Monday, October 10, 2005


With no shame I reveal that over years I have worked at otherwise idle times on deciding what I would wish for from a genie. This requires a lot of thought because, at least in popular culture, the genie is a capricious and contrary wish giver, angry over his servitude and eager to exploit the wisher’s slightest semantic slip to deliver a result that is technically correct and totally wrong.

An innocent wish to be a millionaire, for instance, could result in becoming some schmo in a McMansion in Henderson, Nev., with exactly $1 million ... and it’s all tied up in a stock that crashes the next day. One could wish to be as smart as Einstein ... and the genie might grant that but put the wisher in a coma, as well, unable to communicate any knowledge or insight.

Real petty “Twilight Zone” nonsense.

So the trick is to come up with wishes without loopholes, and I think I have some good ones. I have made sure to keep the actual wishes — usually there are three, and, as everyone knows, it is against the rules to wish for more — at a single sentence in length.

Listen up, genie:

1. I wish that a multimillionaire or billionaire who is a citizen of and will die in the United States or United Kingdom within the next month or two summon his lawyers, has them fill out the proper documents and wills me an unquestionably legal and unassailably proper inheritance of at least [how many millions of dollars are wanted] after all taxes and any legal fees.

(The provision about the United States or United Kingdom is to ensure that a perfectly legal financial transaction isn’t slowed interminably by dramatically different inheritance laws or cultural or linguistic difficulties.)

2. I wish for total, lasting and conscious control over every aspect of my physical being, including but not limited to strength and speed, general health and resistance to all disease and every aspect of how I look and the aging process, and that these powers be manifested by thought or speech but persist until I again consciously and wakefully think or say for the attributes to change.

(This wish still has at least one unavoidable ironic trap, which is that the wisher can remain eternally young, but those the wisher loves will inevitably age and die. Still, this is a very flexible wish, and the emotionally mature user may well use it to age and die gracefully and without pain. Also ...)

There is a wish remaining, held for some future emergency.

Does anyone spot any loopholes a willful genie could exploit? I’d like to address them before it’s too late.


Indri said...

I think on wish number one I would specify that the person who was going to die was a) somebody I had no strong feelings or admiration for and b) was already going to die; that they weren't dying out of turn to satisfy my need.

My friend Jonathan has a couple I like: the ability to communicate in any language, and having women be attracted to him in the same proportion he is to them. That second one could lead to boredom, I think, but the language one, man, I'd love that.

Scape7 said...

The language is for a rich person who "will die," which I see could be ambiguous. This leaves it open for the genie to frame me for murder with the inheritance as my motive. So I agree that it's best to add a "natural causes" phrase or "because of causes unrelated to me and unmistakably, legally and actually, not my fault" to the wish.

My intention was to play the odds, certainly, that someone with enough money will die within two months of the wish, but this includes all of the United States and United Kingdom — and there are a hell of a lot of rich people out there. (Also, my wishes for money are fairly modest. I would probably say "at least $10 million," which isn't too much these days.)

Excellent point, Indri. I think you may have saved me.

eric said...

My genie's lawyer will get with your genie's lawyer and they can figure out the language. I don't think Jeannie would have really "gotten" either of them right if Master had asked like that.


Scape7 said...

I actually think it would be a good exercise for kids at lawyer camp — I'm convinced there is such a thing — to play "wish upon a genie." They could take turns wishing in airtight language and trying to find loopholes.

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HisDivineShadow said...

You're all being silly, this is how you do it!

I wish that I have now and forever the following powers, as they are now listed, granted in the spirit of the wish, as I intend for them to be when I wish for them.

1: Omnipotence.
2: Omniscience.
3: Perfect instinctive knowledge and mastery of skill in the use of my powers.

Anonymous said...

I wish that tommy dunas dies and for mony from the badd people that are in my behealthy and thinner andhappyer.