# The government builds an Ark before an apocalypse — how does it get people to come?

It’s an alternate 2023 (oh, 2012 is just so cliché), and Kanye West, in all his megalomania has nudged a toxic comet of death into a collision course with Earth. US Government hacks conclude that the comet will render the surface of the planet uninhabitable, and so draw up plans to build a massive national shelter somewhere in the Rockies (make it underground or perhaps an enormous transparent dome, but the catastrophe is such that it has to be a contained habitat). They expect the survivors to live there for decades. Space is extremely limited, so every non-essential inhabitant needs to be very well justified.

Such an operation clearly has a staggering list of essential, indispensable, and downright mission-critical personnel to make it work, else the entire colony fails. There’s the guy that wrote the stupendously complex software that keeps the dome from exploding, the brilliant scientist who is the only one that knows how to grow the wonder crops that feed the colony, the original architect who would be really nice to have around if we ever had questions about that thingamajig that holds the structure up, and that hilarious comedian who we would all be really depressed if we didn’t have him and his heart-lifting performances to cheer us all up.

All great, we have the A-team to preserve the continuity of the United States, yes?

Except no one wants to come. A surprisingly large number of personnel would rather spend their last moments with family members and loved ones, rather than save themselves and live out a regimented, grueling life in a dank, musty habitat underneath Mount Yuck.

The Government is now stuck with a dilemma of an Ark that is woefully understaffed, as no one wants to leave their loved ones behind! How does it come up with incentives to get people to come? Perhaps it lets people bring a certain number of friends and family members, but how do we make this into a workable policy? We wish to maximize the amount of psychological support colony members can expect to recieve on the “other side”, while minimizing dead weight on the colony.

Some edge example cases to consider (humans are weird, after all):

### Mel

Mel wrote the software that keeps the piranhas out of the colony’s water supply. The algorithms are so complicated (piranhas are surprisingly difficult to detect) that Mel is basically the only person who understands it. Mel and his wife belong to some religious sect, and they have twenty-three biological children.

### Dianna

Dianna is a world-class civil engineer who designs the air-filtration systems for the colony. There are only a handful of people in the world who can do what Dianna does. But Dianna is gay, and she lives in Alabama, where the county clerks are really reluctant to grant her and her partner Taylor’s marriage license, even though they’ve been together for 9 years and 34 days. (Taylor insists it was 35 days since she first asked Dianna out at 11:58 PM.) No one doubts they’re a couple, but the bureaucrats in charge of the colony say they’re not “official” without the license.

### Shifty Steve and Lil’ Marco

Shifty Steve is a one-in-a-million genetic candidate for the colony, without him the gene pool just wouldn’t be the same. Shifty Steve has no immediate family, but he makes a deal with his…er…friend, Lil’ Marco, where Steve gets all the hookers and cocaine he wants in the year preceding the comet’s arrival, as long as Steve figures out a loophole to get Lil’ Marco a spot in the colony with him.

### Rachael Straugnum–Alina and her boyfriend who she loves very dearly (he’s bae-goals)

Rachael is an agricultural scientist who pioneered miraculous advances in crop science that might just make our colony viable for feeding thousands of people post-apocalypse. Rachael is your typical urban hipster, for her and her bae, marriage is just so you know, ughhh. That’s not to say Rachael doesn’t love her partner; much to the contrary, if something were to ever happen to bae, she would probably just sit in her habitation eating ice-cream and watching depressive post-apocalyptic Netflix, crops be dammed. Rachael and her bae suppose that, since the world is ending, they might as well go to the courthouse and get that socially constructed piece of paper, but whatever.

### Lieutenant Brown

Lieutenant Brown is in charge of keeping the colony running smoothly, and his leadership skills are indispensable to the colony’s social and functional cohesion. Lieutenant Brown has a old Army buddy, who he’s been through hell and back with, and the two are practically brothers. The Lieutenant is a soldier, and he says he can deal with the loss of his best buddy, but we still worry it might adversely affect his performance as a post-apocalyptic leader if he knows the government intentionally left his best friend behind.

