If I had a gauntlet with essentially unlimited power, and my goal was to help make sure life in the universe was able to prosper, then my first thought toward this goal probably would not be

to extinguish half of all life.

This doesn't directly help anyone, and it is, at best, a temporary solution, since

populations will eventually grow back.

Assuming that I am not, in fact, secretly in love with an avatar of death itself, why would I choose to

commit universal genocide

instead of directly solving the limited resource problem?

So, to be specific, my question is: In-universe, what is Thanos's motivation for attempting to do this instead of more reasonable alternatives?

  • 2
    My they is, he constantly is going on about "balance." His goal is not really to kill half the universe, but to achieve balance. He thinks killing half the universe is how to achieve that. I think it may be the case that he has this idea that once the universe is "balanced," it won't become unbalanced again. Like how he talked about how Gamora's planet is now a utopia in his eyes, as if he had permanently fixed it.
    – Kai
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:19
  • 3
    As my wife pointed out after we watched it last night, Thanos could have achieved his goals by providing education and contraception to the female half of the universe. That's also a viable solution to unchecked population growth here on earth that leaders with the power to effect this plan have rejected; perhaps you should address your question to them. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 21:03
  • @EricLippert - In real life, there probably isn’t a female (or male) half of the universe. In the MCU, who knows, though - they’ve got humanoid aliens everywhere you turn.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 9:46
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    @EricLippert - Here on RL Earth, it’s not necessarily so simple. Intercountry competition motivates countries to grow their economy (lest other countries “overtake” them economically), which encourages high(ish) birthrates: good for the country, but maybe not for the planet. There’s a strong bias toward having lots of children among most people on Earth, too: historically, it was a very good strategy for providing for one’s family (and still is, for some people). So it’s not precisely that world leaders just don’t care…but of course government-funded contraception would be a useful step.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 9:50
  • 1
    Didn't Titans call him "Madman"? Mad people don't need a motivation to do something or you need to be mad to understand their motivation.
    – user931
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 19:36

2 Answers 2


Thanos still longs to implement his original plan that the other Titans thwarted. He still blames them for Titan’s collapse.

Note that his original plan isn’t any more sensible or sane than his plan in Avengers: Infinity War. It fails to solve the problem in exactly the same way, and it likewise ignores many obvious resources and alternative solutions that could solve the problem in a non-bonkers way.

It’s a bit like the classic proverb that, when you only have a hammer, you see every problem as a nail. Except in this case, Thanos is so obsessed with hammering a nail that he went out and got an infinitely powerful multi-tool and then used it as a hammer.

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    I think this hits the nail on the head, as it were. With the power of all the Infinity Stones, Thanos could implement his goal in almost any manner. But the manner in which he fought suggests a rather limited imagination. If he had an idea that he thought was good before, he was going to stick with it, and a tremendous change in his resources would change little.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 9:43

It's either cover up the problem or solve the equation

(This is totally pure speculation)

Do you create resources out of thin air and leave humanity to continue salvage them vaingloriously until there's nothing left again; or do you wipe half of all life in the universe and leave the other half learn from their mistakes in order to control and manage what they have?

I suppose that Thanos thinks that if you just give humanity abundance of resources then you are covering up the problem. If you strike humanity, you are effectively removing the root cause of the problem from the equation.

Moreover, as you yourself said, Thanos probably wants to ensure that his plan will work long after he will be dead. Having humanity's "life" speared and being given resources, food and place that they do not currently have, will probably make them even more selfish and arrogant than they currently are. But wiping 50% of them in an irrevocable way will probably make them calculate their decisions for the generations and generations hence out of fear of having the same fate again.

@Eric Lippert in the comment section has provided a historical example of the Great Plague that wiped one third of Europe's population. Instead of holding the advancement of the society back, the Plague indirectly helped the people achieve immense wealth in various sections.

  • I'm unsure how much experience you have with the comics and the infinity gauntlet in general, but the thing is pretty damn useless if it's one power is to kill half the population of the galaxy. You're also assuming for certain that the races would learn from their mistakes, and not simply just repopulate.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 13:17
  • @Edlothiad I tried to reason my answer based only on MCU and not from previous written material released. I removed the last paragraph with my speculation on the Infinity Gauntlet. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 13:23
  • Given the individual stones had so much power, I don't think it made much sense to think the stones together could only kill off humanity. But interesting answer otherwise.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 13:26
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    We can look to history: Europe achieved unprecedented wealth and advancement after the plague wiped out a third of the population. The land did not become much less productive and there was surplus wealth to fund arts and sciences. But we do not today look back on the plague years with fondness and seek to replicate them. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 21:07
  • @EricLippert if we are going to draw inspiration from the Great Plague and make comparisons, Thanos "is" the Plague and the people in the MCU "are" the people in Europe in the 12th century; not the other way around. Of course we do not seek to replicate the Plague but neither the MCU people would crave for Thanos to come again in 500 years to wipe again 50% of them. What I am saying is that as Europe "learned" and flourished after the Plague, then so would the MCU people -according to Thanos's reasoning. It's just a cataclysmic event that he hopes to "correct" the path of humanity. Commented May 1, 2018 at 9:33

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