Monday, March 23, 2015

Perils of Pandora, Part II: how James Cameron might still set things right

Last time, I went on a bit, describing some logical faults in a motion picture that -- in fact -- I deeply admire. After all, criticism can be well-intended. And clearly, James Cameron intended his epic film -- Avatar -- to be much more than just an orgy of visual delights. He meant both to provoke discussion and to teach some valuable lessons about our modern, self-critical, technological and grudgingly-progressive society. His intentions were good...

...and (I am forced to assert, alas) the lessons were utterly blown.

But we'll get back to Avatar in a moment.  First, let's step back and study the trap that snared this brilliant director. And clearly, it's not his fault. Because this snare catches almost everyone.

== Civilization (automatically) has to suck! ==

Let's make this even more general. Most Hollywood films (and nearly all dramatic novels) share one central tenet: society doesn't work.

It seems an almost-biblical injunction.

“Thou shalt never show democratic-western civilization functioning well. Especially, its institutions must never be of any help solving the protagonist’s problems.”

In The Idiot Plot: Why Film and Fiction Routinely Depict Society and its Citizens as Fools, I describe a core reason for this relentlessly consistent rule. But here's the short of it: Your job as a storyteller, above all, is to get the audience rooting for your heroes by keeping them in pulse-pounding jeopardy for 90 minutes of film -- or 500 pages of a novel -- and that central chore is easiest to achieve if you make sure they never get any useful help from boring professionals.

Suppose our movie's protagonist, the poor schlemiel who stumbles upon a terrible danger-scenario in scene one, were to dial 9-1-1 for help... and help came! Skilled pros rushing in, taking charge, doing their jobs well and honestly, saying "we'll take it from here, sir."

It's the very thing we'd want in real life.

But in an action flick? What a buzz kill! Hence the iron rule for storytellers: you must separate your protagonist from meaningful help!

Think about that. A functioning, decent, competent civilization is a drama killer -- because violent drama is the very last thing that taxpaying citizens want in real life!  So we spend heaps of money hiring savvy pros who use diplomacy to avoid war. We pay taxes to create skilled armed forces whose main job is to deter and thus not to fight. We deploy highly trained police who swiftly answer 9-1-1 calls and chase bad guys. Then we hire attorneys to watch the police, and regulators to watch the attorneys, and activists to watch regulators. (And I have a book about this process, called The Transparent Society.)  

Every hour of every day, emergency professionals stand ready to leap into action because we want most of the danger removed from daily life...

 ... but we don't want it sucked out of our movies and novels! People yearn to have it both ways. They demand that all the cogs and gears of responsible civilization keep turning... but we also want to fantasize that none of it works!

There is, in fact, a sliding scale of how competent our civil servants are allowed to be, in proportion to the power of the villains in a film.

At one extreme -- say, Independence Day -- the heavies are so bad-ass that even the U.S. government and military are allowed to be both good and competent! So they can act as spear-carrier backups to the one or two main heroes.  (When else do you see that happening?)

The Idiot Plot syndrome extends to anyone who might have prevented the problem. They must be either stupid, incompetent or in cahoots with the villains.

Take every Michael Crichton book or film, revolving around some horrible misuse of science. In each case, the calamitous new technology was developed in secret. Why? Because the normal give and take of open scientific transparency would swiftly eliminate nearly all of the dopey failure modes that drive every Crichtonian plot.

("Hey, Jurassic Park dudes. Try this. Only make HERBIVORES first! A billion people will pay to come. And you’ll only have to pay for the lofty-elegiacal half of the John Williams musical score. Not the scary half.") 

You can see why common sense is avoided, at all cost, in Hollywood films.

But does it have to be avoided so completely?

== Our neighbors all go ba-a-a-a! ==

Oh, and this extends beyond public institutions. We also love to fantasize that our neighbors are all fools. How many westerns portrayed the town-full-of-cowards – when in fact nearly every frontier village was packed with Civil War veterans? Why do no brave bystanders rush to tackle the Joker’s henchmen, despite the fact that almost every mass shooter in real life has been brought down that way? (And such heroes thwarted the hijackers of flight UA93, the only action that worked on that awful day - 9/11.) 

