This was inspired by the answer to my first question on worldbuilding, in which I was introduced to the wonders and horrors of Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream", as well as my second question- which looks to the community for solutions in building a creature perfectly adapted to a certain purpose.

At the end of the story, our protagonist has become what we may ever-so affectionately call a great, soft jelly thing. Now, this was up to the imagination given our description;

I am a great soft jelly thing. Smoothly rounded, with no mouth, with pulsing white holes filled by fog where my eyes used to be. Rubbery appendages that were once my arms; bulks rounding down into legless humps of soft slippery matter. I leave a moist trail when I move. Blotches of diseased, evil gray come and go on my surface, as though light is being beamed from within. Outwardly: dumbly, I shamble about, a thing that could never have been known as human, a thing whose shape is so alien a travesty that humanity becomes more obscene for the vague resemblance.

Until the game, that is- where we're given a depiction that is hardly what anyone expected.

Am I really expected to believe this thing is incapable of walking off a cliffside?

This jelly thing, in hindsight, left me extremely unsatisfied with the prospect that in all given scenarios, this creature would be incapable of putting itself in harms way, or peril.

If I dropped a slug off of the WTC, I would expect its survival to be slim to none. What I would like to discover is how to perfect this hideously creative concept of AMs, and make a creature that while it has all of the abilities of the given jelly thing below, it truly has no potential to ever harm itself, at all.

Now , I've approached this a couple of times, but my solutions hit roadblocks.

  • It could be underwater!

    No, it cannot be. That betrays the fact that the 'jelly thing' lives exposed, among the air and turf.

    • Impenetrable armor?

      This defies the point of it being a 'soft' jelly thing.

So this brings me to ask, what would be the best way of going about making a creature that is not only harmless, but free of harm- whilst still staying true to the most important features of our story-given example?

Properties of the 'great, soft jelly thing':

  1. The GSJT is a mobile creature, albeit slow. It cannot be rendered stationary.
  2. It must be soft and moist, similarly to the GSJT. No armor.
  3. It must be a land creature, unsubjected to the softness of the ocean.
  4. It cannot die from age or disease(Similarly, the GSJT is not harmed by this 'evil gray' for very long. Although this could be AM's doing, for the sake of scenario, we will assume the GSJT cannot be affected by outer toxins.)
  5. The GSJT is as intelligent as a human being. A suicidal human being, no less. It will likely use any methods of maiming at its disposal to end its misery.
  6. The creature does not need to eat, and it potentially is blind. (Or partially blind from the fog. This could result in either accidental or intentional injury, depending on the GSJT's location)

It is also best to assume that most harm possibilities we will be discussing regard environmental harm, such as falling, or scraping ones self on a spike or rough cliff-side, or letting ones self freeze.

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    $\begingroup$ Incapable of self-harm is impossible, given that it is immortal and mobile, No matter how slow its' pace, it can eventually climb into an active volcano crater and then wait for the next eruption. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 26 '16 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor Well it sounds like the proposed creature would be able to survive such temperatures. If the creature can reasonably think of a way to commit suicide, the answer would have to consider a counter. $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Jul 26 '16 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Could they lodge a foot under a boulder and walk away until their leg breaks? $\endgroup$ – XenoDwarf Jul 26 '16 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ It probably doesn't have a bone to break. $\endgroup$ – Imperator Jul 27 '16 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ Just curious, what would happen to GSJT if it placed itself in a hyperbaric chamber and kept turning the pressure up, UP, UP? $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Jul 27 '16 at 14:13

A sentience developed in a thick liquid that naturally attracts itself back into a pool would do the trick.

No matter what you did to the [pool], it won't get "hurt" - just like how you can't hurt a pool of water.

The [pool] will simply mold itself around whatever you stick in it, flow around obstacles, and slip through cracks - as long as there is a way for it to access its own pieces, and you make the attraction force strong enough, it will always reassemble itself back together.

Your "jelly" simply has to have the property to be able to always self-attract its pieces, like the pool described above. Its shape could be a pool, or a sphere (if it so chooses to look that way).