### Secretary Thompson

Secretary Thompson is the guy in charge of the entire operation, the big kahuna. Secretary Thompson really wants to bring his favorite sugar-baby with him (in fairness, it would be quite a waste to leave dat ass behind) even though she is of zero value to the colony.

### Mr. and Mrs. Norman

Mrs. Norman is a famous architect who designed the dome structure, and it would be really nice if we had her around to help if something ever went wrong with the dome. She has no love for her husband, Mr. Norman, and the two not-so-secretly despise one another, but if given an opportunity, Mrs. Norman will bring Mr. Norman with her for the sake of appearances, even though she knows she will probably be a lot happier letting him die in the apocalypse.

### @LUClDITYxo

LUClDITYxo (real name: Alyssa Parkland) is a world-famous beloved Twitter comedian, and no one is better at brightening up our day than her. Economists estimate that GDP would be approximately 0.14% lower were it not for the morale boost she gives millions of American workers each day. LUClDITYxo’s favorite mutual is a girl artlesszaddy_ (real name: Meghan Stearns), and the two are practically sisters even though they met on the internet. LUClDITYxo is the famous one (though artlesszaddy_ has a respectable 12.8k following), but most of her creativity actually comes from her wild online conversations with artlesszaddy_.

Keep in mind that we need a policy for who goes in the bunker, not just case-by-case judgments for the example characters given in the question. We need to select among thousands of candidates, each one as idiosyncratic as the few examples given. If case-by-case judgment is really the best way to go, we need to know how to set up the vetting process to minimize cries of “bias!” and whatnot. If there is a reviewing panel, who gets to sit on it, and what rubric are they given? Do members of the panel themselves automatically get to go?

We need a legitimate (it does not need to be fair, but must be at the least perceived as legitimate) system to sort out all the people like them, keeping in mind that there is limited space available. While no policy is perfect, we need one that will result in the most optimal outcome; for example, if we say “take your spouse at the time of the apocalypse”, do we let Rachael and Dianna get married right before the comet hits, with the cost of letting Lil’ Marco tag along (he “marries” Shifty Steve)? How do we account for relationships that might be just as essential for the psychological well-being of the survivors, but might not count as traditional “kin”?

Possible answers might take the form of:

• Incentives or “motivation” to get people like Mel or Steve to come without bringing excessive tag-alongs. Perhaps midnight kidnappings are in order?
• Mitigating the bus factor so that the colony doesn’t depend on so many essential personnel in the first place
• Smartly designed criteria for who is recruited for the colony so that people who aren’t wanted but would still be covered under a naïve policy won’t get taken (like Mr. Norman), and vice versa (for people such as Dianna and Rachael)
• Additional recruitment efforts to find replacements for “expensive” personnel like Mel

• A list of Yes/No’s for the 8 specific test cases. They are only meant to be representatives for the variety of situations that might arise. Remember that this is a colony with thousands of niche jobs that need to be filled.
• Handwaving away the technology needed to run the facility. Yes, the flesh eating piranhas are a problem and we assume that it is not possible to apply a hardware solution (read: a grate) to it. Having Mel train other people to maintain the software is fair game. Having the government spend a few million and hire new programmers to develop a more maintainable and sensible framework is fair game. Saying the software is not needed in the first place isn’t.

Side note: LUClDITYxo is included as a test case to test for bias. A good policy accounts for the fact that the people making the judgments are aware of their limited perspectives. For example, if a vetting panel is proposed as an answer, what happens if it is filled with so-called “old white men” who don’t see the value in bringing LUClDITYxo? How might this affect the perception of the project pre-apocalypse?

