We call that Rube Goldberg’ing
Personally, I’m reminded of either Fringe (where balancing a pen on a post box ended up with a woman hit by a bus) or Path to Victory from the web serial Worm.
You know, the Contessa’s “seeing the path” and “walking the path” formulation of her powers map very neatly to mens rea and actus rea, it seems to me. I wonder if that was at all intentional on wildbow’s part.
Isn’t “seeing the path” her ability to carry out the necessary actions? I might have that wrong, feel free to correct me.
But to be clear, mens rea isn’t so much about capability as it is about culpability. Not whether you could do it, but whether doing it was blameworthy.
(Worm spoilers to follow, detailing the power set of a mysterious character who doesn’t explain her powers until some time after her introduction, as well as some implications about whose side that character is on.)
As I remember it, she specifically thought of her power as granting two separate-but-related abilities: one, seeing the path: when thinking of any particular goal, her power provided her the precise steps necessary to achieve the goal, and two, walking the path: should she choose to do so, she could precisely follow the steps that she saw without flaw. These map neatly to distinction between mens and actus, in that the first gets at what she was intending to do, the latter gets at her ability to act on that intention. If this were the Contessa instead of Joe, we could very well say that she would be culpable in this situation because her power would supply her both with this bizarre method as well as with the perfect execution to get it to all work according to plan.
But you are correct—and I almost caveated myself—that her power is guilt-neutral, and so its usage does not imply either mens rea or actus reus. But it does largely eliminate the disconnect between her intent and the consequences of her actions, since her powers allow her to see her intent through perfectly. Which, if I understand correctly, effectively means she cannot possibly be negligent or reckless, at least while using her powers: she is always aware and in control. On the other hand, it occurs to me that she herself argues that her power constitutes possibly the ultimate form of justification—she knows without fail what the consequences of her acting or not acting involve, and (she argues) she is acting out of necessity to save (literally) countless lives. The law obviously is not written with consideration for anything remotely like her level of prescience, so I doubt she would have a lot of legal ground to stand on, but at least according to the underlying principles it seems she has something of a point.
(Side note: your website seems to prevent comments this long—which may be a bug or a feature—because the comment iframe does not expand large enough to reach the Post Comment button below when the text box is as large as this. I have used Chrome’s debugger to fix this—apologies if this is an abuse and this limit was intended, but if that’s the case I recommend some kind of notice about running out of characters, and to lock down the form when they run out.)