Again, this rule has one core purpose, to keep the protagonist in peril by denying her or him storykilling help -- but it also appeals to the viewer's own vanity! Don't we all love picturing ourselves as the savvy ones, surrounded by a myriad neighbors who are clueless as sheep?

There are many help-suppression tricks, and not all of them are cheats! In fact, you must do it, to some extent - as a director or action writer - in order to keep your heroes in jeopardy**. But is it too much to ask you directors out there to do this imaginatively, without preaching that “society and its institutions and citizens are all automatically stupid?”  It has happened, now and then! Films like Ransom, The Fugitive, Sleeping with the Enemy, and so on come up with clever reasons why the heroine cannot call for skilled help from society or neighbors.

A good storyteller will come up with clever, non-cliché ways to keep the hero in jeopardy despite being a member of a pretty decent civilization.  One that's trying to get better all the time. (Or as I depict in The Smartest Mob.) 

The way that citizen James Cameron would personally count on a decent civilization to come rushing to his aid, should he ever need help. Even though he went to great pains, portraying that civilization as vile, in Avatar.

== Avatar did more harm than good ==

Bearing all of that in mind, let's return to my list of ways that this wonderful epic and visual feast - alas - missed its intended goal... coaxing us to be better people.

7) The dramatic situation conveyed by Avatar is both lazy and poisonous… making it typical.

Yes the "dances with others" plot-line works. It takes some of the best aspects of Joseph Campbell’s classic hero's journey, weaves in a love story, hammers the brave-underdogs theme and then does the neo-western thing -- fascination with the alien, the different and foreignAll very well and good. But we’ve seen that when fascination-with-other becomes hatred-of-us, we tread dangerous ground.

Especially when you recall point #2. The major difference between Avatar's scenario and other dances-with tales -- its setting in the future. Our future. The corrupt westerners committing these crimes aren't our benighted ancestors, who -- barely out of the caves -- had a lot to learn. Now it's our descendants doing all the awful, deliberate crimes. Obstinately refusing to see parallels in their own history or to learn from past tragedies.

And heckfire -- it could happen! 

In the world of Avatar, it seems our best efforts did not bring forth new generations raised in good intentions and avoiding mistakes of the past. The human improvability that James Cameron himself represents – a civilization that listened to Ghandi and Martin Luther King and that tries every day to overcome our Cro Magnon flaws -- went no further in the next two centuries.

Doesn't that mean that Avatar itself – and guilt-tripping movies like it -- failed to make those centuries any better? Bummer.

Again, I say all this in all friendship. We must speed up the pace by which we humans improve our ethics, compassion and commitment to responsible care... especially of this magnificent planet! So why does Avatar fail?

Because those who would be persuaded by simple guilt trips already have been converted by past guilt trips... from Soylent Green and Silent Running to Fern Gully and the works of Ursula K. LeGuin.  Guilt flagellations and "we're-all-so-awful" lamentations will not sway the remainder who wallow in blithe shortsightedness. They recognize a finger-wagging lecture and - smirking - turn it off.

Meanwhile, alas, Avatar proclaims, that our children will not learn, despite all we say and do. Our vileness is rooted in inherent human nature.  The best thing is for humanity fail.  And heroic humans ought to help ensure that happens.

Is there a way out?   Next we'll explore some ways that Mr. Cameron might redeem all this, and actually deliver on his good intentions.


** Do movies ever evade the "idiot plot" and show the hero's neighbors NOT as sheep?  But as  brave and decent citizens?  I can think of one worthy and consistent exception. All five of the Spiderman movies kept faith with a delightfully unique tradition. For most of each two-hour film, Spiderman saves New Yorkers. But there is always a thrilling moment when New Yorkers return the favor. When they stand up and save Spidey. Delightful.

