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(This article is part of a series on realistic and interesting aliens)

The Boros civilization

The Boros are not a species but a civilization composed of many different member species. Most member species are relatively similar to each other and basically look like humans, with only minor differences. The reason for this is Auxilium, the AI created by the Sino. What makes the Boros interesting is that while their member species are all very similar to humans on a biological and psychological level, their political and cultural setup is radically different from any that exists on earth.

The defining characteristic of the Boros is the existence of a technology that allows for reliable mind-reading and truth-telling, as well as low-level mind-alteration. Note that mind-alteration is not equal to mind-control: It's not a force changing your behavior against your will, but something deeper that makes you want to change your behavior on your own. Mind-control is something you want to break free of. Mind-alteration is something you accept as a part of yourself.

I have explored this idea in a realistic context in this article before. In contrast, the Boros are a fictional civilization where I let my imagination run wild: If this technology actually existed, what would be its consequences? The goal here was to design a civilization that would be interesting to read and think about, while not becoming too unrealistic.

The Boros make use of mind-reading technology at all levels of their society, but much more so at higher levels than lower ones:

  • Every citizen has regular checkups where they are asked before a lie detector whether or not they have committed any crimes. The people administrating these tests are well-versed in identifying half-truths, misleading statements and evasion.

    As a result, all crime can be caught with certainty. It is impossible to get away with any kind of crime.

    The law is very liberal and follows the principle "Live and let live". The justice system focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Since the lie detectors are very effective, it is possible to recognize when criminals are genuinely repentant and when they are only faking it, so criminals are imprisoned for exactly as long as is needed to resocialize them.

  • The more important a person is to society, the stricter the requirements he has to undergo. A baker will be asked once a month if he has committed any crimes. A CEO has to face lie detection tests about all manner of topics at random and unpredictable intervals, testing for various risk factors like corruption and nepotism.

    This ensures that the leadership is kept honest and of sound moral character, while the majority of the population is not harassed too much with endless questioning.

  • The Boros are possibly the only civilization where the phrase "an honest politician" is not a contradiction in terms, but an actual job requirement.

  • If you want to reach the higher levels of leadership positions, you have to undergo not just mind-reading but even mind-alteration procedures to ensure that you genuinely have the best interests of society at heart and are not acting selfishly.

    Undergoing such modifications is voluntary, but a requirement if you want to hold a position of high influence.

    The very highest levels of Boros government are filled with people who have undergone extensive modifications. They are all incredibly nice and benevolent people, and know no greater pleasure than to help others and improve their society. They are nice, thoughtful and polite to the point of being creepy.

The Boros government has a separation of powers, but it is different from the one in contemporary earth societies. It is entirely possible for a Boros official to be judge, jury and executioner all in one. However, their government structure keeps the abuse of power to a minimum nonethless. The three most important parts of their government are the following ministries:

  • The Ministry of Trust (MoT)

    (I deliberately chose this name because it sounds creepy, since I created the Boros for a story and that makes it more entertaining.)

    The Ministry of Truth is in charge of the mind-reading and mind-altering technology and is arguably the most important of the ministries and the main pillar on which Boros society rests.

    Their job is to ensure that everyone in their society can trust everyone else. They achieve this by being paranoid and distrustful and constantly monitoring everyone. The MoT is paranoid on your behalf, so that you don't have to be.

    If you are a Boros citizen, you can trust that your boss is being fair, that the police is not corrupt, and that your city's administrator has your best interests at heart. You can trust in this simply because the Ministry of Trust would have found out if it was otherwise.

    The MoT is authorized to replace officials of other ministries as well as non-government workers if it finds them to be corrupt or otherwise unsuitable for their position. Similarly, it can take ownership of companies away from individuals who do not meet the requisite moral standards.

    At the same time, the MoT is absolutely forbidden from determining policies of its own. They can remove people from office who make stupid decisions, but they can not make any decisions of their own. In this way, a separation of powers is achieved.

    Despite this separation of powers, the possibility that a high-ranking official of the MoT could be corrupt is still one of the greatest internal dangers for Boros society, since it would be possible for a sufficiently evil and competent MoT official to ensure that other ministries are staffed with people who inofficially follow his orders.

    To deal with this problem, the MoT is deliberately designed to have a horribly bizantine and confusing power structure. Far from being a hierarchical organization with one person in charge, the MoT is structured in independent cells that have little to no contact with each other. The dynamics of which cell has precedence over which over when it there is a disagreement is constantly shifting according to partially randomized and heavily classified rules.

