Arrival (mild spoilers)


I saw “Arrival” thursday night, and I loved it. Some spoilers may follow:

The writer’s podcast has an episode with the scriptwriter, which is pretty cool, because it reveals a pattern: script-writers write a decent script then work hard to sell it, resulting in a successful movie (as opposed to marketing hacks string together a bunch of product placement and explosions into a {Bond,superhero,Terminator} movie and it sucks)

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First, let me say: “thank you Hollywood for a movie that does not relentlessly insult my intelligence”

It’s not super-profound but there’s enough there to think about and it’s not a mindless shoot-em-up of simplistic stereotypes and wooden dialogue. Forest Whitaker puts in an amazingly low-key performance with a thoughtful Jeremy Renner, but it’s Amy Adams who wins the show and – deservedly so. The premise is cool and free of bafflegab: what if we needed to talk to aliens, and – you know – asked a linguist? Instead of opening fire on them, I mean.

There are a few minor weaknesses: some idiots try a conventional high explosive against aliens that are capable of making mysterious interstellar 1km tall things float against gravity. Spoiler: it fails.

Best of all, I can add Arrival to my very short list of Time Travel Movies That Do Not Suck.

At first I thought that key parts of what turned out to be plot were just emotion-background-gumbo for the main character (brilliantly and passionately played by Amy Adams) but they were critical anchors that lead to the eventual realization that the character is, per the Golgafrinchams Tralfamadorians “unstuck in time” – someone who is in the middle of an important event that needs to be synchronized in past and present. And, we realize as we watch the movie, that all critical events are potentially forward-and-backward-looking. Like 12 monkeys, the heroine in Arrival doesn’t alter history by her presence in it: she fulfils it. It’s almost jesus-like except its not as stupid as jesus stories are.*

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Visually, it’s delicious. I am going to buy the soundtrack to play in my bathroom. I mean that as a compliment: it’s so good and absorbing you won’t realize it’s part of your ambient environment until the director wants to you to know it’s time to be nervous. It’s that profoundly polished and professional. I am sure the sound track musician is simultaneously elated and self-effacing: Johan Johannson’s score is Arvo Part-esque liturgy. Really, it should win awards. The sci-fi stuff is subtle: so it works. There’s no need to explain how mountains move, as long as it’s beautiful.

There were  several times when I was loudly breathtaken by the majesty of the visuals. This is not your Star Wars-style “how many pew pew pew light saber-wielding spaceships can we render at once” stuff, it was much slower and much more thoughtful.

Before they screened the film, they ran the “Rogue One” trailer (which I will see) and it looked shallow and frenetic by comparison. I think “Arrival” is an important movie in 2016, for a lot of reasons, and I – for one – welcome it.

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(*Michael Moorcock’s “Behold The Man” comes to mind, execept Moorcock is actually pretty good!)

ASSUME ANY COMMENTS ARE SPOILER OK

 

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Shiv@#1:
    I’m not willing to guarantee movies.

    Though, I’ll say: it’s better than Star Wars.

    PS – I think I’d have to be crazy to say “if you don’t like this movie I’ll refund your money” now that Stanley Kubrick is dead.

  2. John Morales says

    I’m predisposed to being disappointed; Googling tells me it’s based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life.

  3. Owlmirror says

    I didn’t listen to the podcast, but I did read this:

    http://thetalkhouse.com/how-i-wrote-arrival/

    I also found that the screenplay is online:

    http://paramountguilds.com/pdf/arrival.pdf

    And (samples of?) the score:

    http://www.paramountguilds.com/arrival/score/

    I particularly appreciated the screenplay, because there were bits of dialog that I missed due to ambient noise or other sonic confusion (the follow-up on the question about the Sanskrit word for “war” was overwhelmed by the helicopter noise, for example).

    I haven’t seen many movies recently. Before “Arrival”, I had seen “Doctor Strange”, and got the feeling that it was basically a bunch of computer special-effects teams showing off. The fate of the world was at stake! — supposedly, anyway. I couldn’t make myself believe it. It looked cool, but felt hollow.

    But I really liked “Arrival”. So: thumbs up.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    It might be worth seeing for the visuals, music and acting, but from what I’ve read about the movie, it’s more mysticism than sc-fi.

  5. Owlmirror says

    @Marcus Ranum:

    I think I’d have to be crazy to say “if you don’t like this movie I’ll refund your money” now that Stanley Kubrick is dead.

    There is nothing so good that someone somewhere won’t hate it; there is nothing so bad that someone somewhere won’t love it.
    (I know that this is not original to me, but I don’t know who might have said it first)

  6. Owlmirror says

    @Rob Grigjanis:

    It might be worth seeing for the visuals, music and acting, but from what I’ve read about the movie, it’s more mysticism than sc-fi.

    I would agree that the film has some soft SF — basically, the conceit that learning an alien language can give you the ability to remember the future as well as the past, or combine memories of future and past, or something like that — but it feels more SFnal than “mystic”, although I can see that label being applied.