• How did the original Noah get kangaroos and penguins to come? – JDługosz Dec 13 '16 at 8:53
• I think the long list of people doesn’t add to the question. – JDługosz Dec 13 '16 at 8:55
• There is a close reason explained as “too story based”. That kind of detail is not worldbuilding, but plot and character, and off topic. – JDługosz Dec 13 '16 at 9:01
• Maybe you should edit your question to make it more clear that your focusing on a general policy who's to join the bunker and who not. You're asking too many questions yourself in the next to last paragraph, so the focus on the policy gets lost. – Alexander von Wernherr Dec 13 '16 at 9:33
• I did not see the original, but in its current state the list of characters does not seem to add anything at all to this question. – GrinningX Dec 13 '16 at 11:47

The first problem is what all of these people already know. Presumably, they know that the apocalypse is coming. Given that a dome/habitat has been made, they also have some idea of what kind of apocalypse it will be. That's either really good or really bad. If it's the kind of apocalypse that starts at breakfast and is over by brunch, it's all good. If it's the kind that starts at Christmas and ends at no-one-even-knows-what-that-is-anymore-because-it-was-so-amazingly-long-ago, that's bad. See, the trouble with these people is that they all love someone. It's really easy to tell them all that they can bring one person, but they will never get past what it will do to the ones they leave behind. With that in mind, the goal should be to minimize the discomfort associated with leaving one's loved ones to die horrible deaths.

First off, control information. Whatever these people don't absolutely need to know, don't tell them. Sugar-coat it. "Yes, the comet will hit in a blaze of fantastic glory and everything outside of this cool dome thing will be instantly vaporized." That's the line you want. Make it okay for the relatives that get left behind. No pain, no suffering, they won't even know it.

Secondly, everyone wants to spend time with their loved ones, so allow them their freedom until, say, three days before the big bad is about to go down. Make sure the dome is up and running well before then, but don't require the specials to be there until basically the last minute. Until then, send them home. Send them home with cash. Lots and lots of cash. Basically, give these people the absolute best last days with their families. Make it idyllic, and impress upon them the fact that, if they truly love these people, they shouldn't tell them what's coming. Just hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them, and then promise you'll be back in a few days. In short, give everyone the goodbye they wanted.

Of course, every special gets to bring exactly one other person with them. Really, these specials can't be the only people in the dome or there's really no reason to have the dome, so if each of them gets a plus one, not really a big problem. Except Mrs. Norman. For whatever reason, Mr. Norman absolutely is not allowed because he has some something or other that would endanger the colony. Mrs. Norman has to come, otherwise it would look bad, but she can't bring her husband. Also, these secondary specials do not get to know that the apocalypse is coming or you'll have the same problem with them. These secondaries only get to know that they are going somewhere with their lovers/best friends for a few days.

Also, just a thought here, but make sure your Twitter stars can actually talk to people. I mean, I don't know who these people are, but there is that not-baseless stereotype about amazing online personalities that simply cannot deal with actual in-the-flesh-people. If the point of bringing them into the dome is to entertain the inhabitants, make sure they will actually be able to once the internet goes down.

I know this creates a secondary population of seemingly useless people, but really, we don't fully understand what makes a person's genes worth keeping. It's possible that hidden in the genetic folds of "dat ass" is coding for incredibly IQ, or massive strength, or some other unexpressed trait. Every person holds the possibility of a beneficial mutation or genetic twitch, and just as you shouldn't breed two natural-bob-tail Australian shepherds, you shouldn't breed only the humans humans decided should be bred. We simply don't know enough, so even if you wanted to optimize the gene pool, you should include a few wild cards, and you might as well kill two birds with one stone. If nothing else, they can be taught useful skills. If absolutely nothing else, they'll breath carbon dioxide for your plants.

For general vetting purposes, these same rules apply. Figure out exactly what you need, find the best people for the job, tell them as little as possible while conveying what they need to know, allow them to bring ONE person if they so choose, and give them the best good-bye period you can.

As for what you'll want, picture a scaled down United States. You'll need a governing body, enforced by a police structure of some kind. You'll need food workers from growing to processing to cooking. You'll need sewers and weavers and builders and herdsmen and blacksmiths. The important consideration is how big the dome is. However many people it can support at maximum, figure on half that population, then half of that population is your specials. The secondaries will all be apprenticed to an appropriate occupation. If you end up with people who refuse to cooperate, kick them out into the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Moreover, let them know that if they get the boot, their loved one does as well.