Continue to Part III: Can Avatar be 'fixed'?

or return to Part I: Perils of Pandora: How Avatar (tragically) fails to make us better


David Brin said...

Here's that footnote!
** I can think of one worthy and consistent exception. All five of the Spiderman movies kept faith with a delightfully unique tradition. For most of each two-hour film, Spiderman saves New Yorkers. But there is always a thrilling moment when New Yorkers return the favor. When they stand up and save Spidey.

Alex Tolley said...

The military mission on Pandora doesn't have to be a proxy for all "civilization". For all we know, there are organizations on Earth decrying the rape of Pandora, and right behind them there is a starship that is ready to stop the extraction process with the equivalent of a cease and desist order. The mission is perhaps more like the black hats in countless westerns (e.g. Pale Rider) where civilization isn't bad, just too far away to help effectively.

Civilization can be competent, but constrained. Take the excellent "Taken" where the hero is time constrained, although in this case the French security police may be ambiguous in their involvement. In real life, helpful authorities can be slow, bound by regulations that work against solving problems quickly, etc. And yes, they can be incompetent and or corrupt too. Remember in the US, solved crimes are nowhere in the high deciles, especially burglaries. (May cameras improve that).

As to our descendents being better people having learned history. Why assume that. We haven't, as the invasion of Afghanistan proved. The wealthy elites apparently haven't, unless they really believe "this time is different". So why should our descendents have learned the lessons of history any better than we have. Given the way education is going today, we'll be lucky is they have learned any history that isn't propaganda. The rapaciousness of the people in command on Pandora makes a lot of sense.

Having said that, I look forward to part III, on how Cameron can write a better sequel.

BTW, Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain" was about competent scientists solving a problem. Both the novel and the original movie were excellent.
As for Jurassic Park, well would you go to a zoo that only had herbivores, because the big cats (and feeding time) are a major attraction. There is a frisson about having lethal animals separated from you by bars or a screen. I'd certainly want to see carnivores in any paleo zoo, whether sabre tooth cats in Pleistocene Park, or dimetrodons in Permian park. .

Alex Tolley said...

There are countless westerns where the competent US Calvary saves the day once word reaches the fort. There are also countless movies where the citizenry take up arms with the hero to defend their village/town/fort.

In the current tv series "12 Monkeys", it looks to me if the hero (Cole) is far less competent than his non-time traveling virologist helper, Dr. Cassandra Railly.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Because those who would be persuaded by simple guilt trips already have been converted by past guilt trips... from Soylent Green and Silent Running to Fern Gully and the works of Ursula K. LeGuin."

Yes they have - BUT - there is a new generation (or two!) that needs to be persuaded now
So is Avatar today's Soylent Green

Tony Fisk said...

The 'lazy out' extends to children's adventure books, where the best ones ensure that parents are killed off within the first few pages*.
Ah! Civilisation!

I agree, Cameron did trowel it on about how awful human civilisation is. He still has wiggle room, though: Our pov character, Jake, is a little disillusioned with life after being invalided out of the Army. Pandora is a remote frontier company town, where rules are made 'on the fly'. The soldiers are hired mercenaries, as opposed to the peace keepers Jake was originally with. (I took this as a poke at Xon/Blackwater & co.). What we've seen to date may not be representative of Humanity as a whole (after all, Jake, Grace, Norm, and Trudy grew up *somewhere*... speaking of Trudy, why wasn't she slammed into the brig the minute she returned to base after opting out of an active mission? Other sympathisers?)

So, what if the Na'vi seek legal assistance to keep the Company in check? (This was suggested to Cameron by an Amazon elder) There is even an SF novel he could crib from: 'Monument', by Lloyd Biggle Jr.

*Actually, many do have responsible adults to hand. Parents, though, definitely cramp one's swashbuckling style. Lose them, quick!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Especially when you recall point #2. The major difference between Avatar's scenario and other dances-with tales -- its setting in the future. Our future. The corrupt westerners committing these crimes aren't our benighted ancestors, who -- barely out of the caves -- had a lot to learn. Now it's our descendants doing all the awful, deliberate crimes. Obstinately refusing to see parallels in their own history or to learn from past tragedies.

