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In my fictional world, magic is rampant. One branch of magic focuses specifically on creating artificial life based on the blueprints of extant beings. Though it may be 'artificial', even a team of medically trained professionals could not tell the difference between a naturally birthed creature (any creature) and a magically concocted one. All you need is the instructions, the magical components ('ingredients' you collect from killing beings), and sufficient training and attunement to this branch of magic.

My question is this: what does this do to the perceived value of life?

I'm not asking about the greedy sorts that would do anything for a buck. Nor am I asking about the pacifist types that think every bear and treant just needs a hug. I mean the average Joe.

If you learn that killing can bring about life (not to mention the meat, the pelts, the alchemical ingredients, and the obvious income that comes from all of this), is killing viewed the way we view it today?

Edit:

The only limitation is that you cannot imbue them with personalities or memories. So you aren't 'bringing people back from the dead', you are creating new life from scratch.

When a being is created, they are 'born'. So a cat created would be a day old kitten, a dog created would be a day old puppy, etc. The natural instincts are the same, the learning curves are the same, the 'preprogrammed' reactions are all identical, as if they were just birthed naturally.

Let me give a few examples of why I believe life would be less valued.

A woman is declared barren (she cannot get pregnant, or cannot bring a pregnancy to term and therefore live birth). Her husband comforts her by going to a local mage and crafting a child for them to raise as their own.

A man kills his neighbours child (accident or not, it's irrelevant). The case is brought to a judge, and the man offers to have a new child crafted to replace the child already lost.

A goat farmer is getting sick and tired of that wolf pack always attacking his herd. So he takes the ingredients from the leftover goats to the mage and has him create a pack of guard dogs he can raise. He teaches the dogs to fight off anything that comes near his goats, other than the farmer, of course.

Is life valued as it was? Or is a life worth only the ingredients needed to create a new one?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is there a relation between the creature summoned/created and the killed creature for ingredients? LIke do I need to kill people to bring forth magic people or can I also use goat parts? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 22 '17 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Mormacil No difference. Kill enough goats and you can create a dragon. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 22 '17 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ By saying "kill enough goats and you can create a dragon" has the magic not already placed a value on the life of a goat compared to the life of a dragon? (and by extension all other life) $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Mar 22 '17 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ Can you take the parts of your dead children and make living children? I think a lot of angry parents would end up beating their kids to death if they could get a new, potentially less disobedient ones. Same with subjects, slaves, grand viziers....yeah, suffice to say your world does not value life, and its a horrible place to be. There is a reason even D&D type games don't let you create life. It is not compatible with anything like our society or morality. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 22 '17 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf For someone that makes so many good points, you seem to lack in the listening department. I acknowledge that after birth they are exactly the same, I do not argue otherwise. The premise of my question (a fraction of the totality that is the theory and mythos behind my story) focuses on the difference (or lack thereof) in the value of life if it can be created. This isn't an opportunity for you to show me how orphans have value, or that rescue dogs have value. That is another bag of cats altogether. And you ignore the plausible lack of registration for crafted kids. No trail, no hope. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 25 '17 at 0:35
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All you need is the instructions, the magical components ('ingredients' you collect from killing beings), and sufficient training and attunement to this branch of magic.

I am quoting this because this implies that more than one thing has to die in order to "create" new life. It really depends on what those things are that have to die. If people must die to "create" new people, then naturally, life is valued.

And in this situation:

A man kills his neighbours child (accident or no, it's irrelevant). The case is brought to a judge, and the man offers to have a new child crafted to replace the child already lost.

Just wondering how many children have to die in order to do this...the cost becomes too great--can pigs die instead? If we are talking value, you may have to lay out exactly what the exchange rate is on a goat vs a person...

If you learn that killing can bring about life (not to mention the meat, the pelts, the alchemical ingredients, and the obvious income that comes from all of this), is killing viewed the way we view it today?

First there doesn't seem to be a 1=1 equivalent. That is, it doesn't sound as though you can create a baby human from 1 dead human.

Second, you underestimate the cost of a newborn, the resources it takes to raise one, and the time, almost regardless of the species.

