If these words are reaching your brain, you might well be wondering: Why do I have a brain, anyway?
I mean, if you’re reading this, you’re potentially under the sway of an evil Necromancer of extraordinary power and frighteningly unknown ability (that’s me, I should note. Not to be immodest or anything.)
And if one has sufficiently advanced magic/technology/both/whatever to perform assorted mighty (and, obviously, monstrous) deeds, why can’t one simply mind-control everyone?
So if I want to take over the world…
…why not convert everyone’s brains to, if not guacamole, perhaps those weird lumps of meat which South Jerseyans and a few Pennsylvanians call “scrapple”? Why not overpower your tiny minds with my own vast one?
(I know what you’re thinking: you don’t have a tiny little mind. And please, allow me to be the first to pat you on the head, get you a cookie, and tell you, “Of course you don’t, darling. Of course you don’t.”)
Let’s assume there isn’t some sort of logistical answer. Although there certainly might be; if one were an absolutely omnipotent being, one would hardly need to hold philosophical discussions with you; one would simply say: “AND NOW, ALL UNDERSTAND; BEHOLD, IT IS DONE. NEXT, LET THERE BE A COLD BEER IN THE FRIDGE. ON SECOND THOUGHT, MAKE IT TWELVE.”
But this isn’t about limitations of ability. It’s about power, ambition, and strategy.
(If these things surprise you, then you probably haven’t read much of my other work. Welcome! Come on in! Pull up a flaming chair with a number of unnecessary spikes on it, and come enjoy my wisdom.)
Here’s the deal:
The thoughtless do not innovate well. They do not create well. Even if your only concern is your own short-term personal benefit—
(and please, if you’re a rival, let that be exactly what you want. If I have to have opponents, I’ll take stupid, greedy ones over thoughtful, crafty ones any day of the week. Why do you think my main opposition comes from Adventurers, Superheroes, Mysterious Aged Wizards Who Claim To Know Almost Everything And Yet Are Supremely Unhelpful, and Random Kids Who Believe Their Horoscopes Mean They’re Entitled To My Throne?)
—even if all you care about is a quick pump-and-dump of your country (which is foolish; countries are hard to acquire; but I digress)—
The numbers just doesn’t work out.
A ruler could take the most disproportionate share of wealth from a nation, could selfishly bleed it dry for her own short-term interests, and the math still works out the same: a less-wealthy realm will give you back less return. I suppose that if you just want to rob the treasury and run, you’ll get paid, if you escape; but that’s not rulership, that’s just a heist. Are you Master of a Domain, or are you just a bank robber? Don’t get me wrong; some of my best friends are bank robbers, but they’re hardly Imperial material.
In general, even if you’ve got a resource-rich land that you’re strip-mining (and again: strip-mining is a good short-term solution if you want to get-rich-quick; but it’s otherwise fairly foolish to essentially lay waste to your own Realm to get at a small amount of precious commodities. Don’t you have enough opponents out there who’ll be perfectly happy to wreck your stuff for you; why do the work for them.
Mind-control? Listen, if you’re dealing with humans, beings whose muscles can only grow so big, who quickly reach a point of diminishing returns in calories-converted-to-energy; and thereby, diminishing returns in useful work—if that’s your basic resource, then removing the utility of the brain diminishes the value of the goods. Wealth is originated through innovation; through improvements in utility and capability; through better ideas, implemented with more efficacy. You might generate a bigger crop by having more bodies doing the labor, but you need to sustain those bodies. Which uses more crops and food. Which means you’re just producing more to spend more.
Oh, we’ve all heard tell of ruthless overlords who work the peasants to death to get value out of them. That’s propaganda. I put those ideas out there. I’m hoping a bunch of other idiots will think this is a good idea, and then they’ll destroy their own populace, and I’ll be able to move in and take over everything.
And all that’s assuming you’ve no interest in your subjects whatsoever. In which case, are you sure you actually want to rule humans? I mean, you’ve presumably got the resources and wealth to take off for a deserted, lush tropical island, or a base on the Moon, or some other place where you can carry out your hobbies and researches in vast comfort, and without the disturbance of idiots sometimes breaking into your stuff to see if they can mess up your life because of the whole “hateful monster scourge of Humanity” thing. I mean, mind-control has its assorted pleasures, but if you’re solipsistic enough to want a whole world where nobody has individual will, despite the economic unfeasibility and the likelihood that it will attract a bunch of idiots in outlandish armor who are determined to protect the world from you—
…if that’s your deal, have you considered just hooking your brain up to a fantasy machine? You’ll get the same gratification, and you can set it to make sure that the ‘heroes’ will always lose. You won’t get much done, but trust me, it’s a lot more enjoyable than trying to keep a world economy running when there’s only one being on the planet who cares about anything ever getting done, and you have to do all the thinking for 7 billion people. Sounds like fun in theory, could be good for a couple of hours as a party trick, but as a general way to run the world? It’s no damn fun at all.
Do try it.
My army of motivated, well-fed, high-morale Creatures of Darkness would just love to stop by your world, eat everyone, and then hand me your crown in a nice silken pillow.
I say, “your crown” and not “your head”, because I might want to wear your crown, but I would not want to eat your brain; what if terminal laziness is contagious?
(I’m not so sure that it’s our fault. I’m not sure I trust those who say that the world is in the process of unmaking itself. But that’s a longer story.)
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.