What if that’s actively being researched? Probably without success, but doubtlessly there’d be interest in knowing ahead what the probable results are. Tentatively interested souls could figure out their "personality" profile. Or have the calipers pulled out and their dimensions calculated. With or without the disclaimer that it’s strictly in good fun and not at all for prediction. Wouldn’t want people heading into Abstraction thinking they’ll end up however the calculation says.
The way studies are conducted in Fallen London are certainly…something. I remember wanting to try the lens analysis but not yet being ruthless enough. And, well, what does the pc really know anyway? Sometimes they’re oblivious and sometimes they’re perceptive; depends on the specific passage. A lot of options available early on continue to persist through the later stages of the game, and the text will, understandably, indicate no greater awareness than it had before. The results read like hints not yet fully grasped, even if the character has encountered whatever is alluded. Or maybe the character never realized it, and it’s all meta knowledge.
On the flip side, characters know things that we meta-don’t. There’s a lot of detail the text omits that should be readily apparent to the character, especially after they’ve made achievements in their field. Spy? Scholar? Even the most dedicated player doesn’t have a working knowledge of, say, commonplace tattoos, hand signals, or Correspondence sigils, regardless of whatever their character’s done. Bits of information here and there, maddeningly sparse and enticing. (Fun fact: in Sunless Sea, you can literally end up with a tattoo of a buttered chess piece - I didn’t think that’s what it’d be but it is - and there’s an area branded with sigils on the rocks, where all the sigils are some of the symbols seen on T-shirt merchandise, et cetera, except one of them is flipped, not rotated, though that’s probably not important.)
Anyway, if it is possible for humans to detect the souls of others, it can’t be commonplace knowledge. The snippets of information from the sidebar are supposed to reflect a general understanding, right? Like with the false stars, and such. And so, most people have no idea whether strangers are soulless. I speculate that it’s also possible, albeit difficult, to conceal from friends and family as well. Losing one’s soul doesn’t have the same effect on everyone, it’s said, and it’s quite often mentioned that soullesness as a professional advantage has benefited some. The fifth labyrinth, anyone? Soullessness can result in sadness or numbness, and any dissociation might entirely be subtle. Possible placebo effect? I don’t like the idea, but it’d be interesting. And it’d fit with characterizing a pc however the player wants.
A lot of pcs are soulless, sure; that doesn’t necessarily reflect society at large. It’s suggested that, despite regular or rampant harvesting, the percentage of Fallen Londoners having misplaced a soul is still currently quite low. Or at least low enough for them to not yet run into the problem of lack of souls. So spirifers probably take an indiscriminate approach. One assumes that health is not an issue. Although spirifers aim for the ones that are loosely tethered, probably for ease of extraction, they’ll also go for desperate people, or children. Meanwhile devils work on getting specific people to relent to them specifically. As opposed to the devil next door. (Is that how devils one-up each other? You’ll earn yourself a strongly worded letter if you tease and then sell elsewhere, unless it’s to a friend who was introduced/made the introductions.) They mesmerize their (willing) victims and…Abstract? Seems their tools operate a bit differently than whatever it is the spirifers are issued to use. Then again, spirifers do aim for the low-hanging fruit. And no upfront payment, most likely. What if some enterprising soul, er, soulless person tries to sell to each of them in turn? Gotta have a fast getaway to dodge them after, natch, but it could happen.
That goes back to record-keeping. The Brass Embassy keeps good records (the bureaucracy is daunting) and plenty of people have access (or go there seeking asylum) but there’s still a bit of gap between what’s there and what people think is there. All those names and tallies. Contracts get misplaced, bartered, or stolen. I assume files update not infrequently. So, who keeps track of changes, and how many go-betweens would Summerset need to always have the right blacklist on hand? It’s not the Provost’s job to keep the riffraff out - well, it is, but not at the level of bouncing feast attendees. Or are we supposing that the (substantial) list just drops into their lap whenever an edit is made?
Easiest case scenario, I figure getting the revisions is as tight as getting revisions made. We know it is possible to pose as a devil and fool spirifers into surrendering the souls they’ve collected with the promise that the addition will be marked on their accounts. Spirifers, as a lot, I’d perceive to be are not particularly shrewd. They’re always getting poisoned or bopped on the head, too. Still, they’re a force to be reckoned, operating outside the law. Wonder how many people are afraid of dying primarily because they fear being vulnerable and falling prey to spirifage. And even people who are nonchalant about coming back from the dead…so what’s the deal with turning into a Tomb-Colonist? Soulled and soulless alike can all end up that way eventually, right? Or permanently die of old age, butchery, et cetera cetera. There’s only one Menace area for wounds. If there weren’t, it’d be fodder for comparison, but right now there’s not much to support the argument that it’s the soul, not the body, which makes the trip. As for the mind…I don’t like the suggestion that the mind can be severed so cleanly from the body. (What is consciousness?) And the alternative that some sort of transporting happens - actually, teleportation pops up with alarming frequency as the answer, come to think of it - sits even less well.
Just occurred to me:
Soullessness - Grounds for divorce? Annulment? Even if no fraud/deception were involved?