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In my world, an Omniscient creature exists.

We don't know how it got here, or if it was created, but it's real, and it's been "willing" to help humans for a long time now. However, every thing we might ask to this being comes with a price :

One answer costs one human life, given after the answer.

It's omniscient, but it's got its limits :

  • It knows everything people know, and remembers everything since it was here, but not more (the first mathematicians and physicists were quite disappointed)
  • It cannot compute anything. Meaning that it analyses very well, but cannot create information out of those analysis (like solve unsolved mathematics problems, give perfect answers to philosophical questions, etc.)

While Omni (as it's called) was used by governments as an executioner at the same time as an informant (hey, might as well use all its functionnalities for a purpose), those governments eventually got all the answers they needed (or maybe they didn't have enough people to execute), so Omni got moved to replace judges in courts.

Of course, not all the trials needed Omni (and it's quite costly), but for some trials where both parties claimed they were right and the other was wrong, it could be used. In that case, people knew the price : If a party was found guilty by Omni then one responsible of the felony would be the price to pay (and the others would face their government's justice).
There are exceptions of course, if both parties are truly honest and are both equally right (or wrong) then no answer is given, and no payment is needed. Omni is harsh, but not always.

To end a trial, Omni can be used as a last resort, but it needs to be accepted by both parties. If a party refuses, then it is considered guilty. It's the way it goes. So in fact, the fear of Omni reveals the truth, most of the time. Thanks to this, since a few decades, trials no longer took ages to end, and the result was always justified.


The human civilization on my earth is as advanced as us, no difference is to be noted. Omni cannot be bought or influenced, it will always tell the truth.

I would like to know, why would people, in their right minds, consciously use Omni in trials ? Knowing that if they are guilty, they are condemned to death...
I was thinking of using Omni as a bluff to frighten other parties (if you are guilty), but if the bluff is called, the price is going to be payed.

If nobody were to use it, then only its existence (or the belief of its existence) would be enough for people to be 'honest'. Hence the second question : What if Omni was gone a long time ago, and the government used its image to speed up trials, and criminality all in all. How long would it take for people to notice ?

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    $\begingroup$ Who pays the price if the accused is found innocent/not guilty? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 7 '16 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ What question does Omni actually answer. When playing with omniscient beings and languages, concepts like "intended question" get really nuanced really quickly. Can you phrase the question Omni answers precisely, from the perspective of Omni (i.e. Omni knows you literally asked X, but that what you want from the trial is Y, so the question Omni actually answers is Z) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 7 '16 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ How honest is this Omni? Just because it knows, does it answer truthfully always? How much word parsing does it do? If I asked it, "Was Macbeth [of Shakespeare] killed by any man born of woman?" would it say, "No."? $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 7 '16 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ If Omni is used in a case, it must be a touchy case (something perhaps gruesome, no eye witness etc). If the accused is found innocent, then it will know who is the guilty part, and will point it out. Omni is fully honest, and will give understable answers. It will repeat those answers, rephrase them if not understood. In fact any question can be asked to Omni, it will know if the person is trying to deceive it, and it will know what that person really wants to know, you can't fool Omni. And it will even warn if there are more than two questions (and not answer) $\endgroup$ – Johnny Goodfist Dec 7 '16 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ I'm fond of an anecdote about Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the U.S. Civil War. To paraphrase: A frightened soldier was brought to him for some infraction of the rules. "Don't be afraid, son, you'll find justice here." Lee said. "That's what I'm afraid of, sir," was the response. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 24 at 6:11
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Why would people, in their right minds, consciously use Omni in trials?

Knowing that if they are guilty, they are condemned to death... I was thinking of using Omni as a bluff to frighten other parties (if you are guilty), but if the bluff is called, the price is going to be payed.

Accidents & Negligence

Example A:

A was walking through a road even though it was a green light when the driver B was driving towards it. C, who noticed it, pushed A away from the trajectory of the car B. In the process, B hits C.

Who is responsible for the fault?

One can argue that it is A's fault because it a was a green light. You should wait for a red light.

One also can argue that it is B's fault. This accident won't occur if B honk his car.

In layman's view, this may be a straight A's fault for making the first violation. However, if we follow this logic even further, does this means that B has no responsibility of saving A's life if this incident happens? Does this mean that it is perfectly correct for B to just zoom through the green light no matter what happens with A? If B honks and breaks, he has make full duty on his part and he is innocent. However, in this case, he doesn't honks.

Example B:

An oil company is drilling on the sea. Earthquake attacks the area and oil spill is everywhere. Who is in fault?

At one point, oil company, who makes a serious business, is at fault. Why the oil company does not make preemptive action? At another point, earthquake is a major action.

