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Imagine you are a scientist working for the government. Your employer asks you a strange request: to make the perfect assassin. He gives you the required minimum for this assassin: I.Q. of over 200, knowledge of guns and bomb making, must be made from an embryo, must be very strong, la di da. However, he says one thing that confuses you: "There is a special serum being mailed to you. It will allow him to look like anyone or anything. Give it to him daily."

What I want to know:

Would the serum be replicable in real life?

If so, what would be the side effects on humanoids, if any?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by James, JDługosz, John Dallman, kingledion, Frostfyre Nov 22 '16 at 20:51

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ No, it's not possible, and how would we know since it's entirely not possible? $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 22 '16 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Not exactly a duplicate, but some of the answers actually talk about a serum: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/51181/… $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 22 '16 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ You say "real life." Am I correct in assuming this is a "Science Based" or "Hard Science" quesiton? If so, consider adding one of the two as a tag, as they help to describe the level of rigor you need in your answers. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 22 '16 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ The only way I could see this being viable is if you handwave the serum as using nanomachines, which isn't exactly realistic. And asking what kind of side effects it would have, feels like way too broad of a question. $\endgroup$ – FirstLastname Nov 22 '16 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Jared. Your question presents an interesting scenario but it is not one that we can objectively answer. Your mystery serum is fiction, thus its replicability and side effects would be up to its creator. (You). If you have questions on how the site functions or want guides on writing questions and answers for the site, check out the help center $\endgroup$ – James Nov 22 '16 at 19:40
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It's not replicable in real life

As AndreiROM said in his answer, it is extremely difficult to edit millions of cells' DNA precisely, and that shape a developing fetus - not a living human. Even with genetic engineer viruses, you cannot change the physical structure of a human being rapidly and at will.

Here's an alternative (with handwaving)

Prostheses (plural of prosthetic) work well in real life to change the appearance of the face - but carrying around a kit with latex and makeup just isn't "cool", however realistic. Using a combination of strong quaternary ammonium cations (shown safe for use on flesh here and here) to soften tissue substantially, and whey protein (info here) for muscular rigitity, you can create a substance that makes skin and muscle ~somewhat~ posable. It would be applied in a mask, through facial injection, or through a topical cream, and it may allow your spy to shape their face to a small extent.

After some time in art school, Clayface may be able to work with this. A stretch, and it may require further development of chemicals, but organic prosthesis is more realistic than shapeshifting on demand.

Or if you'd rather be realistic

Consider normal, liquid latex prostheses and makeup, which are proven to work just fine for "impersonation". Not as exciting as the above method, but much more realistic.

Side effects (for 1st alternative method)

May increase cause cell death over time due to stress; may increase rate of cell death due to antibacterial properties; may tingle or sting slightly.

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Human beings can only change their looks via surgery, makeup, or using props.

What you're describing is consciously altering your physical appearance at a genetic level, which we can't do, and probably will never do. It would involve rewriting the DNA in millions upon millions of cells, which would result in death, and who knows what other side effects which are a lot worse than that.

For example, your assassin's physical attributes (strength, intelligence, etc.) all depend on his DNA as well. Altering said DNA would probably have really terrible consequences for everything else.

There are science fiction books in which characters undergo such genetic manipulation, but it's basically hand-waved as an existing technology, with no analysis as to realism.

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There's a lot of answers stating that it's not realistic. However, if you weren't to make the assassin human, this could be feasible. The basis of it would be to give it a generally humanoid structure however if the creature has been spliced with octopus genetics, it could do some fairly flexible shape-shifting. The serum itself would be something that could maintain this flexibility that sort of prevents the structures from rooting into a definitive form.

Basically, the initial structures that would be this perfect assassin are what actually keep it from losing the ability would be the serum.

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The question as to whether it would be possible depends on how much of our being is genetically programmed and how much is environment. Also, the physical changes might be possible, if our body appearance is not affected by our mind. That is, do we look good because we have positive thoughts, or can our body look good and our mind be corrupt? Now, in my reality, the Holy Bible of Chrisitanity is true, and in it, it specifically says that our outward body is affected by our thoughts. So, in that universe, our thoughts affect our looks, so in order to be identical to another, one would need to have identical thought patterns, which would mean the training of weapons, etc would need to be exactly as the thoughts of the target. However, the target never thinks of killing his doppleganger, because he is unaware of his doppleganger, so having identical thoughts would be impossible.

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