While the point is worth pondering, it seems to me you're being unfair to the genre. Sci-fi often starts with a speculative premise and then goes to see what happens from there. Too much emphasis on how that premise came about doesn't serve the story.

The movie "Outland" was essentially "High Noon" acted out on a moon of Jupiter (Saturn?) in an unspecified future. It doesn't serve the story to wonder why the characters seem to be unaware of the older film.

For a better example, I see Asimov's (original) Foundation series as taking the idea of empire and extrapolating it on a galactic scale--planets in place of countries, outer space instead of oceans, but telling a story about the fall of Rome and the methods by which civilization stayed afloat afterwards. It never occured to me to question the plausibility of the premise, any more than I consider "Metamorphosis" a failure for not explaining how Gregor turned into a bug.

And heckfire -- it could happen!

Any fans of the old 1970s "Land of the Lost" kids' show? I was absolutely chilled when the talking, time-travelling Sleestak (Enok?) realized to his horror that the savage Sleestak were not his primitive ancestors, but his decendants. I was only 14 at the time, but I understood what a tragedy it would be, and I still remember the dialogue almost word for word:

"I have made a grave error. I have not come backward in time, but forward. The Sleestak are not my ancestors. They are the barbaric descendants of a race who could no longer keep their anger in check. This is not my past. This is my future."

LarryHart said...

From the previous thread, re: "Star Wars":

The original movie was about everymen being the best they could be in a difficult situation. Han Solo, young Luke, old Ben, the droids, even Chewbacca found themselves in a situation way out of their league and did what they could, much as did Dr Brin's protagonist in "The Postman".

It was only in the sequels that it became all about who had magic Skywalker blood.

David Brin said...

Alex are you kidding? An island with herbivore giant dinos... and you wouldn't go? And then come back ten years later to see ONE (just one) T rex?

David Brin said...

Tony the Cherokee did just that in the 1830s. Took the State of Georgia to the Supreme Court... and won! Then Andy Jackson betrayed them and the Court.

Tony Fisk said...

To paraphrase Milne, and the thoughts of a small mammal:

Albertos and roaring T. Rexes
hate saying, "How do you do?" -
But I give buns to the brachiosaur
when I go down to the Zoo!

Tangentially related to the discussion, there's an online course on Biomimicry (from University of Minnesota) that's just starting up. Those interested may still have time to enroll.

Tony Fisk said...

Interesting about the Cherokee (I knew about the 'Trail of Tears' but not the legal battle that preceded it).
Similar floutings of the Law are evident in Australia's early history. eg the Myall Creek Massacre.

Talking of exploitation, Pandora, and the Law brings to mind that speech from 'Man For All Seasons'
Moore: "...This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?..."

Chris Heinz said...

Re the This Could Not Evolve objection there was a great blog post just after the movie came out re Pandora must be a post-singularity engineered world.

Chris Heinz said...

Re the lack of drama in Utopia, it is why The Culture novels plots mostly involved encounters with non-Culture civilizations.

Alex Tolley said...

I'd go just to see a ressurected Passenger Pidgeon. But i'm not an average person. Charismatic megafauna are what people want, and yes, herbivorous Giant Pandas are a main attraction. A brachiosaur, stegosaur etc would be a big attraction, as would a possible Mammoth one of these days.

At this point dinosaurs are out of the question despite Crichton's clever idea. But ice age animals might be on the horizon as we can create germ cells and implant fertlized eggs in close relatives. Recently exinct animals should be ressurectable from stuffed ones.

What i would prefer to see are wild populations on reservations, rather than a few animals in a zoo. Mammoths roaming the northern plains or tundra would be a wonderful sight and subject for study.

Alex Tolley said...

