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I want to build a world where society is composed of a few highly advanced individuals. Perhaps ruled by a council of elders as we frequently see, utopic society and all the usual tropes apply:

  1. The members of this society are immortals
  2. No one was murdered in the last 100000.... years
  3. Highly advanced culture, but bored with the rest of the universe (seen all, done all)

My question is:

If the individuals are so advanced and have nothing more to aspire to, what could motivate a power struggle?

More considerations: If everything is allright and everybody, really, everybody is quite happy, what could be strong enough to break the status quo? Aside from the usual formulas:

  1. Not everyone is really happy
  2. Someone is bad to the bone but was hiding it all the time

Only an external event could trigger a fight, or there are more individualistic views that I should consider?

Please, fire at will.. every word inspires..

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    $\begingroup$ This question is at risk of being closed as idea generation but in this case I think you have a limited enough number of options that it's ok. We could really do with some concrete way to rate the answers though even if it's only by plausibility. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 18 '14 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB I agree it's borderline. But I don't think it's quite crossed the border, though it could use a little tweaking maybe. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 18 '14 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner Thanks for editing and revising my questions, English is not my native language and I do make mistakes here and there. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – mcbecker Dec 18 '14 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ No problem, English is my native language and others still edit my posts to fix my mistakes. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 18 '14 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ Just because someone else has seen X, done X, doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy doing that myself. People travel to Europe, even though they did not discover it. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 18 '14 at 20:10

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Okay, so I'm immortal, part of small elite group of immortals, and we are all basically "good" - let's say it's unlikely to hide being evil for millennia. What could drive me to disrupt status quo?

  1. Boredom: What if I've reached a level of boredom that prompts me to do something to cause a new reaction? This would be some kind of developed sociopathy.

  2. Loss: Perhaps I've lost someone close to me through accident. No murders, yes, but perhaps through "normal" attrition, like a wreck. Now I can't handle the pain, or I want to change things so that the accident doesn't happen again, or I want to punish someone responsible.

  3. Outside influence: We've been a static society for millennia. Now we've encountered humans. Humans flit through life, and make us realize that life is precious, meant to be finite if we want to appreciate it. The fear of death gives humans a drive and ambition that we have lost. Or maybe instead, they are encroaching on our way of life, and we need to beat them back or lose what we are - though that very action may mean losing who we are anyway.

  4. Crisis: Superman's Krypton had a nice utopic society, but it prevented them seeing the truth of their eminent destruction, and those that argued for change were naysayed. That caused Zod to act outside of the norm.

Finally, you might watch Star Trek The Next Generation, particularly the episodes involving Q. Q is "all powerful", bored, and outside of the norm of his populace.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah! Q is a perfect example of such a liveform. $\endgroup$ – Sempie Dec 19 '14 at 10:21
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Extrapolating from the real world... playing games.

The possible challenge level of games scales with the ability of designers and opponents, and the time designers and opponents have had to develop their skills.

The challenge level needed to keep players engaged scales with ability level of players, and the time they have had to develop their skills.

If all the players and designers belong to the same "Elder race" and are equally immortal, experienced, and intelligent their is a natural match between challenge levels and the players will never get bored.

As for the actual games, they are actually probably beyond our ability to even understand, but generally in fiction playing god, meddling with primitives, power games with your peers, and various scholarly and artistic pursuits have been used. But that is probably because they are easy to use in stories and remind people of the old gods. I'd recommend leaving the details of actual games vague and focusing in the consequences such as elation, disappointment, rivalries, alliances, and so on.


DoubleDoubles answer mentions gambling. Gambling is addictive, which raises the point that while the Elder Race could no doubt resist and cure addictions, they would have no real reason to do so, if the alternative was boredom. As such they could have severe gambling or gaming addiction that would help them resist boredom. But from which they could recover almost instantly if required by circumstance.

If they have no real reason to resist addiction the same goes for compulsive behaviour. H.P.Lovecraft had a Great Race that was rather compulsive about the study of history and the events and people of different time periods. Similar obsessions could keep an individual or even entire race busy for a long time.

There is a simple cure to "having seen it all." You can simply forget some of what you have experienced. An Elder Race would have techniques that could put some parts of their memories in cold storage. They'd still have access to the memories, if they needed them, but in the mean time they could re-experience things for the first time as many times they wish. An ability to edit their own memories would also make them pretty good at infiltration. Infiltrating primitive societies could well be a favoured pursuit.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it "infiltrating" if everyone does it? That has been used in scifi, philosophies and religions. That we're all choosing to forget and "role play" a human life. Then we reincarnate and try again. $\endgroup$ – Zan Lynx Jan 15 '15 at 0:51
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Ideology. Factions within them would have widely different and incompatible beliefs.

For example one faction might believe that every other species should be advanced to their level (whether they like it or not) while another faction might believe in leaving people to advance on their own.

