Afternoon Inquisition

AI: If I Could Have A Super Power

I am not going to even try and pretend that I am not completely brain dead today.

I just got back from Dragon*Con in Atlanta and it was AWESOME! It was seriously the most fun I have had at a convention. Ever.

I am now a mushy pile of exhaustion and happy and so today’s AI is going to be a simple and fun exercise in, what if.

I promise next week I will stimulate all your brains with a deep and challenging discussion on how we can make the world a better place. But for now, let’s take a leisurely walk down fantasy lane while I recuperate, rehydrate and dry-clean my Angry Bird hat.

PS: Rebecca might be the most bad-ass elf ever to pick up a sword.

PSS: This photo is definitive proof that Phil Plait is one of the few stable planets at Dragon*Con. (photo credit: Taylor Proctor)

Today’s question:

I saw people cosplaying as pretty much every single superhero character this weekend. And I am wondering, if you could pick any one particular superpower to have for REALS what would you choose? Would you pick the power to read minds or super strength? Would you pick an ability to travel through time or the power of flight? Or something else entirely? Then, would you use your powers for good or is all superpower ultimately corruptible?

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I’d like the power to make anyone’s/everyone’s nose glow when they know they are lying. I probably would abuse a power like invincibility if I got it. This seems safe enough.

  2. I quite like the response Rich Hall gave when asked what super power he’d like on an episode of QI – the ability to see just a few seconds into the future, so you could say “bless you” right before someone sneezed. So that for me as I guess you could also use it for some good.

    1. Someone told me to have a “blessed flight” at the airport. Did that mean I was supposed to break a bottle of champagne on the nose of the airplane? I get confused by these sorts of things.

  3. I like the lie detector and see 2 seconds into the future suggestions. Those are good.

    I’ve given some thought to this and, for “serious” super powers, I’ve settled on Telekinesis. It’s extremely practical in general, but also can be overpowered, depending how you treat it. Unless there is a weight limit to how much you can move, you basically get super strength and flight for free. On the other end, if you go for finesse over power, you could use it to cut (like Sylar, for example). Plus, moving things with your mind is just cool.

    1. I’d take telekinesis. And I’m not ashamed to admit that the only reason I want it is to be able to clean the house without getting up. And if I had a clean house it would make an excellent superhero headquarters!

      1. If nothing else, you’d be able to clean underneath the sofa and behind the fridge without getting nasty, sticky, unknown substances on your hands …

  4. My superpower is pretty lame, but I wanna be able to take all the parallel-parked cars that are parked five feet apart like they’ve all got car-cooties, and scoot them all over to make room for my own parking space. Plus two or three more, probably.

    Granted, this power will be of far less use as I will soon be carless, but I will ALWAYS have people fighting to have me in their carpool.

    1. I have a super-power. It’s being a living contradiction.

      I am IN FACT lame, and yet, I am not at all lame. How about that?

  5. My niece was throwing water balloons off the front porch onto the street 25 feet below (they live on a steep hill, dead end street with little traffic, so she wasn’t drenching anyone, just making some puddles.) Her little brother (somewhat surprisingly) asked my brother for permission to throw water balloons too. My brother said “Not without supervision.” My nephew thought for a bit and then asked “Would that make it easier for me to see the splashes?”

    When he was very little, he used to have another superpower, superjumping, which was an ordinary jump with a countdown.

    P.S. Hello Amy, Liz, Maria, Phil and Dawn! Seems like I already know everybody at D*C, maybe I should go some time. But the only costume I could get away with would be Porkins (Red 6), the first pilot to buy it in the Battle of Yavin IV.

    1. I was just going to say this. Teleportation makes pretty much everything in life easier. Take the time you spend commuting and add half of it to your work day and half of it to your home life. Is life better?


      When you go on a family vacation, where do the fights take place? In the plane. In the car. The stresses are in getting there and back and if you could just spend that time enjoying Italy or Africa or wherever it would be a better world.

      And hell, think how much easier it would be to shop for groceries.

      1. Teleporting so that you can get to work faster?

        somethings wrong with you.
        either that or you love your job.

    2. Teleportation! No traffic jams! No long lines at the airport security!! However, I would like the ability to teleport myself and other people as well. For instance, I could beam my elderly dad down for a visit instead of driving the 3 hours to his house, and then beam him back as soon as he gets too bossy and demanding! Love ya Dad!

  6. Shapeshifting. No question. Costume parties? Oh, I think I’ll just shiiiiift into myself wearing some other clothes! I’m lost in the woods? I think I’ll just shiiiiiift into a hawk and fly to wherever I want to be! Packed train? I’ll just shiiiift into someone with bad body odour!

    1. Shapeshifting into other clothes??

      what kind of crazy physics you trying to pull here.
      you can’t shapechange clothes except in lame sci-fi written by non-skeptics

  7. You have no idea how much time I’ve spent pondering just this question. That’s probably good.

    My first choice: the power to sterilize people just by pointing at them. And of course, the ability to reverse it. I aspire to becoming a benevolent dictator, and there are just some people who should not be in the gene pool. The power would be nuanced, so that I could put a time limit on it if desired.

    My second choice is prehensile hair.

  8. It’d have to be shapeshifting. Being able to transform myself into anything I could imagine would be totally bitchin’.