• Larry niven messed with the idea that include the spouses just in case there is a gene for luck, becasue those people obviously have it. – John Dec 13 '16 at 18:52
• Yeah, but the luck that policy bred screwed over everyone nearby, so it didn't work out that well for Niven's characters :P – SPavel Dec 13 '16 at 20:00

Distribute N unique fist-sized rocks randomly across the country. Announce their locations and declare that anyone showing up at the gate carrying one gets in along with four other people of their choice. And then let them in when people show up.

The combat and cunning required to make it to the gate will give you a wide cross-section of humanity, include people who are driven to survive, healthy enough to travel, and fairly selected.

• that would turn America into something remeniscent of World War Z's Jerusalem Wall scene. And the cunning and strong wouldn't work because anyone with a gun can shoot down the smartest and strongest person from 1 KM away. – arthurz12345 Apr 15 '17 at 1:19
• Part of being smart is having longer range guns. :-) – SRM Apr 15 '17 at 13:50

The vast majority of normal people would prefer survival to death, so getting the plebs in line is as simple as saying you are only taking X people. You will get 100*X people to show up, demanding they be saved (make sure you have a military ready to handle these people). You can be extremely picky, and write a policy for the general public (doesn't apply to your VIPs) for who gets in and not. And if anyone complains, the Kanye-Teroid will take care of them.

## Mel

As a software engineer, I can tell you that you don't need Mel. You need a good senior engineer who is unattached and not a religious nut, a solid test environment, and another good senior engineer who is unattached and not a religious nut....heck, give them a couple environments to test things in, you don't want to cheap out. Also, there's probably a simpler solution to your problem than "crazy code only one person ever can understand." Relying on "crazy code only one person can ever understand" is a failure point. I'd take my chance with the Kanye-teroid. Even with redundant engineers, I've saved you 23 people (and they were kids at that). You can even give each of the engineers a harem of 6 mates and still come out ahead by 11 people.

## Dianna

If for some reason being gay is against your code, find one of the other "few" people who can do what Dianna does and get them to the Ark. Otherwise, there's no issue. Let both Dianna and her new missus in the Ark. As mentioned above, super complicated air filters only a few people in the world understand is a failure point, and there's probably a better way.

## Shifty Steve and Lil’ Marco

Promise Lil' Marco a spot, and instead take him to a bunker and shoot him. Or, better yet, kidnap Steve and spend the next year harvesting his spunk and shoot him too.

## Rachael Straugnum–Alina and her boyfriend who she loves very dearly (he’s bae-goals)

The good thing about crops is that they are really easy to reproduce. Also, as said above, miracle crop only one person understands and can grow ever is a failure point.

## Lieutenant Brown

This guy can't be the only person capable of running the colony. If he is truly the only person that can do it (see failure points above), then hire a biker gang to kill his army buddy, have a big trial and ask Brown what he wants done to the bikers.

## Secretary Thompson

If he's in charge, what does it matter?

## Mr. and Mrs. Norman

What do you know, that biker gang killed two people instead of just that old army guy. Also, what is with this world that there are so many areas of science critical to this colony that only one person understands? I would think that there's only so much crazy that can go into a building.

## @LUClDITYxo

Hell is living with only one comedian. Besides the GDP will drop a lot after the Kanye-teroid hits. Find some people with useful skills who are also funny.

Your colony, as described, has a lot of points of failure, and a lot of "hit by a bus" factor. If one of these people dies before they get into the colony, or a freak accident in the colony happens, then you are in a bad shape. Each of these points of failure should have 2-3 people capable of doing the job, and the ability to train more. What happens if Mel has an aneurysm? Shifty Steve gets AIDS from all the hookers and drugs? The twitter person isn't funny in more than 145 characters?