If you think about it, crichton's method wouldn't work for a number of reasons. An obvious issue is guessing what dinosaur DNA the mosquito has drunk. The DNA has to generate an embryo in an egg. What size is the egg and how will it be developed to laying state? Issues ignored by the film IIRC.

David Brin said...

"Crichton's method" was stolen from my colleague Pellegrino

Tim H. said...

If Pandora is an engineered world, chances are that Terran mining is destroying infrastructure, like Dwarves mining mithril inadvertently releasing a Balrog. Perhaps in the sequel the Pandoran overmind will offer the Terrans the technology to synthesize their own miracle minerals, if they'll only lay off the digging.

Paul451 said...

Tony Fisk,
"there's an online course on Biomimicry"

My first reading gave that line an odd meaning. "You're teaching them to WHAT?"

sociotard said...

Speaking of Jackson, take a gander at

It advocates removing Jackson from the 20 and putting a woman on it, and there is a poll to pick which woman.

Alex Tolley said...

@Sociotard - Britain did this by putting Jane Austen on the 10 pound note for 2017. The misogynistic pushback was very high. This from a country that had a woman prime minister. I can only imagine the response in the US.

David Brin said...

So? Pick Sarah Palin and watch their heads explode.

Patricia Mathews said...

It's just like the juvenile adventure stories where the quickest way to make the children the action heroes is to make them orphans, or give them bad parents/guardians, or separate them from their parents, or at least, leave them motherless.

Alfred Differ said...

How about we put Liberty back on our money. Female enough?

locumranch said...

I find myself in agreement with most of what David has to say today, especially his assertion that "A functioning, decent, competent civilization is a drama killer", disagreeing only with his assumption that this somehow correlates with the societal rejection of either 'violence' and/or 'drama', as both are qualities that the human psyche requires.

"Violent Drama" is something we (as human beings) all desire and crave, that what which we wish to avoid being the adverse consequences of said violent drama rather than either the drama or the violence themselves.

This is why we demand these qualities from our entertainment; this is why our society chooses to manufacture emotional crises out of whole cloth when none need exist; and this is why we (as a society) insist on regularly overestimating the statistical dangers that we face. [Multiple examples available on demand].

Finally, I'd like to clarify a comment I made earlier about the 'Noble Savage' trope:

Technical Sophistication and Morality are non-identical concepts, even though we often assume them to be synonymous. It therefore follows that the presence or absence of **civilisation** (and/or technical sophistication) has little or nothing to do with morality, meaning that neither party (savage or civilised) can claim morality as their exclusive property, especially when human immorality knows no bounds. [Also, multiple examples available on demand]


Alex Tolley said...

@sociotard, Alfred,

It's a pity so many candidates were active in the 20th century, rather than the 18th or 19th.

Unfortunately few of the pre-20th century candidates are very recognizable to me. Are there so few worthy, highly recognizable women in earlier centuries?

sociotard said...

From the United States? Abigail Adams would work well.

occam's comic said...

Harriet Tubman is one of the United States of America's greatest heroes.
And replacing that scumbag Jackson with her on the 20 would a vast improvement.
Although I could also really support putting Sequoya on the 20 for poetic justice reasons.

David Brin said...

Occam... Sequoya. Yessssss!

Alfred Differ said...

Abigail should be on a bill if Hamilton qualifies.

We should probably consider putting husband/wife pairs on the bills while we are at it. There have been some really good team Presidents. Try imagining FDR without Eleanor for example.

matthew said...

I'll second the call for getting the scumbag Jackson off the $20. My great-grandma Bird was a Choctaw raised in Oklahoma. I lost family on the Trail of Tears.

Why does the replacement have to be from the 18th or 19th century? I say Rosa Parks.

Alex Tolley said...

Why does the replacement have to be from the 18th or 19th century? I say Rosa Parks.

If people are too contemporary, their place in history is not certain. After 50-100 years, their contributions are fairly set and likely not assailable.

Rosa Parks is fine, although a little too recent for my taste. Similarly Rachel Carson. Susan B Anthony is a safe one, but possibly over used?

