to help defend their nation/way of life/love of pineapples.

Just because the subjects have super-powers, they are still raised as part of normal society. They might have a sense of civic duty, a desire to be a part of something greater than themselves for the greater good. They may even buy into the "with great power comes great responsibility", or they might just do it for the solid pay, accommodation and meals that army life provides.

The presence of their super-powers just means they'll be fast-tracked for a specialist position (in much the same way that defence forces have SSO's for example).

Opinion: I don't see how this would be any different than for 'normal' people. The fact that they have undefined super-powers is largely irrelevant.

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    $\begingroup$ I'll throw a +1 to that. The origin story in comics depicts why a given hero came to think selflessly serve the greater good seems like a good idea. However the reason they are all superhero-ing is simply because on a individual level they believe in it. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 4 '16 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ So, to summarize: they do it for the exact same reasons that we do, except they'll end up being waaaaay better at it. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Apr 4 '16 at 12:42
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In short, the answer would be S.H.I.E.L.D. or any other agency specializing in "super-crime".

Society's sensible answer to the situation, keeping the world safe and at the same time incorporating the good guys where you can keep an eye, or at any case a regular audit on them.

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Culture. People with powers are called to service, especially given that others turn to crime. Society will want to get these people to adopt a strong moral code and feel protective toward society as a whole.

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  • $\begingroup$ this is good start, but how would society do this? $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Apr 4 '16 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Some kind of superhero registration act? The Marvel Civil War series tackles this exact subject. $\endgroup$ – evilscary Apr 4 '16 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ As does Watchmen, powers, and many others. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 4 '16 at 13:37
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For the same reason that regular people set up schools, shelters, community centres or protest-action groups. They see something in the world that is a detriment to (their collective ideal of) society; they recognise that their joint skill and knowledge will do more good and less bad than their individual actions altogether; they develop a system to apply the knowledge and skill, and a structure to support its implementation. Thus, groups like the Justice League or SHIELD, in which focused efforts of many achieve more using less than the individuals could have by working alone on the problem.

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For self-protection

If superpowered humans do not police themselves, then there is a strong likelihood that everyday humans will do so for them. By policing themselves, they make it feel less necessary to restrict superpowers and allow everyday humans to feel more comfortable. It also makes everyday humans empathize with the superheroes and want to be superheroes.

It's natural for everyday humans to be a bit frightened of the superpowered. Absent anything to differentiate superheroes from supervillains, it is likely that everyday humans will try to restrict and disempower the superpowered. The superhero/supervillain conflict puts the superheroes on the same emotional side as everyday humans.

The superpowered self-policing is greatly in their self-interest. And some superheroes go further. For example, Spiderman attempts to help with regular criminals as well. This is because of his belief that if he had been more proactive, his uncle Ben would be alive today. That kind of motivation also works for superheroes restricting supervillains.

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There is a theory that social instincts like altruism have a biological basis. This is founded in part on the "selfish gene" principle. A simplified version of the theory goes: each of my siblings has, on average, half of my genetic material. Therefore, if I can save three of my siblings by sacrificing myself it is genetically in my interest to do so because more of my genetic material is preserved to reproduce. What if superpowers were caused by a mutation that also rendered the superhero/ine sterile? If you buy into the selfish gene theory, these people might be born with a highly-developed sense of community and altruism since this is the only way they can preserve their genetic material somewhat akin to the behavior of sterile worker ants and bees in service of the hive.

If you want a genuinely scientifically-based explanation you would have to do some more work. Ants and bees have haplo-diploid genetics which presumably would not be the case with superheroes but some plausible alternative could surely be worked out if this is the direction you choose to go.

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You're assuming those jobs exist. It's not whether they could do something better than a "normal" human, but also that they'd be welcome as an employee.

If you've got lots of superheroes, there's a much bigger question of how the society as a whole handles a large, powerful minority. (Which is precisely why superhero comics have been such a neat analogy for colour, gender and sexuality over the years.) In the comics they're a very small minority. When you get enough of them to be a game-changer, the government are going to be thinking very seriously about it.

Charles Stross's The Annihilation Score has this scenario, where a significant number of ordinary people spontaneously develop superpowers. He has a two-pronged approach to this. The first is that when people realise they have superpowers, some of them do go out and try to emulate Batman, so there's a conscious effort to form a police-led superhero squad which can go out and arrest criminals with superpowers, following the normal rule of law. The basic concept is that superpowered people must not be above the law. This is good enough for a lot of people - it's why people do become police officers, after all.

The second prong though is a nastier feature of Stross's Lovecraftian plot arc - the reason people are getting superpowers is that the barriers between universes are becoming weaker, and people using superpowers are a big flashing "feed here" sign for various entities. Its's not (yet) a case of the Elder Gods coming to visit, but microscopically small nasties pop up inside the superhero's head and eat small chunks of their brain. Without protection (provided by the government agency who knows about this stuff), your average superhero has a few months before CJD-ish symptoms set in, leading to a fatal stroke not long after that, with a brain that looks like 3D lacework at autopsy. Stross has basically set up a scenario where only government-sponsored superheroes are going to live long enough to prosper.

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