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My civillization without the concept of "holidays" and "weekends" - everybody works 7 days a week and 365 days a year, also lacks the following things:

  • Entertainment (unproductive activities with the sole purpose of being pleasant or bringing relief to stress)
  • Any media (movies, books, TV shows, etc...) which is made with the intent of entertainment. There are of course books and movies, but they are all documentary or educational mediums (e.g. instructions on operating a certain machine or a video tutorial on first aid).
  • Humor and jokes
  • "Tasty" food (the civilization sees eating as a biological necessity just like visiting the toilet)
  • The concept of "fun" and "happiness" generally

My questions are:

  • What development could lead to this situation?
  • What would be the effects on culture (if there will be anything you can consider "culture") and society?

Note: this does not pertain to the fact that people work 24/7 but to the fact that they don't enjoy "entertainment" or "free time activities" during their free time but either learn/study, do individual sports (not for fun but because it is healthy) or sleep.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the second question of the same sort. The mistake you seem to be making is that you use present human culture as a template, and then try to change it and ask for motivations to change it. But you do not need to do that! You only need to have that culture not develop fun or holidays or anything like that in the first place. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 5 '16 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Civilization without the concept of holidays and weekends $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 5 '16 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz: Given that at least one answer there suggests passive forms of entertainment (consumed during the non-working hours) as one of the focal points in such a society, I am not convinced this question is actually a duplicate. $\endgroup$ – O. R. Mapper Jun 5 '16 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ At this point, what's the difference between your species and a machine? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 5 '16 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ To give you the quick and short answer: The Borg. There you have a hive-mind society where individuality does not exist. With that you can eliminate all urges for individual fulfillment, entertainment and similar distractions from your work. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 6 '16 at 10:18
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In agreement with Michael Karnefors' comment, this question is best approached first by ignoring human civilization in its entirety, from the bottom up. Rest and relaxation are fundamentally woven into our cultures, and culture is not something that presents a set of switches you can turn on and off. Everything is interconnected, especially fundamentals like relaxation. Did you know that primitive people spend almost 50% of their day relaxing? I think that goes to show just how hard their life is in the other 50%!

Trying to remove relaxation from human society will just lead to unrealistic environments that don't capture a reader's attention. The society will feel weak and lifeless and stilted. So much of our culture is built on relaxation in ways we don't see, so those parts of culture would be unsupported without it. For example, you couldn't have people working in assembly lines like they did in the mid 1900s. That sort of expenditure of energy could only be supported because, when they went home, they got to relax (and sleep... never forget sleep).

So what would a society look without this? Your first bullet gives hints:

Entertainment (unproductive activities with the sole purpose of being pleasant or bringing relief to stress)

"Purpose" is an interesting keyword here. Purpose is not a simple concept. In philosophy, it is a word that is picked at and refined for hundreds of years, based on refinements of other word that were refined for thousands of years. It's actually a lot of fun to look at, but certainly not simple.

Such a society would need to have a driving purpose, or it would find itself faltering. Entertainment and relaxation permits us to explore purpose. Without it, it becomes hard to find new purposes. They must be given to you by the environment (i.e. the rest of the society). A society which has been at war for a few dozen generations, living in WWII style trenches, where children are born simply because they need more people to man the guns, that might suffice.

The key would be that that purpose would have to be so ironclad that it doesn't need any exploration after it has been given to you. If you are permitted to explore the purpose in your life, it trivially opens the door for entertainment and relaxation at a cellular level. After all, we do have entire feedback loops designed to manage stress at a chemical level, and relaxation is a major part of them.

Another interesting option might be that some of the society has more openness to exploration of purpose than others. The Consensus of Parts from Andromeda may be a good example. It does appear the consensus itself is permitted to explore concepts that could lead to relaxation or entertainment, but the individual elements of the consensus are not.

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  • $\begingroup$ Consider the greek state of Sparta. Other greek cities make frequent mention of how dour and humorless Spartans are compared to other greeks because of their single minded martial culture. While a Spartan might think they live a life of fun and amusement, other cultures would consider them repressed, it is all about perspective. $\endgroup$ – Jason K Jun 7 '16 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ @JasonK Very true. The original post is not clear whether the definition of "entertainment" should match our concept or not. However, the OP suggests that such a culture literally has no concept of "fun" or "happiness," which would draw a distinction between them and the Spartans. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Jun 7 '16 at 17:31
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The tasty food one can be answered - get rid of most of the taste buds. Humans have IIRC, about 10,000 taste buds while hens only have about 25. If you eliminated all the taste buds apart from the ones that warn you of food that is bad to eat (tastes mouldy, for instance) then most foods will taste the same.

