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In my current setting, one of the main dominant species' is the Golem, former automatons made of assorted materials who gained sentience through some kind of life-giving explosion. As such, though they operate like any other sentient species, they can feel no pain and cannot die from any cause (i.e. disease, bloodloss, poison, old age, etc.) short of being blown to fragments.

So - my question is, how would this fact affect their mindsets? Would they think significantly differently from humans or other fleshy species'?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do they eat (Biological territoriality is often the result of competition for food)? Do they reproduce? Do they communicate with each other and with other species? $\endgroup$ – tls Jan 15 '15 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @tls They do not eat, but they can communicate with others. In terms of reproduction, they did eventually figure out how to make other Golems. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 15 '15 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ Do young Golems experience sibling rivalry? Might be a basis for feeling jealousy. I don't really think there will be a competition for mates since incompatible couples would probably choose to amicably separate instead of being grumpy at each other for eternity, which eliminates certain crimes of passion. $\endgroup$ – tls Jan 15 '15 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ Just to point it out...Pain is actually useful, it lets you know when your body is being damaged...if you are cutting food and the knife goes through your finger instead, the pain impulse will stop you from cutting fully through your finger...without pain you wouldn't notice you chopped off your own finger until you see the blood. Think of a dentist trip that left your mouth numb...pain lets you know when you are chewing on the inside of your cheek, with a numb mouth, chomping on the inside of your cheeks is quite the issue. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Jan 15 '15 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Building on @Twelfth's answer, there have been plenty of humans who do not feel pain (through various disorders), and they usually don't live very long. Pain is essentially nothing more than a signal from your body telling you something is wrong. It seems to me that these Golems in not feeling pain have a handicap compared to other beings. $\endgroup$ – Peter Jan 15 '15 at 19:39
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Pain

In humans (and many other creatures as well), pain is tied very strongly with survival instincts, and with learning. If a baby (or a lab rat) touches something hot, that experience is burned into their memory because of the association with pain. Without pain to warn of danger, children would be prone to damaging or even destroying themselves. Young Golems would have to be protected to be able to survive long enough to learn how not to damage themselves, since pain would not be their tutor.

Cleanliness is a part of this, as well. Humans have learned that dirty things can hold disease; without disease, there isn't any reason to wash your hands, bathe, or otherwise clean yourself up. Without the pain of illness, Golems wouldn't see the point in cleaning themselves until their sight is obscured or they can otherwise no longer function.

Survival

Survival is the basis for most of human society; humans working together have a much greater chance of living another year than humans working separately. Without death by exposure or starvation to band together a race, there is a large chance that the Golems will be solitary, rather than building societies. Without society, laws, culture, customs, and so on would only rarely be formed.

War and Crime

War is often a product of survival; one people group wants what another people group has, to ensure that they are stronger and thus have a higher chance of survival, so they go to war. Without any basic needs, there are very few reasons for a Golem to go to war, outside of facing total destruction. Similarly, crime can be a result of a survival need. Needing food (or other artificial needs, like drugs) can cause normally upstanding citizens to do terrible things, but without ever having those needs, those crimes would be nonexistent.

Crime can also be a result of thrill-seeking: doing something dangerous or forbidden for an adrenaline high, or other pleasure. A race without pain would have no need for adrenaline, and thus thrill seeking behavior would never surface; the only drive for crime would be some sort of drugs, and then only if they existed. The Golems would probably not invent drugs themselves, and even if they did, the drugs would probably be freely available.

Comfort

Even the richest people feel pain, to some degree or another. Comfort is dictated by feeling the least amount of pain possible. It may not hurt much to stand up and get the TV remote, but it does cause a tiny amount of pain. Without pain to provide a contrast, comfort would have no meaning to a Golem. Why buy a plush chair, when a cheap box provides the same amount of support? Why invest in an expensive vehicle, when you can walk to work?

Time

Humans are influenced by time quite a bit. Due to sleep needs, a 24-hour day makes perfect sense. Because of metabolisms, meals happen at regular intervals throughout the day. Due to changing seasons, summer and winter clothing are exchanged, and festivals take place to mark time passing. As years pass, children age into adults, adults become elderly, and the elderly die. We've invented many sayings about time - time is fleeting, time flies, time is money. If we don't do anything for a long period of time, we get bored.

However, without the need for sleep, or food, or even changing clothing, there is little difference between night and day apart from the amount of light. Seasons hold very little meaning; even planting seasons don't matter, since there is no reason to plant anything. Golems wouldn't get sick or feel overworked from working a 24-hour day. They wouldn't get bored, because not doing anything doesn't impact them at all. Since Golems don't age, they would never worry about the future; this year will be much like next year.

Motivations

So what would motivate a Golem? Without the most basic human survival instincts, the Golems would be dramatically different from humans, and indeed most creatures. Without a need to sleep, eat, or worry about their own survival, time would have very little meaning to them; apart from the sun providing light, day and night would be exactly the same, and since they will live forever, barring destruction, they won't care if something takes a long time. Days and weeks take just as long as years or decades. Even family would hold no meaning, since they are created, rather than birthed. Golems won't form emotional bonds well, if at all, since there is no reason to do so.

Instead, Golems would be motivated by internal desires. They would be very single-minded, working on tasks non-stop for eons, if need be. They would most likely take pleasure in creating things, as they themselves were created; however, they would view everything around them as temporary. They would be able to follow human laws, but they wouldn't understand why they existed. Golem law would consist of one rule: Do Not Destroy. Since that's the only way Golems could be damaged, it stands to reason it would be very important. Much of human desire would be foreign to them, especially the need for urgency. To humans, they would seem slow, inefficient, and even stupid or lazy, and no amount of leverage could make them move faster or change course. To Golems, humans would be completely transient; why even bother learning someone's name, if they're going to be dead in the next hundred years?