    Even if there was an entire group of well-coordinated evil geniuses trying to take control of the MoT, they still couldn't rule out the possibility that one of these randomized failsafes goes off and some random no-name official is given the authority to fire them if he finds them to be corrupt. The randomized failsafes also tend to err on the side of just firing or reassigning everybody involved who even looks like they might be up to no good.

    If the MoT had any actual responsibilities and policies to enact, such a chaotic mess of a structure would make their job impossible. But since the MoT's only responsibility is to make sure that everyone else is behaving properly, it is not much of a hindrance for them in practice.

  • The Ministry of Values (MoV)

    The Ministry of Values exists to measure what the populace wants.

    They compile questions both about important practical issues and about general preferences in life and they ask these questions of everyone. They also perform statistical analysis on this data and ask clarifying questions wherever necessary.

    The MoV ensures that it is always clear what exactly the population actually wants, independent of reporter bias or the personal preference of politicians.

    The MoV has a relatively flat structure and consists mostly of people who take polls and analysts for those polls.

  • The Ministry of Coordination

    The Ministry of Coordination is where most of the important decisions are made, where laws are created, and where policies are set.

    The MoC takes the compiled information about the population's desires from the Ministry of Values and comes up with policies and laws to optimally satisfy everybodies' values.

    The MoC has a large and hierarchical structure that reaches from the highest levels of decision-making, such as declaring alliances and wars with other nations, down to the administration of individual city blocks.

    The MoC has the most immediate political power, but since all of its officials are vetted by the MoT and they are required to follow the goals set by the MoV, there is very little room for any abuse of power.

Due to the efforts of the MoT and the MoC, Boros workers are highly cooperative, and therefore highly efficient. Due to the MoT, no time is wasted on internal politics, and due to the MoC, no time is wasted on inefficient competition. The result is a pseudo-communist utopia, since the three ministries together fix the problem that makes communism untenable in practice: People can't trust each other to work properly if there is no correlation between effort and payment.

The quality of life among the Boros is amazing. People barely have to work since the time they do spend working is so efficient, and crime is virtually unheard of.

However, the people of the Boros are also morally different from contemporary western societies in many ways:

  • There is no expectation of privacy. The proliferation of mind-reading machines has lead to a culture of radical honesty.

    To make this bearable, there is a strong taboo against gossiping and spreading rumors. People are educated in school about the fact that the human desire to gossip and spread rumors evolved in a tribal society and is not suitable for a society past the information age.

    People are educated about the fact that everyone has a strange tick or two, and one should not think poorly of someone else just because they are unusual, so long as their weirdness doesn't harm anyone.

  • Their society is stratified in terms of skills.

    People talk openly about some people being superior to others. Since the Boros are composed of multiple different species with vastly different backgrounds, this is objectively true.

    However, their culture sees no connection between being better and deserving to be treated better. If anything, being superior in ability means having an obligation to help those with lesser abilities.

  • Their society is stratified in terms of moral goodness.

    Some people are reluctant to undergo mind-alteration procedures, while others do so with great enthusiasm.

    For example, if an alteration increases your empathy, this makes you nicer and more likely to help others, but it also makes it more likely that other people could take advantage of your niceness and cause you pain.

    To deal with this problem, the Boros have special closed communities. Each of these communities has a set of mental alterations you must undergo as a condition to enter and live there.

    If you undergo an empathy-increasing mind-alteration, you are allowed to live in a community that is exclusively for people who have undergone such an alteration. This means that everyone in the community can be sure that everyone else is just as nice as they are, and they no longer need to worry that others will take advantage of their niceness.

    Moving to these communities is voluntary, but there is social pressure for people to undego at least the simple alterations that make people more social, less selfish and less likely to commit crimes.

    There is a hierarchy of communities with ever more strict entry requirements. The highest levels of these look like utopias straight out of children's cartoons, and everyone is so nice to each other that outsiders actually get seriously creeped out from watching them.

  • As a cultural norm, the Boros civilization is inclusive of all species, but not all creeds or cultures.

    If a species is naturally agressive, they will still accept individuals of that species who prove themselves exceptions from the rule.

    However, if a society espouses cultural values that conflict with the values of the Boros, they will require immigrants to give up on their culture before being allowed entry. For example, if a religion demands that its adherents kill infidels, then the Boros will require immigrants with such a religion to publicly swear an oath to their god in which they reject this aspect of their religion.