However, if we just blame the "earthquake", this may seems unfair in comparison to doctor. When a patient died in doctor's hand, the doctor is put at blame for failing to save him. You may argue that the doctor got unlucky and it was the age factor that kills the patient, but isn't the reason doctor took years of study is to learn how to mitigate it?

TL:DR; Crime action that has no intention and simply based on negligence is tricky. It is very possible, in their right mind, for every party to plead innocent.

What if Omni was gone a long time ago, and the government used its image to speed up trials, and criminality all in all. How long would it take for people to notice ?

Very early. The moment that a person, who does not has to be in the right mind, calls it, the bluff is called.

To end a trial, Omni can be used as a last resort, but it needs to be accepted by both parties. If a party refuses, then it is considered guilty. It's the way it goes. So in fact, the fear of Omni reveals the truth, most of the time.

Ah. If you have asked Omni, Omni would tell you that the party refuses is not always the guilty.

There are a lot of cases where a long interrogation leads innocent to plead guilty. The reason? Stress caused by the interaction of the police, the intimidating setting of the room, etc. Innocent people may stressed out and refuse. You may say that "But everybody knew that Omni is always right!", but every human being has a (sometimes good) feature called skepticism and paranoia. You cannot just expect everybody to accept it. That is psychologically impossible, even with people in their "right minds".

Take example of the oil company of the Example B. Even if the oil company knows it was an uncontrolled accident, the oil company may fear that they are wrong, afraid with the punishment of losing a live, and just plead guilty when there is a chance that he is innocent.

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    $\begingroup$ I would believe that for example A, Omni wouldn't be needed. Since it's supposed to be used as a last resort, I don't see this case lasting too much time, or needing omniscient knowledge to solve (unless A and B were plotting to kill C knowing he would try to save A... but that's far fetched). For example B, it's going to depend if the earthquake could have been predicted (apparently oil drilling could cause earthquakes) and/or if the drilling company's security measures were perfectly followed. If those can't be verified, maybe the company would be guilty in a way. $\endgroup$ – Johnny Goodfist Dec 8 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnnyGoodfist 1. You misunderstood your own question. Your question is asking the POV of the culprit yet your comment is taking the POV of the court, 2. "Last resort" does NOT always has to be "Impossible case". A last resort case can also caused by continuous appeal of the court. As I demonstrated, from the POV of the clurpit, they can believe they're innocent and will continously appeal until the stage of the omni. $\endgroup$ – Realdeo Dec 8 '16 at 13:31
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I don't think it could replace judges because they don't just tell the right part from the wrong (at least in civil law countries, I don't know how it works with common law) but they also determine how the law should be aplied, making it so that the same crime could give a man slightly different sentences depending on wich judge was presiding the court. Instead I think omni would be very useful as a one man jury or even as a witness, with the judge asking him who is guilty and then proceeding to determine the sentence. The thing is, if the defendant's sentence should not be to die, it would be necessary to find someone else to be sacrificed (maybe someone who is already on the death row, or depending on how evil/conscienceless the rulers are they could sacrifice beggars, low-lifes or war prisioners).

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes indeed, not to fully replace a judge, but to assist in difficult cases seems good. If the rulers are about the same as the one we could find today, I think only death row inmates would be given (Maybe I have to much faith in rulers) $\endgroup$ – Johnny Goodfist Dec 8 '16 at 13:06
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According to game theory, Omni should never be used.

If you know you are guilty Omni will find it out anyways so no need to use it and risk your life, you would rather spend some time in jail.

If you are not sure you are guilty, some Omni specialist will listen to your case and tell you if you are guilty from Omni's point of view.

However some humans are irrational or might secretely hope that Omni won't know the truth. These might still use Omni even if they are guilty.

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It's hard to say depends how long it takes for them to call their Bluff. As long as the government uses it only to intimidate the guilty then it can last a long time. But a minute they use it on someone who's innocent and knows it and he says yes to it, then the deceit will be exposed. There's no way the government could pretend that they still have the Omni at least without making themselves murders, because the Omni not only with the told the innocent party but also the guilty. And the penalty for the guilty is dead if the government were to continue the facade then it would killing people that it doesn't know for sure are guilty.

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    $\begingroup$ "at least without making themselves murders" Exactly. Maybe it could be done "for the greater good". If there are no longer "perfect crimes", as Omni would know, every premeditation murder, every one who might look the other way, would be revealed, and so criminality could perhaps drop. By keeping the secret, and keeping quiet everyone, it could be better for the world (Then again, if someone ever suspects it, and use Omni to prove it, the government would have to pay for those decisions. What goes around comes around) $\endgroup$ – Johnny Goodfist Dec 8 '16 at 13:16

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