Tony Fisk said...

Checks topic...
Checks discussion...
Women on 20s... (readies comic hand grenade)
Indians on 20s... (sets delay fuse)

(and... lobs.)
How about Pocahontas?


Alfred Differ said...

If you want a real grenade, my wife's first suggestion was Margaret Sanger.

Randall Winn said...

Tim H. said...
//*Perhaps in the sequel the Pandoran overmind will offer the Terrans ...*//

...a chance for aged humans to join the treemind?

Tony Fisk said...

Ooh! Margaret Sanger *has* been seriously suggested...

Alfred Differ said...

Fermi Paradox implications:

Imagining mobile Jovians feels like the time I first learned that the continents move. That such behemoths could move I learned awhile ago, but I obviously tried to dodge the implications. 8)

David Brin said...

The Jovian hit-man scenario is being overplayed. There are major selection biases in the Kepler data that ensure we'll mostly see systems with close-in planets/

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Jovian hit man

Why did Jupiter move inwards?,
The explanation in the article is nonsense

If Jupiter was moved inwards by the same interaction with Saturn that later moved it outwards then the conclusion that Sol type systems are very rare is bogus -

Such interactions could occur with any system with two or more gas giants

Tim H. said...

R.W., that would be a strategically sensible idea for Pandora, access to Terran knowledge at a level no book could match. And the Terrans should be concentrating on access to the tree-mind.

locumranch said...

Our so-called 'misogynistic failure' to put a woman on US paper currency is one such example of the false drama, violence & crises that our culture chooses to manufacture in order to drum up interest in a society in decline. Other false entertainments & violent dramas include manufacture of terrrorism & rape crises.

(1) To US citizens, the so-called terrorist threat is statistically insignificant:

The number of private US citizens killed in 2013 by Terrorism = 16 (the majority being private military contractors).

The number of private US citizens killed in 2013 by US anti-terrrorist drone stikes = 4

(2) Likewise, the so-called 'Rape Crises' at US Universities is largely imaginary:

Rather than being subject to a "20% risk of rape at US universities", the 18-24 age-adjusted rape risk at US universities is actually 20% LOWER than the US population in general (6.1 to 7.6%) with the US Dept of Justice reporting an overall occurance of US rape in 2013 at "26 out of 100, 000" (aka '0.0026%') and a 'completed sexual violence against US women' rate of "1 out of 1000' in 2010.

The Progressive Mentality is an irrational one, capable of crammiing any amount of contradictory data into their delusional belief systems.

So, which is it? Is the world becoming that much SAFER as Pinker suggests, or is becoming that much more rapey, deadly & DANGEROUS as claimed by the progressives? It cannot be both.


Alex Tolley said...

@locum - do you really need reminding who started the "war on terror", created a "department of homeland security", started 2 wars in "Afghanistan" and "Iraq" with the deliberately misleading claims of imminent nuclear threat? And which political party is staunchly defending taking away our civil liberties by giving the NSA carte blanche to snoop on everyone in the name of "security". Hint: not a party traditionally associated with liberals (and which in turn is not very liberal).

Rape is notoriously vague in classification and also under-reported. Complaining that the "rape crisis" is due to over hyped polls suggesting 20%, while the actual rate is ~ 7%, yet actual reported rapes are less than 1% is silly.
If 7% is reasonable. it is too high. Let's say it represents a 1:15 chance of sexual assault during 4 years of college. Would a similar figure for rape of a man, or perhaps a severe beating be acceptable to you? Under-reporting happens because women do not want to report husbands and because police authorities tend not to investigate rapes. One police department (in Virginia?) has years of untested vaginal samples because they did not follow up rape cases.

The misogyny is not is the fact that women do not appear on bank note. The misogyny was the backlash against the plan of putting a women on a British bank note. I have little doubt the US experience will be similar if the Treasury decides to follow suit.

Finally, where you see "society in decline" (how often has this been used in history?) I see more transparency and desire to face inequality and correct it. You may wish to characterize this as reducing your freedom, I see it as giving everyone a equal playing field.

locumranch said...