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Contrary to other suggestions I do look back at other civilizations: civilizations of old have:

  1. Developed the idea of a difference in time units due to seasonal and astronomical observations. So you need to take that away, e.g. a civilization that has developed in an isolated valley with perpetual cloud overcast - in the tropics so no noticeable seasons or day length differences. Or maybe developed in a grotto system / abandoned mine. Or even in polar regions, staying indoors 24/7. (Perhaps it needs adding that an agricultural society is very much dependent on observations of the seasons so as to plant and reap at the right time. Agriculture and animal husbandry has been the first step away from hunter-gatherers, and archeology has shown that this led to a rapid development towards cities, specialized occupations, laws and writing - planning, wars, .... - in other words all things "civilization").
  2. Developed special connotations for some time periods (rest day or day for festivities) due to religion. So you would have to prevent that from being developed - not sure what the prevailing theories are on the evolution of religion.

I would imagine that constant hardships (brought about by the environment) may contribute to valuing constant productiveness and also bland food - I think that both entertainment and culinary developments (as well as specialized occupations) are very much a result of having "too much time". If you have to work form well before sunrise to well after sunrise to get enough food just to stay alive, you don't worry much how it tastes or how to keep yourself occupied until you need to work again - all available time is spent working or sleeping.

Over time, this might get ingrained into such a population's culture even if circumstances change.

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We do have denominations of some religions in this day and age that frown on joke telling, eschew ostentation to the point of not even having buttons on their clothes, and with a pronounced work ethic. (Perhaps Hutterites, Amish, Mennonites, some Calvinists etc.) While they (presumably) rest on Sunday, it is not hard to imagine a subsect of one of these that "esteems every day alike" (Romans 14:5). The New Testament in general contains passages that could be taken by a fanatical leader and his followers to espouse hard work, simplicity, and avoidance of pleasure to a sufficiently extreme extent.

Given enough time for separate development of such a sect (and sufficient numbers to ensure population growth), this could become an entrenched culture.

Of course, the leader and the followers need not be "backward" or "old-fashioned": technological developments could still be embraced if judged not "sinful".

As to what the traits of such a society might be, that is anybody's guess. But you could look to above-mentioned societies for some pointers. Need not be an exact copy, this is fictional after all.

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You would need something fundamentally different to human society and biology, most likely a completely alien life-form.

For example the "Motiles" from Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star. They do not really have any individual existence so live the sort of permanent work efficiency lifestyle you describe.

Any individual needs goals, human goals will include joy, pleasure, happiness. Some time to relax and sleep. You would need to make some fundamental changes to those drives in order to change that. For example if you were much more selfless and thought only about your descendants then you might be driven to do everything you can to give them advantages.

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This is very unlikely but not exactly impossible or even hard to deduce from what real life human civilization is like. As far as I know (sorry for not providing a source, this is from a sort of verbal sidenote made by my history teacher more than 16 years ago), during the french revolution, some extremists suggested not only only getting rid of the monarchy and the church, but also of time measurements that are not directly related to the decimal system, meaning that there would be a ten-day "week", hours and minutes would be re-defined to have ten hours per day, ten minutes per hour etc... Some difficulty connected to the number of days is the seasonal cycle of one year, which would always remain an important factor and a measure to count at least outside of the tropics because of agriculture...

If those people had succeeded in spreading the ideology that made them want this system, there would be no holidays and weekly days-off, except maybe someone sees the necessity of resting for a day after nine days, if the job people do on those nine days is a particularly demanding/exhausting one. Anyway, so holidaylessness spreads worldwide, maybe because it actually makes people more productive, or alternativley connected to the ideology that if you want equality between all people, you have to also reject non-equal non-man-made time measurements. Along comes some mutation that seriously messes up the pleasure centers in its carriers' brains, such that they don't care about pleasure at all but still have the capacity to intellectually know they want to survive. This doesn't actually require additional loss of the tastebuds to make them not care about food, because that is maladaptive and might make them more prone to poisoning.

Then by some strange coincidence (bottleneck), most other people die out and the humans with this strange neurotype described above become the majority.

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