If they were created with built-in motivation, they will likely continue to follow that motivation. Otherwise, they will find something that interests them, and follow that path for eons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ooh, this is the sort of answer I was looking for! Thanks a bunch! $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 16 '15 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ "Without the pain of illness, Golems wouldn't see the point in cleaning themselves until their sight is obscured or they can otherwise no longer function" Doesn't make much sense, sorry. Ok they do not wash themselves because they cannot fell ill, but if they are so dirty they can't see, why shouldn't they themselves wash even then? "Oh no I can't see anymore, but since I'm immune to illness, I refuse to clean my obscured eyes" umh… $\endgroup$ – o0'. Mar 24 '15 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ "Until" - the golems wouldn't see the point of cleaning themselves until the grime physically impaired them. Then they would clean themselves. $\endgroup$ – ArmanX Mar 24 '15 at 14:08
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The superman syndrome. I always thought it was unrealistic that Kal-El was so sensitive to human frailty given his invulnerability. Its like expecting super smart people to understand the rest of us. It's out of character.

Your golems would probably interact with each other, and by extension with other races, with a physical insensativity to harm. In their world, damage is an absolute. Either it kill them totally and permanently, or it is no big deal. So they would have little understanding of bravery (facing potential harm yet surviving), but a very clear understanding of martyrdom (facing potential destruction and not surviving).
Similarly, they would not understand ageing or illness. Their concept of health would include only two values, alive and not. Empathy would be a complete mystery to them.

Most significantly absent in these people would be the ever present fear which fuels our survival instinct. Death would be a rarity to them as most of the normal causes are impotent against them. Small groups of Golems could exist in which only the very oldest have even heard of death and none of them has ever experienced a loved one dying. So all death-fear activities would be foreign to them.

No religion

No medicine or medical care

No hunger, at least not the dangerous kind

No retirement planning or hoarder mentality

No thrill-seeking sports

Probably a lot of boredom

Your Golem might be the kindest, most generous people in the land, but if they are then it will be a kindness born out of the living world, out of tradition or the desire for social recognition praise. It won't be an attempt to bribe the fates and thus avoid eventual damnation, as it often is with more mortal species.

Anne Rice's works focusing on her immortal vampires might be a good research source for understanding your golems. Bored and yet terrified of falling out of step with societal progress, her vampires are beautiful explorations of the negative side of eternal youth. Their self-serving honesty is almost noble in the face of the life unending.

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  • $\begingroup$ I am a bit sceptical about that 'no empathy' bit. Is the root of empathy really (and exclusivly) pain or rather an evolutionary trait of sentinent lifeforms who live in groups and need to understand each other? $\endgroup$ – user6415 Jan 15 '15 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ I think they would still like thrill-seeking sports. They just wont have a fear of getting injured from them, but would still enjoy other aspects. $\endgroup$ – Antony D'Andrea Jan 15 '15 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @AntonyD'Andrea except thrill seekers kick on the adrenalin rush, which is a result of the human body to avoid pain/damage $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Jan 15 '15 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the invulnerability is caused by a similar reaction $\endgroup$ – Antony D'Andrea Jan 15 '15 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ @openend it could certainly be argued that empathy is an evolutionary trait of social life forms ( in the same way that social animals are much easier for us to live with ) but that doesn't invalidate this part of the answer- after all, where would evolutionary traits come from in species that doesn't die? $\endgroup$ – glenatron Jan 15 '15 at 11:42
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Have to change this anwer again, because I just saw they were created.

As Creations, I would imagine that their properties now depend on the intentions of their creators. An AI made to serve Humans, which then gained sentinence will (presumably) still use the same thought processes or conceptions about reality as when originally created, plus a the mysterious essence of 'sentinece', which at this point can only be speculated about.

The following questions seem important to me:

  • To what purpose where they created? Former mechanical robots could now have a mechanistical worldview and so on.

  • What happened to their creators, do they still exist, what about their relationship ? That the golems are really powerful right now doenst imply that their conception of their makers has changed automatically.

  • Perhaps even more important, what is the nature of the 'live-giving-explosion'? If this 'pulse' gives Life, there has to be a concept of life within the pulse (I assume). This would have a deep impact of the nature of its awakended automatons.

    • If you are looking for changes in perception/mindsets caused by their immutable nature, I'd say none. No offspring, no new generations, their nature stays the same. They just do 'exist' like that vampires.
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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, they were created by humans, who are still around. As for the concept of life within the pulse, there isn't one really - all who were affected by it just felt like the world suddenly got more complicated. I can get behind the idea that they would still be caught in some form of psychological inertia though. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 15 '15 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it's your work, but If I was you, I would try to brainstorm and specify 'the world suddenly got more complicated' By thinking about what exactly the pulse gave to them, you can model their conception. Is this an AI-thingie? There are many threads about AI here on this site. An AI would differ in how I imagine your golem, as an AI would (perhaps) divide it perception of self (software) from the hardware, while the golem (as a fantasy-golem) would call his body 'his'. $\endgroup$ – user6415 Jan 15 '15 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ [Goes on rambling] If the pulse gives life to inanimate objects, and the golems where of these kind, then I would imagine them to just react to anything near them, but no plan or 'thought' about their self. If they gained sentinece from the pulse (whatever this really is), then the sentinence is what you need to specify. $\endgroup$ – user6415 Jan 15 '15 at 16:52

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