What a bunch of non-statistical rationalisation:

(1) The picture of Queen Elizabeth 2 has been plastered all over banknotes from at least 15 countries (including British currency) for going on 80 years yet any resistence against non-royal female idolatry is termed 'mysogyny';

(2) The rape statistics provided above are as accurate as they come (a rate of 0.0026% for US women of ALL ages, 6.1% for college-aged women at university, 7.6% for college-aged women who are NOT at university, etc), yet Female Rape Hysteria predominates even though there are a number of studies that indicate that Men (especially Imprisoned Men) Are Just As LIkely To Be Raped As Women Are; and

(3) Probability Fallacy, we can all agree, is still Probability Fallacy, leading to all sorts of irrational hysteria, existing fot the express purpose of squashing rational discourse, even when it is done for the most ignoble conservative or the most noble progressive purpose. Either way, it is indefensible, being intolerable shyte, but it's just like a progressive apologist to propagate lies & more lies for the public good.


Alex Tolley said...

yet any resistence against non-royal female idolatry is termed 'mysogyny'

What would you call it then? Here is a list of people on banknotes from various countries.
The US has never had a woman on the notes, whereas Britain has had Florence Nightingale. (QEII is expected as the head of state), just as on the coinage. Arguable that FN has been on the notes does somewhat undermine the misogyny argument for England, although, as I stated, the misogyny applied to the pushback received.

The rape statistics provided above are as accurate as they come (a rate of 0.0026% for US women of ALL ages

That is reported, not actual. Note that 6% for women aged say 18-24 is the same as 6.(7/80)% = 0.5% for all ages assuming 80 years life span, which is 2 orders of magnitude higher than 0.0026%. Why the discrepancy if the statistics are so good? Definitions and under-reporting are possible reasons as I have stated.

Police departments ignoring rape cases:

yet Female Rape Hysteria predominates even though there are a number of studies that indicate that Men (especially Imprisoned Men) Are Just As LIkely To Be Raped As Women Are;

These aren't women in jail. Rape of men in jail is appalling, but that doesn't excuse (normalize?) rape of women.

David Brin said...

Locum had been sounding dangerously and weirdly cogent, lately. Then this: “So, which is it? Is the world becoming that much SAFER as Pinker suggests, or is becoming that much more rapey, deadly & DANGEROUS as claimed by the progressives? It cannot be both.”

Um? Bizarre. First, far-liberals hate Pinker, because they psychotically think that admitting progress undermines determination for more. A psychosis almost 5% as screeching crazy as the entire American right’s drooling insanities.

But regular mainstream liberals have no problems admitting there’s been progress… while demanding more be made. And to imagine that there’s no sexual problems on college campuses is simply staggering loopiness. Sure, it may be exaggerated, in comparison to other dangers or to the past. So? It is a hellish mess compared to the way things will be in the FUTURE! And we have a right to be pissed off over any colleges that aren’t pushing forward hard, to reduce this continuing travesty.

But that is… ahem… positive sum thinking and I forgot who I was talking to.

David Brin said...


Laurent Weppe said...

"Sorry Laurent. I don't swallow it for an instant. Anekin's "fall" was utterly cartoonish."

Yes, the fall was utterly cartoonish: but the problem here lies in the story's execution, not in its narrative building blocks.


"Re the lack of drama in Utopia, it is why The Culture novels plots mostly involved encounters with non-Culture civilizations."

It was the series central plot point: the Culture could easily live on in splendid isolation, since the few civilizations which have the muscle to actually threaten the Space Hippies have zero interest in picking a fight. The Culturniks maintain their Contact and Special Circumstance agencies mostly because they're afraid that they'll get bored with life otherwise.

Alex Tolley said...

Parasites need to feed. So if our biology is different, the parasites will die or remove themselves if they can. Too much scifi horror has influenced these ideas.

The pollen is an interesting issue however. The mere shape might trigger immune reactions.