This is the description of one of the many interesting parts in The Worthing Saga
, by Orson Scott Card. It's one of the best science-fiction novels I've ever read, so if you think you might like it, forgo this node and just go read the book.
From the novel The Worthing Saga, by Orson Scott Card. In it, some of the wealthy citizens of the city/planet Capitol are playing a game. Basically, the game is like Civilization, only advanced to the point where it is almost a true simulation of real-life world politics. Players play as the ruler of some nation, trying to expand its power and influence.
An important aspect of the society in the book is Somec, a drug that puts a person into suspended animation for some time. The more wealthy and powerful a member of society is, the more time they spend sleeping under the somec. Thus, they are allowed to have lifespans that stretch hundreds of years, even though their total time awake is unchanged.
This means that a nation in the civ game will be played by a person for a year or so, then they will go to sleep, and the right to play the nation will be bought by someone else. In the story, the most powerful nation is Italy, which was brought to near world domination by a man named Nuber. Nuber is asleep, and his empire is being competently managed by other players. Nuber will wake up soon, and then it is assumed that he will complete the game, acheiving total dominance over all other nations and bringing to world to an unending stretch of peace and prosperity.
This would happen, if not for Abner Doon. Doon is a powerful man whose aim to bring down mankind's galactic empire. He thinks he knows how to accomplish this, but first he wants to test his theories in a simulation. To do this, he acquires the right to play Nuber's Italy and starts putting his theories into practice in the game world.
They work. No one knows it, but Doon's careful mismanagement is bringing Italy closer and closer to a full collapse. Before this happens, Nuber wakes up. He goes to Doon to get control of his nation back, but Doon wont give it up. Nuber tries everything to get his nation back, but Doon is too powerful to be opposed. Soon, Doon's skillful machinations are successful, and the other players watch in amazement as in the game, Doon exposes the corruption he has encouraged in the church, setting off all the little instabilites he has been sowing. Political upheaval wracks Nuber's Italy, destroying it from the inside out.
Nuber watches his life's achievement shattered. He goes to Doon, not to rant or rave, but simply to ask Doon why he would do such a thing.
(paraphrased) "Was it so horrible to you," asks Nuber, "that someone would create a thing of beauty that you would destroy it?"
"I was not against what you did," replies Doon. "I was simply against it lasting forever."
This is one of the morals of the novel, as told by its main storyline. It seemed sublimely and subtlely written when I read it as a kid, and while I'm sure it would seem less so now, I have reread the novel many times and consider it one of my favorites.