The Kaiser Sose Dilemma

There are several spellings of the “The Usual Suspects” character/legend on the various search tools. There may be a faithful quotation of the exact story online somewhere. It doesn’t matter.

Here’s the dilemma for the sake of this thread.

If somebody or group of somebodies wanted to remove all traces that you had ever existed, by first killing everybody in your family, including in-laws, and then every friend you ever had or even knew as a classmate, and their families, and everybody you ever worked with, and their families, and anybody who knew your name for whatever reason, and their families, how many people would have to be eradicated before any trace of your existence was gone?

Books and papers and magazines and online posts where your name is mentioned: gone. Any whisper of your name, erased.

Would it be in the thousands, millions, what?

Thousands, probably. All my relatives, every classmate, all co-workers, all friends… It’s not like I’m a celebrity or anything.

Now, if you wanted to eradicate the memories of Oprah or George W Bush, you’d have to kill off everyone in North America just to start.

Excellent point to deal with straightaway. In the Six Degrees of Separation concept, it’s usually by way of famous people in the circuit that allows the people on the other side of the world to get connected to people they otherwise wouldn’t have any way of knowing or even meeting.

(There’s a great joke about Emmett Hoss from Pike County, Kentucky, that proabably has many counterparts, that would be fun to tell, but I won’t.)

Let’s keep the subject of the issue to YOU! Not famous people you know. Of course, if you know somebody famous like the ones you mentioned, then I guess the Earth’s population is pretty much shot, I suppose.

But for this exercise, thought experiment if you will, let’s keep your famous friends and acquaintances safe from harm.

Nitpick - it’s not a dilemma, but maybe a conundrum.

Right you are. I’m not advocating the equivalent of a genocide here. Just something to think about. I just tried to put the issue in a dramatic form.

Conundrum it is.

I’ve heard that the average person knows, between friends, family, coworkers, fellow church-goers, and whatever, about 200 people. Not only would you have to knock them off, but to be safe you’d have to knock off everyone they know as well. That’s 40,000 people. Two to the chest and one to the head, that’s 120,000 bullets.

Spoken like a true thinker!

If you just had to do it, how many individual names of the groups we’ve been talking about – family, school, work, clubs, organizations, anywhere you have exchanged names with folks – could you come up with? I think I would just be getting started at 200. I’m hoping I’m not modest to say I could approach 1,000 names before the head-scratching drew blood.

I think 850 or so would wipe out everyone that knew me through school or family. Now parent’s coworkers make it hard to judge but maybe another hundred. Once you get to the weirder connections; people I competed against 600, people who recruited me for colleges 150, journalists and the people who read or watched those stories and remembered them 100 and coworkers 200. I figure for families of these people a multiple of 4 is a pretty good number so to eradicate me 8000 odd people would need to be snuffed not really enough to be noticed by anyone.

I almost started a thread on this once.

When I heard the 200 figure, I thought no way. I’m lucky if I know a dozen people. Then I realized I have about 30 relatives that are still alive, about as many that I work with closely, friends, former friends, former coworkers – it’s not hard to get to 200 without working up much of a sweat.

What about people who’ve read stuff you’ve posted to the Internet and might vaguely remember your name if appended to “oh I used to comment all the time on [blog]”? That would up my own casualty count considerably.

Quite so. Just ballparking, without an actual count, I’d guess I know the names of

Family, all variations – 250 minimum, still alive or with living offspring
Grammar school – 100
Junior and Senior high – 200
Various jobs – 300
Clubs and associations – 200
Random folks like places I shop or frequent – 100
People in churches I’ve been to – 75
People I met at parties or shows or that sort of thing – 50

That’s pushing 1300. I don’t want to name all of them, but I could over the course of a few days of research and head-scratching.

For sure! Just look at the names in threads you participated in. I have tried to get a good count of how many Dopers and I have shared remarks in the threads I played in. Just guessing: 200 minimum.

If you add in classmates/people that just know your name it would have to be more than 200. That seems like a pretty low number.

(Oh, and it’s Keyser Söze.)

I figure there would be a few dozen people who would have a noticeable hole in their lives if I went missing; probably a few hundred who would go, “oh yeah, him” if my name came up somehow; and thousands who would know who I was if they got my name and a one-sentence explanation of who I was (“he’s that missionary who our church supported in Lebanon for a couple years”). People who’ve seen my name? Well, it’s on the masthead of a magazine with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands…

I’m not sure if I would count them or not. I haven’t been in public school for 30 years now. My close friends from then I’d probably count, because if I saw them today I’d still remember them. And I remember maybe a dozen more from those later years. But do I count classmates who I have no memory of?

At least in the thousands, considering (for one thing) that I’ve been active in science fiction fandom for over twenty years, and a number of conventions have my name included in staff and membership lists which are posted online.

OK, so let’s say it’s closer to 1000 than 200. Take out every one of them, and for safety, everyone that they know, and for extra safety every one thay they know.

You’d essentially have to nuke China.

We’re getting closer now. Uplifting thought, eh?

You are better off not even discussing Keyser Söze. There is no Keyser Söze. For your own good, just let it go.

Eliminating all memory of me? Coupla thousand people, easy. Oh, the humanity!

BTW, I’m sure glad “Need answer fast!” wasn’t part of the OP.