Your question is all encompassing, but I believe I have answered for every species, really for example--if a horse dies and you get a baby horse, you gotta wait years for the colt to grow up--in the meantime, you gotta feed it for two years before it can take to harness and pull the same load.

Third consider the power of experience and the accumulated knowledge gained over a lifetime. You ask whether this would make life worthless, but you aren't considering a person's value as an individual because of what they have LEARNED over a lifetime. That's not something a newborn can replace.

I mean, think about your mother, father, husband, wife or significant other-- someone in your life that's important to you. How would you feel if they were killed and then someone handed you a baby and said "here's a replacement!" Not going to work. Because it's not the same thing.

Mainly because, as you say

you cannot imbue them with personalities or memories. So you aren't 'bringing people back from the dead', you are creating new life from scratch.

Lastly, life is not cheap for one more reason: all the steps needed in order to do it.

You say:

All you need is the instructions, the magical components ('ingredients' you collect from killing beings), and sufficient training and attunement to this branch of magic.

I would think that anyone with the instructions is unlikely to spread them far and wide. The power over life--that's a serious thing that people will pay dear for. And even if not, it could create an imbalance in nature (ie. people would kill entire species just to get the life force needed) and I am certain an organization would spring up to regulate this practice.

Second you have to be trained--and I assume that takes years. If it does, it will be just like any other specialized field that takes a long session of schooling (lawyers and doctors don't come cheap because they have to pay back all those student loans...)

Third, you imply that not only to you need the instructions & training, you also must have an affinity for this type of magic, which further narrows the pool of people who can do this. Unless attunement is an actual process rather than what I am taking it to mean--which is that the person is naturally attuned to the type of magic.

I believe that it would be a strange world, yes, but the life of a human would not have no value, or even less value in this case.

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    $\begingroup$ I love your take on this. Yes, you do hit a number of things I will need to take into account. Thank you for that. A side note, I have not underestimated anything, though my question doesn't seem to note that. I'm just trying to assess how life would be viewed in a world where killing is far more common and profitable. (this from a pacifist, btw) $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 23 '17 at 2:08
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(Note: This answer primarily argues about human lives. I'm leaving off arguments for non-sapient or less-sapient beings, because that's a massive can of worms, worth at least a two-book deal and long-term fame/infamy in ethics.)

As pointed out in another answer, each life would still be valuable due to the resources spent in the raising of said being. So the value of the individual life does not change much, because the born being will still be unique, as far as their "blueprint" prepared them to deal with things as they grow and learn.

One potential application in which the value of lives would change is in the application as weapons or resources.

For example, if an entity has shown exceptional physical characteristics that are somewhat independent of his nutrturing (ex. builds up muscle mass more easily than his peers), then this entity's "blueprint" becomes valuable for anyone who wants muscle power as a resource. Of course, this value is not realized instantly, but suits long-term goals.

As an example: using the blueprints of particularly talented individuals, militaristic states will set up cloning and training programs to make an army of soldiers that are stronger / faster / use psionics / what have you. These states cannot rely on cloning magic to answer an immediate need because the clones will still need to be raised and trained, but over decades and even centuries, such kingdoms could become more powerful.

In this way, an individual's life could become more valuable if they possessed some sort of natural talent -- or more precisely, their blueprint becomes more valuable than your average-Joe-blueprint. This is because, despite nurture being a defining process for all beings, instances created using this blueprint may be more likely to possess certain desirable traits that can be made to manifest through regimented nurturing processes. Think of how breeders value champion dogs or horses.

However, the value of the lives of the individuals born as part of the weaponization process may be worth less than the original because they may not manifest all the desirable traits of the original, or manifest undesirable traits, and so on.

Maybe the original was patriotic due to his upbringing, but actually had an inherent trait of distrust towards authority (that was overpowered by a life of excellent mentors [cue biographical montage]). But the same cannot be said of a regiment of these clones, who can not experience life as he did; as a result, you could end up with a squad of anti-establishmentarian strongmen who trust each other (due to similarities in appearance and thinking) much more than their administrators -- sounds more like a liability than an asset.

