We're dealing with a present-day world identical to our own, where, for reasons unknown, humans spontaneously gain "super-speed". Some details:

  • For simplicity, I will refer to any human using this ability as a "speedster".
  • When I say "Super-speed", think of DC Comics' superhero "the Flash" or Marvel Comics' "Quicksilver". Here is a relavent Quicksilver scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NnyVc8r2SM.

  • Essentially, this ability allows the user to perform any task (such as speaking, thinking, running etc.) at extreme speeds. The corollary effect this has is that the user can also seemingly "slow down time" relatively speaking. To an onlooker, a running speedster would appear as a sudden blur, unless of course the onlooker had their super-speed powers active as well.

  • Every human at any age all around the planet has gained this power. The only exception would be unborn human fetuses, who will gain the power as soon as they are born.

  • The power can be "activated" purely by will at any time. At the time at which they gain possession of this power they also gain an intuitive understanding of how to activate and control this power.

  • Unlike the fictional superhero "Quicksilver", who operates at supersonic speeds, our human speedsters can only use their ability at subsonic speeds, meaning less than the speed of sound. Let's assume that the fastest any speedster can run is 450 miles per hour. Let's also assume that the average human running speed is five miles per hour. 450 / 5 yields 90, which would be the maximum "time multiplier" at which any human can operate (In other words, 90x regular speed). However, this also means they can choose to operate their ability at any subsonic speed they wish, as long as it isn't slower than their initial, regular human speed (anywhere between 1x - 90x regular speed). The effect this has on local- or external time will also change relative to the speed they select, which they can control by will.

  • Additionally, unlike the fictional superheroes, our human speedsters do not possess super-human endurance. A speedster's stamina isn't any different than from before they gained their power.

  • Let's assume that physics doesn't break any more than it has to like it does with the fictional superheroes. This means forces are imparted just like you would expect them to, which means no pushing bullets with your finger or running on walls (I assume? I don't know anything about physics).

  • It is not known whether this ability is temporary, or whether it can be purged or unlearned.

What are some implications of this development? Domains of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • shoplifting
  • law-making and enforcement
  • the automobile industry
  • military strategies
  • giving birth and raising children
  • school, education and delinquency
  • conducting of scientific research and experiments

I've tried my best to limit the scope of my query. Any input is appreciated.

EDIT Seeing as how there are many physics-related problems with my original conception, ignore all the stuff I said about realistic stamina and physics. Let's assume this is a fictional universe in which speedsters can perform similarly to the Flash or Quicksilver without breaking all their bones / exploding / overheating from friction. This means we can ignore the scientific research and experimentation domain since physics isn't reliable anymore. Think of it more like a conventional, idealized time-reduction ability. What I simply meant with my notes on stamina was that just because a speedster can effectively slow down time doesn't mean their stamina is endless. Since we cleared up that this is a purely fictional, idealized universe, let's say that a speedster can run a certain distance or perform a certain task only for so long before getting tired at any time-speed (whether it's 1x, 2x or 90x). If hollywood turned this into a movie they wouldn't just have everyone die immediately.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a flaw in your endurance considerations. To be able to move at that speed, you need superhuman endurance. I think what you're trying to say is that "if you could run a mile at full speed you can still run a mile at full speed, if you wheeze going upstairs then you'll still wheeze going upstairs, just faster". $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 19 '16 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix considering that J. Doe says "The effect this has on local- or external time will also change relative to the speed they select" I think J. Doe is going for a "time passes slower for the speedster" explanation. Yet, I can see how this will lead the question to be opinion based/too broad. $\endgroup$ – Theraot Sep 19 '16 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ The friction generated in the joint should cause permanent irreversible damage, such an acceleration will induce tunnel vision and prolong it would cause concussion during sharp turns. However I must admit having such power could be fun! even momentarily. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 19 '16 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Why would anyone want to be at normal speed ? If anyone could do something 90 times faster, why won't he do that ? Virtually everyone could live 90 times their "lifespan" ... $\endgroup$ – Kii Sep 19 '16 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, J. Doe. I notice you've put considerable thought into your concept and your question. However, you're asking about "implications" across six mostly unrelated fields based on a radical change in society. I would suggest asking separate questions for each area to allow answers to focus on just one aspect. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 19 '16 at 12:37

You'll need to think about how where physics is allowed to break. To accelerate and run that fast, the body needs to be able to cope with far higher stresses on bones, joints, internal organs etc. And jumping 90 times as fast will lead to jumping 90 times as high, with the associated impact on landing...

So do you limit this specialisation to everything the individual can do will work? So they can land a huge jump, or stop from 450 mph in a fraction of a second - ignoring the crushing g-forces.

Do you include normal physics? At that sort of speed, they should be able to wall run along a curved wall - centripetal force will be 90 times higher, and as long as friction is also scaled up this will be possible.

If they are immune to friction related heating, are things they carry also immune? If they run past a glass building, do the windows shatter with the shock wave? How about if they carry a newspaper - will it survive?

My point is, decide on a logical boundary between the superpower and the normal world, and then be consistent with it.

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Population Levels
What happens to kids when they discover super-speed but not have the experience to use it properly? They'll probably end up running into immovable objects or into lakes/oceans. There's not many kids who'll survive beyond the age of three or four unless there's some way of protecting them from themselves.

After the first few robberies, there's going to be some way of preventing this (decent locks with time release mechanisms and/or biometrics that won't allow people to speed-guess combinations. Military actions would be quick and mostly hand-to-hand unless projectiles can be made to be quicker than speedster.

Likely still needs to be used for freight for heavy goods

Same as before, I guess. Kids might be able to physically read quicker, but they might not be able to learn faster.

Given that the population has super-speed, the governments might want to have some level of control and be able to protect the innocent from the not-so-innocent. So maybe some kind of tracking system could be introduced or some kind of tax on speedstering.

Covered by other answers here. Yes, you need to account for what happens to that 12 sq ft of air in front of you that you're constantly trying to move through and how you stop sonic bang damage/deafness/injury.

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  • $\begingroup$ 450mph is not speed that you get a sonic bang at. $\endgroup$ – SMS von der Tann Sep 19 '16 at 12:06