    I also started thinking about “Star Wars”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the various “Star Trek” films — and I now wonder if there were any SF films where the term “mysticism” couldn’t be applied. I mean, really now.

    I’ve recently seen the term “porridge science fiction” offered to apply to stories where very squishy concepts of the supernatural are combined with hard-SF tropes like robots.

    You can evaluate Story of Your Life for yourself.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Owlmirror @9: First, thanks for the link. It’s a lovely story.

    My problem with what I read about the movie wasn’t in the story, and I didn’t see the alteration of time perception as being mystical*. The problem was a consequence of the inevitable Hollywoodization of any good story. I’d say more, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone else.

    *I thought the use of physics was quite good. The idea that Fermat’s principle would be more fundamental to the heptapods than a concept like velocity; nicely done.

  8. says

    John Morales@#4:
    I’m predisposed to being disappointed; Googling tells me it’s based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life.
    Owlmirror@#9:
    You can evaluate Story of Your Life for yourself.

    The scriptwriter described how they had to change the story in order to make it work as a movie, which is also an interesting process. I thought it was pretty cool how he described breaking down the story so it could have human tension added via conflict. I’m not saying that the screenplay is better or worse because of that, but it’s a different story.

    I’ve discovered that in order to keep my brain from exploding, I don’t even think of movies as being directly related to the books that they are sometimes supposedly drawn from. It’s easier if you don’t even look for common threads. There’s a movie. There’s a book. They may have the same title and a few characters, but they’re nothing alike. I first figured this out when I watched my first James Bond movie and was going “Whaaaaaaaaaaatttt?!?!?!?!” the whole time. Film’s a totally different art-form.

  9. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#11:
    The problem was a consequence of the inevitable Hollywoodization of any good story. I’d say more, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone else.

    I did find it grimly amusing that the scriptwriter added tension in the form of “humans doing what humans do” (i.e.: conflict) so that “hollywood could do what hollywood does.” We’ve all got our roles in this play here and dog forbid anyone deviates from their lines.

  10. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#7:
    but from what I’ve read about the movie, it’s more mysticism than sc-fi.

    Well, I guess if you put it that way, it sort of is. But any movie with time travel (unless it’s going forward at the prescribed rate of 1 second per second) is going to be mysticism to the degree that it’s about impossible things being done by impossible super-beings.

    As far as “science fiction” content, there’s a 1km-tall object that appears to be made of a stonelike substance, floating in a gravity field. That’s pretty far-fetched!! And then it moves – apparently violating a lot of conservation laws. And it disappears. So there’s a lot of science fiction going on, unless that’s so far out that it’s “mysticism” (which I would buy)

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @15: The short story isn’t about time travel. It’s about experiencing time differently. Possible problems with this might have to do with determinism, free will, etc, but to me that’s small potatoes compared to ‘actual’ time travel, or FTL (which implies the possibility of time travel). But even those are OK with me, if they’re done well. But the part of the movie (again, I only read about it) which bothered me went beyond the usual tropes and introduced what looked like above-and-beyond-the-usual-scifi woo to me.

    there’s a 1km-tall object that appears to be made of a stonelike substance, floating in a gravity field. That’s pretty far-fetched!! And then it moves – apparently violating a lot of conservation laws.

    I can make a gizmo from an old coffee tin, some popsicle sticks, rubber bands and an old battery which apparently violates some conservation laws, because of what you cant see. Anyway, the ships in the short story are in boring old orbit.

  12. John Morales says

    Rob:

    Marcus @15: The short story isn’t about time travel. It’s about experiencing time differently.

    No, it’s about remembering the future*, and about performing one’s timeline role knowingly by virtue of that.

    The very title is an allusion, the which is made explicit in the story.

    I do agree with you that the movie and the film appear to be different stories (I wish I could be as sanguine as Marcus @13).

    * via an overloading of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I give (some) credence to it, but that it transcends causality is just silly. It makes sense only if one grants the narrator is unreliable and writes ex-post-facto.

  13. EnkidumCan'tLogin says

    There seems to be a recent trend towards wide-release science fiction movies for grown-ups, of which I think Arrival is the best (there’s also, e.g., The Martian, which was quite entertaining, and Interstellar, which I haven’t seen but apparently isn’t great). It’s refreshing, to say the least.

    Rob @16: the movie also isn’t about time travel, but experiencing time differently.

  14. says

    The movie, per reports, suggests that the visitors came ‘because’ of something (help needed in 3000 years etc). This is to completely miss the point of the sort story. The aliens don’t do anything because of anything. Causality is a meaningless concept to them.

    Chiang’s story is in fact straight Sapir-Whorf, but he ties that to the idea that changing the way you think gives you perception of the future. I think these are two basic, albeit slightly obscure, SF tropes. What makes the story terrific is the way he’s blended them, and then, well, the story. Which is beautiful.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @17: How is remembering the future not (at least a particular example of) experiencing time differently?