But then again, this discounts the possibility that a clone would become more valuable than the original due to a difference in their life that improved the manifestation of some desirable trait. For example, the original was strong and loyal, but was somewhat slow on his feet due to a childhood injury. A clone could be similarly strong, loyal if taught in a manner that suits his proclivities, and fast because they never had that accident.

Which brings us to what? Blueprints do not guarantee that traits will manifest, especially those that require some non-mechanical nurturing component. Each clone still needs resources, and some possibly inscrutable nurturing processes to manifest traits.

Your world takes away value from guaranteed physical traits, and shifts the value towards the nurturing component, as far as sapient clones are concerned. In a way, an individual's life becomes more valuable, because without a way to completely reproduce the life-history of the original, each clone will be different from the original, and even potentially greater than the original.

If you cannot guarantee that a clone will behave as the original, then the clone is essentially a different person. If that clone is a different person, then the value of their life can only be judged by that which we afford all other people. As such, they may be better or worse than others from some absolute perspective (if there is such a thing), but we would be judging them like we judge all other people.

In a way, the life of each sapient becomes more valuable because the world realizes that it is not the physical body that defines the value of life, but the unique life-history of that body and the consciousness that drives it.

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The value of life would hardly change at all, though the concept of an endangered species would shift.

Right now there's a lot of debate over the value at the start of a life (in particular, the life of an unborn child). However, when you really get down to brass tacks, that argument makes up an utterly tiny fraction of the discussion of the value of a life.

What has magic removed? For women with a child, it's removed 9 months plus a few hours of agony. That's not much when compared with the 18 years that mother (and hopefully father) is going to put into raising the child. For animals, the magic of birth is pretty much gone for most people anyway. Most people who want a cat or a dog go to the store where baby animals have magically been created for them. Few actually go out and find animals to mate when they want one. The farm industry, producer of meat, has long since taken the magic out of birth. For them, this would be nothing more than one more way to make a profit, assuming it's cheaper than birthing the animals in the usual fashion.

There are a few places which might change. The first is endangered animals. Right now, as far as modern science is concerned, the "magical components" are all in the DNA. This magic would open up another option. In particular, I can see this having a massive effect on the Panda industry. Pandas are notoriously difficult to mate in captivity, so the ability to create one would be incredibly valuable.

The other place that could change is vegetarianism or veganism, but I have a feeling that they would not change. Most of the arguments I hear for those lifestyles have nothing to do with whether the creature is birthed. It's either about the pain it goes through being harvested, or its about the resources it consumed during its life, or any other facet of life besides being born.

There might be an interesting little side track to consider regarding gender. Historically it's been said that females could survive without males, for all they would really need is their sperm. With your magic, it may also be true that males could survive without females. That could upset the balance between the genders, though in what way is probably the subject of a book, not a StackExchange answer.

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    $\begingroup$ AlexDarkshine will be so happy about that last paragraph. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 22 '17 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion I may have just recently come from the metadiscussion on that, fresh in my mind ;-) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion ouch. just ouch. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 23 '17 at 1:48
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My thought is that it has less negative impact on the value of life than positive impact on the value of corpses. (Presuming that the ingredients are just flesh, and don't have to be sacrificed for the specific purpose of your I'm gonna call it clonomancy.

That being said, you'd probably see animals traded in for fresh versions as soon as they were no longer helpful. Or, if it's a weight-based flesh exchange, you could slaughter old adult animals to create several babies.

For humans, I think you'd see a different expectation for what happens to the body. I don't necessarily see more people being killed for their ingredients, but I do see it becoming an expectation that burning or burying those ingredients is a waste.

Although, it seems like there could be a path to devaluing life from there. Any society has the potential to devalue the old and permanently infirm, this society could argue that they're better remade as spare parts for new humans. And orphans could be 'recycled' so parents could have a child they 'made.'

And building off of that, depending on how predictable the process is and how much it costs, parents could swap through kids a few times before being satisfied. When parents give birth, there'a all sorts of hormones kicking in to make them love the child. In this method, they don't happen.

So yeah, I totally see a path to what you're looking for, but I do think it starts by increasing the value of the body until it's worth more than the life of the being inside it.

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