  • $\begingroup$ So far, this answer seems to be the most hardy against environmental factors that are related to impact and physical-object related injury. Although, it does have me wondering how this 'pool' would cope with extremely hot or cool temperatures. Potentially, would it evaporate? Or freeze? $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 27 '16 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @M.Froman that would depend on whatever material you made the pool out of. If it's just for a story point, you can say that it's melted handwavium. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jul 28 '16 at 2:09

In trying to make this creature as resilient as possible, some things come to mind.

It has a healing factor, like Wolverine or Deadpool. Therefore, if it does manage to get hurt, it will more probably recover relatively fast instead of dying.

It sticks somewhat strongly to whatever surface it walks on. If it tries to jump off a cliff, it will just slide off the wall instead, like thick honey.

It is immune to lightning. It if gets hit by lightning, the electricity goes through it without causing any harm.

It stinks terribly, which keeps any animals away. And I mean any.

It is considerably less dense than water, so it floats instead of sinking.

It can flow to some extent over obstacles. It will never be pierced by pointy things it walks over. If it gets buried by, say, a collapsed building or a land slide it will naturally flow up through any openings available, no matter how small.

  • $\begingroup$ I did consider animals, and almost revised my question to make another addition to the scenario to assume that there would be no animals. However, a hideous smell, akin to a skunk- definitely solved the problem before there was even a need to patch it. --Secondly, when you say not as dense as water, do you mean there are buoyant air gaps inside of the GSJT? Similar to what allows a human body to float? Or simply that it is solid, but lighter than water? I think so far, the best part of the question had to be the 'thick like honey' trait, preventing the creature from even un-grounding itself. $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 27 '16 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @M.Froman I was thinking of making the GSJT a very viscous liquid, like oil, no air sacs involved. That way there are no lungs nor bladders to pierce. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 27 '16 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ That explains floating on water, then. Thank you for clarifying! $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 27 '16 at 14:53


Without a GSJT constructed of soft and squishy handwavium you're going to have a difficult time protecting it from all environmental possibilities, though you might want to look at Balloon lithobraking as a way of surviving high speed and possibly sharp impacts. Have your GSJT employ crumple zones that can survive any fall at terminal velocity.

On the topic of sharp objects again, the outer skin would also have to be strong enough to resist the maximum force the creature can exert against a pike, like puncture-proof tires on military vehicles.

This wouldn't be possible with human flesh, but AM can reshape the world as it sees fit so I don't think this is an issue.

Balloons such as these would also make your GSJT very buoyant and therefore incapable of drowning, or swimming to incredible depths to crush itself.

I'm assuming that AM keeps this creature supplied with food in some way, as life processes use energy and a simple solution would be not to eat. Therefore the creature could be engineered in such a way to produce enough heat to survive any cold climate available. Balloons would also provide a fair bit of insulation.

The last major method of killing itself I can think of would be extreme heat, in the form of fire or lava or something. To an extent, the balloon insulation would help here but sitting in a lava flow is going to pretty much destroy any material I can think of, certainly any organics. I suppose the balloons could pop with such force that the GSJT is propelled away from the heat source, but that's all I can come up with.

The easiest solution would be to put the jelly thing in a small pit that it can't climb out of, but I don't feel that's in the spirit of the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Indeed it's not, but you took a lot of the environmental factors that concerned me into consideration! The idea that somehow the GSJT can nourish itself via an internal system is definitely something to contemplate. Perhaps I'll take a deeper look at that next. $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 27 '16 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ If the GSJT is a balloon, then it may have a density-to-surface-area ratio low enough that it should never attain a terminal velocity that would harm it. Nice answer. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 27 '16 at 14:58

Consider every likely form of death:

  • puncturing/cutting/squishing/pressure/etc.
  • suffocation/starvation/dehydration
  • lightning/electricity
  • extreme temperatures
  • animals

Each of these can be countered by solutions fairly easy to identify--by a computer, at least.