  • People are judged mostly based on their suitability for harmoniously living in a society, not their ability to contribute to it. This is possible because the Boros are already quite affluent as a society and can afford to value morals over pragmatism most of the time.

  • Boros culture considers children less valuable than well-adjusted adults.

    The reason behind this is simple: A well-adjusted adult is a sophont who has already learned how to live harmoniously with others and has proved that he can do so through his actions. A child, in contrast is a mostly instinct-driven creature that can be remarkably cruel.

    Bullying other children, for example, is an anti-social and disharmonious behavior that most children will naturally exhibit as part of their evolutionary programming. Only once a child has been educated properly and has given up on such anti-social behaviors is it considered as morally valuable as a well-adjusted adult.

  • The Boros have advanced technology for cloning and genetic modification and use both technologies freely.

    Where most contemporary western societies view eugenics as a great evil (mostly due to the precedent set by Hitler), Boros culture considers eugenics a good thing: After all, if you have the choice between children who are stupid and weak and die of disease and aging, and ones who are smart and strong and grow old without any trouble, why should you choose the first one? It is considered an act of cruelty not to screen your own genes to ensure the best possible life for your children.

    Almost all children in Boros society are vat-grown in cloning tanks, and many of them have heavily spliced genes that make them crossbreeds of multiple different species. (Note that this would not normally be biologically realistic, but because of the weirdness of the setting this species lives in, it is.)

  • The Boros are extremely sexually liberal, to the point where it freaks out a lot of other societies.

    The prevalence of cloning technology means that Boros citizens are usually sterile. Because of this, sex is completely unrelated to reproduction, which has important cultural and social implications.

    Most societies treat sex as the basis of reproduction, and the fact that it feels pleasant is basically a side-effect. The Boros, in contrast, view sex simply as an activity you can perform with others that feels good for everyone involved. There is no deeper meaning or cultural relevance attached to sex in Boros society.

    There is not even a connection between sex and romantic attraction. It is entirely possible for people to like each other romantically, but not find each other sexually attractive, or vice versa.

    The following situation, for example, is entirely normal: A woman is in a romantic relationship with a man, but the two of them don't have sex. The woman has sex with dozens of other people, but not her partner. Some of those others are male, some female, and some are even different species. Rather than getting angry about this, her partner would be more likely to ask for reviews about the others' sexual skills, so he knows which of them are worth seeking out for himself.

    From the point of view of almost all contemporary earth cultures, the Boros are incredibly perverted. From their point of view, everyone else is just being weirdly irrational about a simple, pleasant activity.

The Boros are a powerful player on the galactic stage.

Their foreign policy can be summarized as "Everyone is going to get along. Or else."

The same cultural focus on radical honesty that makes their administrators so efficient unfortunately also makes them very bad at dealing with foreign politicians, who have far more practice at manipulation and subterfuge. To deal with this problem, the Boros have a dedicated "diplomatic corp" which is essentially a group of professional sociopaths. All members of this organization are specifically trained to be as charismatic and manipulative as possible.

The diplomatic corp does not make decisions for the government, but acts as a buffer to shield the naive and friendly administrators from manipulation by other nations. The fact that their diplomatic corps is quite scary and causes foreign politicians to be on their best behavior is a welcome side effect.

The Boros care a great deal about their reputation. Due to the effectiveness of the MoT and MoC in coordinating their people, they frequently establish policies that other species can rely upon as absolutely inviolable. When a normal nation makes a promise, the intergalactic community considers that promise trustworthy at most until their current leadership is replaced. When the Boros make a promise, it is well-known that they will stick to that promise no matter what happens. This is sometimes expensive for the Boros, but it also means that any threat or promise they make is treated with the utmost seriousness by other species.

The Boros prefer peaceful assimilation over conquest. Consequently, they have a relatively small military. However, to make up for this deficit, they have a large number of very well trained assassins. This follows from the simple observation that politicians of foreign nations are much more concerned about losing their own lifes than about losing a few million of their soldiers, who they don't personally know or care about.

While their armies are not large enough to capture and hold enemy planets, or even defend their own against a sustained assault, few civilizations are mad enough to attack the Boros. Whenever someone does attack them, it is usually a matter of days before the leadership of the agressor begins dying to constant assassinations. The surviving politicians quickly sue for peace in order to escape the same fate.