• the bus factor is the essence of the question, as you push the limits with experimental tech, there are fewer and fewer people capable of doing what you need (we’re talking about maintaining a habitat meant to withstand a global apocalypse). The question is how do we mitigate the bus factor to make the colony succeed despite its reliance on advanced experimental technology that few people understand, at least at the onset of the scenario – taylor swift Dec 13 '16 at 19:09
• If you cannot find more than one person, or the ability to teach more than one person, this specialized knowledge, then you cannot. – Marshall Tigerus Dec 13 '16 at 19:53
• Your habitat explodes (or implodes) because no one understands how it actually works. Highly coupled systems are inherently fragile in nature, and only insane people would consider this to be an acceptable situation or solution. I suspect there would be many smaller shelters with less closely coupled systems waiting for the apocalyptic failure to come and scavenge any usable things left. – Thucydides Dec 14 '16 at 6:42

The only way to make the policy workable is to take the loved ones as well. If you're going to build a long term self contained colony you also have to think about the psychological wellbeing of the personnel, that means relationships, it means friendships, it means not taking people who are going to really get other people's backs up.

You can't ask people to leave their lovers and children behind, you have to take them as well. For each person you want to take, you need to take the entire immediate family. If this hasn't been considered then whoever ran the project is an idiot and deserves to fail epically.

You can leave the pseudo celebs behind, especially when you're talking about leaving all the ordinary people anyway. Much more important to take Randall Munroe.

Apart from the useless pseudo celebrities, you're unlikely to get much dead weight. People in the intellectual upper 10% don't tend to hang around with people from the bottom 10%. Whoever they ask to bring is probably going to be useful in the long term, if not the short term. And even then, any colony requires rubbish collection and cleaners, hairdressers and telephone sanitisers. There's work to be done that doesn't require an IQ of over 130.

Let's consider team selection, since that's the game we're playing here. In my spare time I do team sports (I know that's terribly bad form for a geek but that's how I roll) and as often as not, I'm the team captain so I have to choose my team.

1) The best player. He knows he's the best player, he likes to make sure everyone else knows he's the best player, you've all met him, he has the looks and the ego to match, but he's not the best player because his ego gets in the way of him being a team player. So he's out and still doesn't understand why.

2) The guy who turns up to everything and never seems to get any better. He might be in or out, depending how much other people like him, in my case he's a real charmer and usually goes. I took him to the last tournament and he played an absolute stormer, it happens.

3) The really good player with a +1 who will only play if she can as well, but she's not as good. This is where I'm leading to with this example because it's the one that matches your situation. This player isn't one person but two, sometimes two who work really well together even if the individual skills aren't up to the spec of no 1, the average and team benefit is greater than taking any two others.

You're not considering the skills of the individual but the combined skills and combined resource drain. The guy with a wife and a dozen kids, is he really worth 14 places when compared to a guy with 2 kids who's nearly as good? Probably not, if the second guy's wife has a similar or complementary skillset, definitely not. Every single position and person has to be considered like this. Not as a single person, but a combined skillset and cost of the total group. Is Steve worth Marco? That's up to how much you want Steve, but at one in a million, I suggest taking one of the other 300 candidates in the country.

The answer in most cases for special requirements versus someone else who's nearly as good but lower cost, probably not worth it.

Ultimately what this comes down to is that, as with any team selection, there are people who, on paper, you'd like to take, but you'll have to leave behind, and people who wouldn't be your first choice, but ultimately you will be taking them. People aren't numbers, you can't treat them that way, and the tighter your resources the more you'll be spending on reviewing each person as an individual, not under a general rule.

