I'm working on building a world in a fantasy setting that exists basically as a 'hollow earth'. This world is earth sized and earthlike, just hollow with a mini-sun in the center, and humans live on the inside. I believe this is called a 'Concave Hollow Earth'. The reason all this manages to 'work' is unrelated.

For the purposes of this question, the atmosphere of this world is as described in the answer for this somewhat related question, under the 'Thin Atmosphere' heading.

When trying to fathom how different human societies would be if they developed on such a world, one major impacting factor came to mind. At any point in time a large portion of the rest of the world is somewhat visible.

I surmise that this would make much easier to discover the size and scope of the 'surface' world, by orders of magnitude over a traditional planet. Mapping out the world would also likely be a far easier task. More importantly, however, I realized that anyone with access to a reasonably powerful telescope now had access to a global surveillance tool, able to surveil the majority of the rest of the world, save for their closest neighbors.

According to Wikipedia, the earliest telescopes were created and used in the early 1600s.

What would some of the societal impacts be of humans having such ability so early on in their development?

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    $\begingroup$ Questions about the societal impacts of a technology are often closed as primarily opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, unfortunate. Due to the nature of the question it's hard to require the answer be linked to anything empirical. When trying to answer it myself I considered trying to draw parallels to the societal impact of the advent of satellite surveillance, and see if anything might still stick in the context... Any way to salvage this? Or is this question likely doomed to be closed? $\endgroup$
    – Mori
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ It's an interesting concept and question and I would say considering it is well structured it is borderline on/off topic (I could be convinced either way). I might suggest narrowing the scope of societal somehow. Maybe, "How does this impact policing" or "What are the impacts to warfare when you can see armies coming..." There are options which now makes me think it is just a little bit too broad. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ The opacy of the atmosphere, which depends greatly upon water content, is very important. A mini-sun means no cold poles, so the ground may be covered by even coat of semi-topical haze that will be durned hard to see through for any useful distance on many days. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon may be the thought experiment that has received the most thorough consideration. Specifically, Michel Foucault's conversation about the panopticon in Discipline and Punish is probably most relevant here. A partial intro:

Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. 2

Specifically, Foucault wants to say that the panopticon removes the need for a specific individual or entity to hold power (e.g. be on the other end of the panopticon to exact punishment etc.) - instead, the individual being observed takes responsibility for enacting that power on themselves, by e.g. controlling their own behavior out of fear over the potential of being observed.

This mode of social control is generally most associated with contemporary capitalism, so one way to think about this might be - what would it look like if contemporary panopticon-like modes of social control had been at play since the 1600's? How would 1600's-era people explain and internalize panopticon-like control (who do they imagine is watching, what do they imagine will happen)?

I can't provide more links in this reply but - Foucault's panopticon discussion should provide a fairly substantial jumping off point to a lot of theoretical and empirical discussion, both contemporary and historical. Foucault's D&P by itself is a good resource on the history of prisons / punishment / social control, but there is an unending amount of secondary writing around this topic that should be very easy to find.

  • $\begingroup$ I think a critical part of panopticon is enforcement, and in this set up the people you could see would be only people you have no hope of controlling. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Foucault's point about the panopticon, I think, is that once you have a system where individuals believe every action is observed and could potentially be punished, then you no longer need to have anyone actually-observing, nor any actual-punishment, in order for power to be effective. It's interesting in the hollow earth scenario because you could imagine a globe full people fearful of being watched by imaginary opponents on the other side, based on some long-ago or entirely mythic confrontation or trauma. $\endgroup$
    – scztt
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ This comes back to the psychology of moral behaviour. People are more moral when they are being watched. This is usually attributed to the existence of deities who by observing mere mortals to keep them behaving morally. Basically you're right people do internalize this behaviours, so it acts as social control. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 11:58

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