You would need to come up with an irreconcilable conflict that is sufficiently grey that you can see people coming to different conclusions in which side to support and in which compromise would be difficult or impossible to achieve.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thats almost exactly what I was going for, specially after reading @bowlturner comment about Star Trek. This idea that each civilization must advance on their own has its merit, but why? Really? No one is forced to help the others but, If some civilization became godlike, nothing stops them from helping. This idea of "make it on your own" has no merit. A simple justification could be that even though they became godlike they never managed to create life. So, all life is precious to them, or they just dont think people need to suffer when there is an alternative. $\endgroup$ – mcbecker Dec 18 '14 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Then strive to create life? IF they haven't done that, then they haven't seen/done all $\endgroup$ – Brian Robbins Dec 18 '14 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianRobbins That is a good point. And could be the splitting point for the members of that society. $\endgroup$ – mcbecker Dec 18 '14 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ but if there is such strong ideological differences, wouldn't they have caused trouble long time ago and lead to an unstable society? $\endgroup$ – Martine Votvik Jun 10 '16 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Clearly, a split between isolationist, and outgoing groups to the extreme could cause a rift. However, if they were not fundamentally opposed to each others view points they would just ignore the isolationist, and let them hide in caves or whatever. The Q continuum only reacted when Q started misbehaving out of shear boredom. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Jul 6 '16 at 4:16
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Are there any other peoples besides this race? perhaps they are trying to help raise other races. Maybe some favor one race over another and those 'child' races issues become their own problems? Perhaps they are just trying to understand the 'lower' races, they could very well have forgotten what it was like to be them.

One interesting idea, maybe they envy the 'child' races for not being bored of the world. They could be trying to find a way to die, or less suicidally simply erase their memory, to bring back the spark and interest that life use to offer. It would be interesting to have the 'perfect' race envy the 'lesser' ones.

Of course the idea that there is nothing to aspire to seems unrealistic. They can always fight to be the most important or most powerful of another of their race. They could be nurturing others (do they have CHILDREN to raise for instance?), they could still not know everything about the world after thousands of years, and be aspiring to find those last mysteries or memorable sights they haven't yet found. There is always love and friendship amongst themselves. They would have to be at a lethal level of depression to have no nothing their aspiring to. and as long as they aspire to something their have conflicts amongst themselves.

I would warn you to be very careful with any race like this. It's rather unrealistic that any race could find harmony and happiness for everyone no matter how long they live. Look at how horrible humans can be to each other, look how even two good people can have personality conflicts that lead to them being angry and fighting. Trying to depict a world where everyone has found happiness is very hard to make believable to an audience, and risks them being seen as a Mary Sue race if your not careful. There is even a trope about it I'm not saying this trope can't be done, but your going to have to show why they aren't perfect somehow.

The short version is to have this race either out of the character focus/spotlight most of the time, or go out of your way to show issues, conflicts, and limits to their perfection, show why they aren't mary sues. a bit of Screw You Elves or showing how Their lives really aren't that great would help.

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One thing is always different and changing - Individuals

Like-wise, anything complex involving something you could do with another individual is likely to be different depending on the individual you do it with. Even with the same person it would probably be different the next time you do it.


Games

The answer by @VilleNiemi covers this topic pretty well. Even if games between themselves were boring for whatever reason, something like gambling could always put new species of the universe in strange circumstances to see what would happen.


Relationships

Even being immortal, exploring personal relationships with every other member of the species may very well be a never-ending task. Even if its not, exploring relationships with all the other species of the universe certainly is.

"Can't judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes" taken to the extreme, nobody has ever been another person. Given that they could somehow accomplish following or "living" another person's life, experiencing the life of every individual in the universe could also take an infinite amount of time.


TL;DR: It is hard to "experience everything" when you really think about it.

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Boredom

Absolute power and absolute powerlessness are in their psychological effect indistinguishable. Power can only be measured comparatively, against a challenge. If there is no challenge, and each whim is instantly gratified, there is no struggle and no sense of achievment. Existential ennui, a form of absolute incurable boredom ensues. This engenders a sheer desperation that can result in voluntary surrender of power to one's lessers or even extreme and reckless risktaking, since "why not?" is a perfectly valid answer to such an entity.

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Iain M. Banks 'Culture' novels and Stephen C. Wright's "Golden Age" trilogy deal with these issues. In the former case, most civilizations mass-suicide and 'Sublime' to see what the next state of existence is like. The 'Culture' keeps itself engaged by interfering with other, less developed peoples. In the Golden Age, humanity is still constrained to the solar system, but one man dreams of extra-solar exploration...and is spurned, for it is feared that a competing civilization would guarantee the return of war.

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The search for something new would itself be a persuit that could never be completed. Imagine the main entertainment is exploring the possibility of something new, with different genres emerging such as physics, art, math, with different meanings of what "something" can be.

The relationship between things is combinationally explosive and will exceed the capacity of a universe of things to comtemplate. Finding links between known things can be popular entertainment.

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If the individuals are so advanced and have nothing more to aspire to, what could motivate a power struggle?

Sad to say even for super advanced immortals the same things that motivate power struggles among lesser beings like ourselves.

The control of resources, the competition between ideas & ideology, the frustration and complexity of social interaction, and the sheer perversity of human nature. You can add that fighting amongst themselves will give them something to do.

Actually the universe is rich enough in its complexity and diversity there will always be something to keep people busy and engaged. The fallacy is that immortals will be bored witless about having nothing to do. Some pest will always come along and upset things.

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Inventing and using a drug that for a short amount of time will erase their memories. They'd be using it for recreational purposes in order to feel things for the first time again.

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