Outline for a story
“Stulticide” means “Stupidity killer”; in this story, a technological effect, accidentally discovered.
It began when two military researchers turned on their newly-invented adeledicnandar transmodulator. One of them faints, the other one was fine, and their bosses notice the difference; the stupid one lost consciousness. The machine was on at low power for a short time, thus the dummy survived; but the military applications of the machine are obvious. A Stupidity Killer!
The project gets stamped top secret; technicians, gigabux, theoreticians, bureaucrat, contractors and generals converge. Some of them write out elaborate wet-dreams about guilt-free megadeaths. Of course every single participant is convinced that he’s immune. They all agree that it’ll only be the poor, and the dark-skinned, and the weirdoes, and women and children who will be at risk, ‘cause everyone knows all those people are fools. What a shame, the generals say, but national security demands sacrifices.
As the Gizmo takes shape, word gets out, and protestors gather at the test site. So do reporters and congressmen. Amidst all the commotion, one of the protestors sneaks in and switches the thing on. Low power, he is in fact no fool, so he was all right, and quickly switched it off. But every single one of the Command Staff present loses consciousness. So do the reporters and the congressmen and most of the protesters and technicians.
But not everybody faints. The star reporter blacks out, but the cameramen are still on the job, and one of them haltingly reports to the nation what just happened. The generals are hard hit, but the privates mostly unaffected. A nearby suburb is devastated, but the ghetto and the barrio next door are unaffected. Colleges are silent, while elementary schools swarm with unsupervised kids. A televangelist is found unconscious in a motel room; his female companion had already left, with the contents of his wallet. And so on; the satirical possibilities are obvious.
Afterwards the National Security Advisor to the President reads the secret report. First of all, it’s a good thing that the damn thing was on low power for a short time, or we’d need a new JCS. Second, the effect is unpredictable; those who think they are immune are not; and those who are, doubt it. The latter find the experience humbling; the former, humiliating. Third, immunity rate is about 10%, distributed unevenly. Fourth, and worst of all, the effect seems to be negatively correlated with socioeconomic status. It seems that the lower strata have already had plenty of encounters with natural selection, a Stulticide that the upper orders take steps to avoid.
The advisor realizes that the weapon’s too risky; it might cause a revolution if built and used. The trouble is that they’ve already spent billions on it, and the news has already leaked. How are they going to conceal the real reason why they must cancel the project and destroy the blueprints?
And how to explain to the President that he might not be immune himself, even though he’s sure he is?