  • For puncturing and cutting, an obvious solution is a malleable, wet-clay-or-liquid-like body that self-attracts and reforms itself as it gets cut open. As for pressure, crushing, squishing, etc., it could be made of some sort of non-Newtonian liquid, so as if it were smashed at high speeds it would simply resist the impact until it could turn to liquid and squish through any gaps or cracks to escape.

  • For suffocation, it might just not need to breathe, and for starvation or dehydration, it could survive for massive amounts of time without food or water, as both have been proven to be possible by the lungfish (max four years without food) and kangaroo rat (max five years without water), respectively.

  • For lightning or electricity, it could be either non-conductive or hyperconductive; either the electricity can't even touch it at all, or the lightning just passes right through without harm.

  • For extreme cold, it could have a unique internal structure that produces much more body heat than any living being in response to cold temperatures and could reflexively shrink into itself, meaning the cold is simply resisted by its own body heat. Extreme heat is a harder problem--however, it is a (potentially) solvable one. Perhaps the great soft jelly thing is silica-based, rather than carbon-based, meaning it's much more resistant to heat?

  • Finally, animals. It could be foul-smelling and foul-tasting, or maybe composed of incredibly caustic chemicals, so as to disintegrate any animal that comes too close. Perhaps it has no special defense for animals, as all they can do already has precautions taken against it--it cannot be torn, cut, punctured, squished, etc..


Honestly I think the whole jelly thing is unnecessary, say for instance we have two AIs within the same robotic body, one AI exists solely to undermine the thoughts and intent of the other. This is the only way I can imagine Asimov's three laws could work, one of which being that the robot cannot harm itself, the intent to inflict self harm is recognised and blocked before action can be taken.

Try pushing something sharp through your hand, if you do it slowly you'll find its damn near impossible to do, if feels like your hand is incredibly tough but in actual fact you're fighting yourself for control of your muscles, we've evolved to instinctively cease any action that's causing self harm, or more specifically pain.

In the two AIs example it's not even possible for one AI to resist the other because the harm mitigation AI keeps wiping the other's cache (short term memory), for example you go get a knife with intent to stab yourself. Suddenly you're standing in the kitchen and you've completely lost your train of thought, so you make a sandwich, hallway through making a sandwich you consider suicide again, cache wipe, you don't know why you're making a sandwich but it's almost finished so you might as well continue.

This might already be happening and you would have no idea.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like what Wheatley was to GLaDOS in Portal 2. $\endgroup$ – ktyldev Jul 27 '16 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Mind you, willpower is a very powerful thing. The human beings subjected to the torment of AM have had 109 years of practice in coping with pain and environmental stress, as well as learning how to inflict it upon themselves. The main issue being is that AM would repair, or take away fatal injury before, or as it happened- not necessarily that our 5 human captives were incapable. The 'great, soft jelly thing' occurred because of a spontaneous fatal action the AI couldn't predict resulted in the five discovering they were truly capable of successful suicide. $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Jul 27 '16 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Visions as only the amazing Harlan Ellison can describe... I highly recommend anyone who has (could happen) not read " I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" - please do... it's an entirely different level of SF... - Joe $\endgroup$ – Joe Jul 27 '16 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ My perspective is that the brain is a biological CPU, just as the heart is a pump and the liver is a filter, not exactly of course but the point is there's nothing to stop AM changing their brains in such a way that it makes acting with intent to commit suicide impossible regardless of however much willpower they might have, it would be like trying to stop epilepsy by force of will, it just doesn't work that way. $\endgroup$ – Cognisant Jul 28 '16 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ Correct, but with the GSJT, the goal of AM seemed to be maximum levels of suffering to even the score of the deaths of the other four captives. His goal was not to take away free will of his last prisoner- quite the contrary. To have his consciousness completely independent, and yet be entirely helpless in his physical body. An analogy, if you will, for AM's trapped existence in wafer-thin layers of circuitry. While you do make a very good point, I don't think the answer aligns with the question regarding the best construction of the creature. $\endgroup$ – M. Froman Aug 1 '16 at 14:14

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