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Thanos' stated motivation in Avengers: Infinity War is to solve the problems of scarcity and overpopulation, by

wiping out half of the living beings in the universe,

which he needs all of the Infinity Stones to do. However, the Reality Gem allows him to control reality itself, which he uses in the film to

transform Knowhere into a burning ruin. This appears to be applied permanently, since it's still destroyed after he teleports away.

He uses the same power later on to show Titan as a green paradise. It seems to be some sort of illusion or vision in that case, but we know from earlier that he's capable of actually changing the planet itself if he so chooses, and presumably any other.

So, what gives? If Thanos wants to solve the problem of scarcity, why doesn't he just do it with the Reality Gem?

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    I am not sure, but I would suspect he needed to be "at" those places to use the Reality stone; snapping his fingers after going a few specific places to change the entire universe sounds like a pretty solid time saver. In addition, I'm not sure he used the Reality stone in those situations. I believe that was the stone he used when "speaking to the collector" and everything reverted when he left the area... – Odin1806 May 4 '18 at 18:13
  • @LCIII The effects he performs on the heroes revert when he leaves, but I remember Knowhere itself staying destroyed. The MCU wikia seems to agree: marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/… – Milo P May 4 '18 at 18:16
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    I agree with the current answer, but also I speculate that providing resources is not a stable solution. You give a population more food, and it will breed until there are people starving again. Eventually there'd be so many people in the universe that not even the Infinity gauntlet could provide for them. However, by killing half the universe you give life a chance to fix itself, driven by fear of more death. Or if they don't listen you do it again. – DaaaahWhoosh May 4 '18 at 20:28
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    Good Question! +1 from me. He could have used the time gem to look into the future for benign solutions. He could have used the mind gem to imagine options he had not considered earlier. He could have used the other gems to create abundance. He could have taught entire civilizations to turn their scarcity-based economies into abundance-based economies. He could have taught them wise stewardship of any scarce resources. Doing all that would probably have earned him the Soul stone. – RichS May 5 '18 at 14:40
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    @PaulD.Waite I was more curious overall about why he went for the destructive route rather than the constructive route, hence my original title, with the Reality Gem as just the most obvious way to do it. If the Reality Gem question is valuable on its own, it makes sense to leave this as a separate question. – Milo P May 9 '18 at 18:30
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I think what happened was that Thanos landed on Knowhere, destroyed the planet and then used the Reality Stone to make it look empty but not destroyed for when the Guardians of the Galaxy came. So when he left, he just removed the illusion that the planet was not destroyed, because in reality he did destroy it.

Just to be clear and answer your question exactly. Thanos can't use the Reality Stone to solve the problem because the Reality Stone does not create real things. It just creates an illusion which I don't think Thanos would find satisfactory.

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    Even if you're right, I feel like this doesn't answer the the OP's actual bottom-line question: "If Thanos wants to solve the problem of scarcity, why doesn't he just do it with the Reality Gem?" – RedCaio May 4 '18 at 19:39
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    @MiloP I thought it was pretty clear in the movie that Thanos tricked the Guardians. He wanted for them to come because he wanted to capture Gamorra, so he set a trap with the fake reality. – tima May 4 '18 at 21:34
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    @RedCaio: I don't think he can solve the problem with the Reality Gem, which seems only capable of creating an illusion over reality itself. That alone doesn't seem to have the power to create food or other resources out of thin air. – Sam May 4 '18 at 23:25
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    @RedCaio Per this answer, and another use of the stone in the same scene (Drax and Mantis being restored when he left), whether or not it was an illusion, the reality-warping powers do appear to be temporary. – Izkata May 5 '18 at 0:48
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    I think that its more than an illusion, rather more actually bending reality and it's laws and states (alternate reality perhaps?). Anyways, the Reality Gem's effect seem to affect those things in proximity of the gem. After he leaves it all goes back to normal (he could have left Drax that way otherwise), thus innefective by itself to truly achieve his purpose. – DarkCygnus May 5 '18 at 4:59
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Thanos' plan is biased due to his own psychological failings and problematic upbringing.

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Having watched his own home planet fall into ruin due to starvation, which he blames on political infighting and an inability to make the hard decisions (which he describes to Stark and Company while on Titan) he appears to be suffering from a psychological breakdown (or is so murderous and psychotic) he's has decided to impose his idea of social order on a more widespread scale than he has to date.

Discovering the existence of the Infinity Gauntlet, he is convinced he can impose his social order at a Universal scale rather than going from planet to planet killing the population in the fashion he has in the past using his weapons, ships, troops and the Black Order to impose his will on planetary populations. Believing himself to be powerful enough to enact this by virtue of his use of the Infinity Gauntlet he has set himself above everyone else in the Universe as a defacto demiurge since he will perform this without the permission of any other species in the Universe, ushering, in his opinion, an era of Universal peace and prosperity.

The Reality Gem does allow Thanos to alter reality as he chooses. In most cases, he used the Reality Gem to create the illusion of everything working as he did at Knowhere and Titan, but if he were so inclined with the completed Gauntlet, he could have restored either place to its former beauty. It was incredible easy for him to defeat the Guardians on Knowhere but they return to normal because he wished it.

However, fixing planets and saving lives goes against his psychology as a serial killer, so it is unlikely he would do such things, even if the capacity were available to him. His choice of actions is based on his psychological limitations, subtraction half of every species is a simple idea he thought he would be able to enact across the Universe, and apparently was able to be done, at great cost to the Gauntlet and to Thanos, whose arm appears to be terribly burned when he is resting on his farm planet.

Unlike the comic Universe version of the Infinity Gauntlet, the Marvel Cinematic Universe version is taxed and burned out after use and it may have been beyond the Gauntlet to create something more nuanced for every civilization in the Universe.

  • Demiurge = a being responsible for the creation of the universe – RedCaio May 5 '18 at 5:37
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    I think this is likely the real answer - he doesn't just want to fix the problem right now (which he could do with the gauntlet), he wants to demonstrate to everyone that this is the right way to fix the problem forever. He doesn't seem to want the mantle of caretaker of the universe for the rest of time, he wants to show people what he believes to be the truth of the situation, and in doing so I suspect he would expect people to realise he was right all along, thus giving them the means to solve the problem again in the future. – delinear May 21 '18 at 12:57
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    We see him do this repeatedly on a much smaller scale with the planets he attacks. He seems to genuinely believe he has left them better than he found them, better able to fend for their people in the future, and it seems important to him that Gamora, for instance, ought to see that too. – delinear May 21 '18 at 12:58

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