• this doesn’t really answer the question, which is how we formulate a policy for deciding who counts as a “family member”, to maximize psychological support and minimize dead weight on the colony – taylor swift Dec 13 '16 at 9:00
• That comment might have been a better question — general and short. In fact, it might have been addressed here already, I have some recollection. – JDługosz Dec 13 '16 at 9:03
• @taylorswift, that's not your question, it would be a better question, but you've asked for policy on getting people to come, not selecting who should come as well. – Separatrix Dec 13 '16 at 9:24
• @Separatrix i assumed they would go hand-in-hand, as the premise was that the main reason people wouldn’t want to come was because they would have to leave people behind. But as a limiting factor, there are severe space and resource constraints, as stated in the original question, so you can’t just say “take everyone” – taylor swift Dec 13 '16 at 9:27
• @taylorswift, it sounds like you want three ark ships, let's call them A,B and C. In ship A you put all the elites, in ship C you put the engineers and other people who actually do stuff and in ship B you put the useless people. We all know how that story ends. – Separatrix Dec 13 '16 at 9:31

First:

Leave the celebs and criminals at home, so no LUClDITYxo, no Shifty Steve and Lil' Narco. They don't add up anything usefull

Second:

IMH, you can leave Mel behind, because he'd come with 24 mouths to feed and why are there piranhas in a colony water supply that cannot be kept out by a simple fence?

Bring Dianna, don't care if she's gay, here wife and all other civil engineers who are as good as her, we'll definitely need them in the new home.

Bring Rachel and her boyfriend. Agricultural scientist may come handy if you want to plant crops.

Bring Lt. Brown and a dozen of other young soldiers. Even if we may not have to fight in the new colony, they're valuable workers.

Bring Secretary Thompson and his sugar babe. Otherwise the whole ark will be blocked by his ego.

About policy: Every mentioned person may bring their kids, brothers and parents as long as they're not older than 50. This way the colony as a good balance of workforce and experience.

Young engineers may have great ideas, but they all are worthless if they don't know how to hold a shovel, so you also need experienced workers.

Third:

Bring experts from every scientific field, amount depending on the size of the ark.

Bring cooks, but no 5* guys, but ordinary cooks who know how to make a good stew.

And at least one barkeeper. For reasons.

• the problem with this answer is that it doesn’t give a policy, only case-by-case judgments for the example characters given in the question. We need to select among thousands of candidates, each as idiosyncratic as the examples given – taylor swift Dec 13 '16 at 9:17

I think let the Ai did it. Count every important person that would be needed including some who should do the hardwork, but also lets make the Ai cross analyze their social media, and criminal records (if we want to restart the earth, make sure we just bring the good seeds). Last, make sure the system can work with no human interference, and no one can change it, and don't let the programmer knows what the Ai real use.

So lets not get everyone with the drama of who should or shouldn't be in the ark. Lets make it cold but fair, that some of us will be picked by force of the machine and put there to prolong humanity whether we liked it or not.

I still don't understand why you need a policy more detailed than immediate family with a review board for borderline cases.

But if you need to automate it you just need to give a numeric value to each person's value to the colony then get the average of your group, then you compare your numbers to see who gets in.

example: Mel is a 6 (skill only partially useful in colony) with a his wife having no beneficial skills (and maybe a negative for the religious thing) being a 1, each kid is a 1-2 depending on age. that makes mes group. 6+1+24(1.5)=43 43/26=1.65

Dianna is a 9 (skill useful in colony and after colony, exemplar in the field) and let's say her sig other is a 3-4 becasue she is lets say a school teacher. useful but not exemplary. so Dianna's family gets a score of 9+3.5=12.5 12.5/2=6.25

So mel's family is a 1.65 vs Dianna's 6.25 clearly you take Dianna and leave Mel. in fact Mel is not getting in even with a personal perfect score.

You need to work up a ranking system but that's not too hard.

Starting points

2. potentially useful/ self sufficient

3. useful skill set

Modifiers

-1 poor health/genetics

-1 negative criminal history/ negative social effects

-1 History of violence

+1 exemplar in the field

+1 positive social effect: musician, comedian, ect

+1 instrumental to colony construction or other special consideration

+2 Critical skill necessary for rebuilding

+2 Critical skill necessary in colony function

+1 Skill may be necessary under unusual circumstances