    Not sure I’d be WHOLLY responsible with it but I would be more than happy to stand up for the little guy, if I could do it as a giant spider with an armored carapace or a dragon the size of a city bus. Not to mention, being a med student with massive interests in biology, there are some amazing features in the natural world to try out!

    – Is commuting an issue? No problem! Take the form of a bird of some sort and have a nice fly to work!

    – Religious friend keeps badgering you to go to a church service? Have some fun and show up as the spitting image of Satan (from the Tenacious D movie, of course)!

    – Got a convention to go to? Your Spock costume will be the subject of many-a toast and cheer!

    – Military coup? Zombie Plague? Worried about your friends and loved ones? A couple hundred feet tall, unimaginably strong and fire-breathing favorite, Gojira is only one transformation away!

    If we’re throwing caution to the wind and saying that if you can imagine the power, it would work, Shapeshifting is definitely my choice.

    Master spy, unstoppable juggernaut or king of convenience? Why pick one when you can have em all, y’know?

    1. I’d fall in that awesome area between hero and villain, where you find all of the Jack Sparrows, Deadpools, Snapes, Dudes and Benders in the great stories, new and old.

      Not quite a hero but not really a villain. Noble only when I have to be.

  9. You know how like 20 seconds after you could have said something you come up with an amazingly clever thing to say. I’d want to say the clever thing straight away.

    1. Come to think of it, I think the power to come up with really clever answers to “what superpower do you want?” would be a pretty good power.

    1. I will join you in said TARDIS, but my superpower would be incredible luck. I always step out of the way just in time, or I get there just before the line forms. That when when we’re being chased by hostile aliens(TARDIS = running) I won’t die.

  10. I don’t know if it would count as a superpower but I would settle for being an unstoppable and undetectable hacker that could do it all without any equipment like Gary Bell on Alphas.

    As for whether I would be good or evil, I guess that would depend on your point of view. You wouldn’t ever personally have to worry about money if you didn’t mind a little ethical ambiguity.
    And you could really destroy people’s lives in cruel ways. You could do all kinds of mischief and it would be real easy for it to get out of hand, but it would be fun to see the headlines when it is revealed that Pat Robertson has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to LGBT causes; just for an example.
    Perhaps the Koch Family could fund renewable fuel sources.
    Maybe we wouldn’t have to sit through yet another embarrassing Michael Moore movie? Just spit-balling here.

    So I would be benevolent without necessarily being ethical; chaotic good if you will.

    1. yeah, sophisticated pranking the powers that be, incessantly, and never being caught sounds like endless fun. tho i’d be quite happy just living in a world where such a super hero existed.

  11. As tenacious D once sang, the POWER to “move people” sounds pretty good and failing that, the rather basic power to just physically move people, y’know when presented with a self involved butt hole, just grab them and chuck them like 1000 miles in some direction, give them a lot of air time to contemplate their predicament and what brought them to this point, and perhaps feel regret.

  12. Ever since I saw that episode of Outer Limits, I’ve wanted the power to stop time. Falling asleep at the wheel? Stop time and take a nap. Someone hit you with a zinger? Stop time and come up with the perfect comeback. Actually, I’d probably mostly use it for naps. Oh, and evil.

  13. Teleportation is also useful for getting away from danger, shopping around for better priced goods in distant locales, fighting multiple assailants with a confusing pattern of blinking from one location to the next and going on vacation.

  14. Not to rain on the parade, but I find it curious that no one wants the power to heal the sick, or to use their superpower to improve the lives of others in some way.

    1. If you had that power, everyone would think you were another sham faith-healer and who wants that?

      Then again, a million dollars is a nice starting capital for setting up a clinic for the terminally ill.
      But then the JREF would lose a serious chunk of interest …

  15. It’s so hard to know what to call the super power that all guys would really ask for with out sounding like a completely self absorbed conjugally obsessed dick.

  16. I’d like the power to instantly learn any knowledge or skill (sorta like the uploading in The Matrix). Or control over a world-wide network of nanobots.

  17. Pyrokinesis, or telepyresis as it should more properly be called, combined with remote viewing. I’d set fire to trolls, or at least people I considered to be trolls.

    Okay, maybe I’ll just set fire to their keyboards. Oh, and I need the power to limit the fire to avoid collateral damage.

    1. Like I said in a comment in the other Dragon*Con post today, it’s a good thing I don’t have any superpowers. All the parents who live above the trolls’ basements would be very pissed about me burning their houses down.

  18. Timetravel… Definately timetravel… And teleportation… Hell, I don’t want superpowers, I just want a TARDIS… and perhaps a fez.

  19. I would like the ability to alter my own biology at will (perhaps even by incorporating genetic material from things that I eat). This would require a whole host of other “support abilities” to be able to enable this though. The biggest would be that I would have to be aware of my own DNA, understand what it does, and be able to modify it at will. It would also require that I be able to isolate and destroy cells that don’t turn out right. I would also need to be able to take in non-self cells and view/modify them in the same way.

    I would then make a slew of changes starting with photosynthesis. However, the sky is the limit with this one. It might not be telekinesis (which would be my second choice), but I think this one is more realistic.

  20. Power corrupts.

    That’s all I have to say about that.

    (of course, being able to run really fast would be cool, as would unbelievable luck. Can I be Forrest Gump?)

  21. At the risk of sounding super cheesy…I’d want to have healing hands that could cure any injury/disease. Yup, lame…I know, but true! =P

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