    As to the silliness of ‘transcending’ (not the word I would use for what amounts to a different perspective of the same spacetime, but OK) causality*, that’s a matter of taste. I take it you find SF stories with FTL travel even siller, since FTL actually ditches causality.

    *To the heptapods, our notion of causality is comprehensible, but not natural. To them, the action of a system is more fundamental than velocity or acceleration. But the action still embodies causality, since equations of motion can be derived from it.

  16. John Morales says

    Rob,

    John @17: How is remembering the future not (at least a particular example of) experiencing time differently?

    OK, I concede it is.

    The story states the protagonist is still mostly living “in the moment” — experiencing a “now” sequentially — except that instead of merely remembering the past, she also remembers the future. As opposed to “always” experiencing the interval as a gestalt, as the heptapods presumably do.

    As to the silliness of ‘transcending’ (not the word I would use for what amounts to a different perspective of the same spacetime, but OK) causality*, that’s a matter of taste. I take it you find SF stories with FTL travel even siller, since FTL actually ditches causality.

    Indeed, though closed loops and many-worlds versions can still work.

    Ted is a careful writer, so I find his choice of words in this passage (rot13) interesting [would, not could]:

    Fvzvyneyl, xabjyrqtr bs gur shgher jnf vapbzcngvoyr jvgu serr jvyy. Jung znqr vg cbffvoyr sbe zr gb rkrepvfr serrqbz bs pubvpr nyfb znqr vg vzcbffvoyr sbe zr gb
    xabj gur shgher. Pbairefryl, abj gung V xabj gur shgher, V jbhyq arire npg pbagenel gb gung shgher, vapyhqvat gryyvat bguref jung V xabj: gubfr jub xabj gur shgher qba’g gnyx nobhg vg. Gubfr jub’ir ernq gur Obbx bs Ntrf arire nqzvg gb vg.

    (As with a previously-featured story (thanks, Owlmirror!) I see a theme of loss of volition)

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @22: Yes, the last two sentences of the passage seemed odd to me as well, for a couple of reasons. More later, as my near future will involve shovelling of snow.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    John: Yeah, ‘would not could’ seems to imply that Louise has a choice, and chooses to ‘agree’ with her future. I put that down to imperfect wording by someone in a hybrid state, which would be understandable. Her future is not something that she sees and could change if she so desired. It is as established as her (or our!) past. But saying she has no choice is also misleading, since it is language that would be used by someone who experiences time sequentially. She may even have the illusion of choice when she is in a ‘now’ state, hence her wording. But ‘choice’ is as inapplicable as ‘no choice’ in the gestalt state.

    In short, I see Chiang as carefully choosing the words that a person in Louise’s condition might use.

  19. says

    Rob Grigjanis:
    John Morales@#17:
    No, it’s about remembering the future*, and about performing one’s timeline role knowingly by virtue of that.

    An important distinction. You’re right.

    So there’s time-travel in this movie but it’s only forward at a rate of 1sec/sec!!

  20. philipelliott says

    “how many pew pew pew light saber-wielding spaceships can we render at once”

    You’re enjoying this opportunity to provoke them, aren’t you?

  21. Owlmirror says

    @Rob Grigjanis:

    I was bothered by the implicit teleology in the way Story of Your Life described the principle of least time, and the Wikipedia article on the topic quickly got way over my head.

    After pondering Fermat’s principle for a bit, I wondered if it might be easier to understand in English if it were phrased as “the principle of least time via conserved energy” — that is, any of the other possible paths that could be taken would imply spontaneous energy creation/destruction taking place, and would thus be violations of the 1st law of thermodynamics.

    But it’s quite possible I have reached a superficially plausible but mistaken conceptualization.

  22. Owlmirror says

    @Marcus Ranum:

    So there’s time-travel in this movie but it’s only forward at a rate of 1sec/sec!

    I’m not so sure of that.

    Consider an analogy: A hard drive that is presenting data from the future.

    (Comparing the brain to a hard disk is a horrendous oversimplification, but the basic concept seems to work: experiences of physical reality by way of nerve impulses from the sensory organs are stored in some as-yet unknown manner in brain cells in such a way that they can be “read”; that is, other neural signals can go to the stored impressions and evoke them or play them back)

    What is actually happening with such a hard drive? Does the write head spontaneously start acting as though it has been given commands to write data that have not actualy been given (yet), and write the future data? Or does the data spontaneously appear on the drive? Or does the read head start spontaneously start acting as though it is reading data that is not actually there on the disk (yet)? Is there some case I have missed?

    No matter how I think of it, it certainly looks like data and energy, at the very least, are coming back through time. What looks spontaneous to us might be the result of closed timelike curves between the write head or disk in the future and the read head or disk “now”.

    Similarly, if the future is being remembered, then neural signals (neurotransmitters? the electrochemical affects of neurotransmitters?) are going from future to past so the experiences they encode can be recalled in the present (or past to when the experiences actually occurred).

    Does that make any sense?
    /probably overthinking things

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Owlmirror @28:

    I was bothered by the implicit teleology in the way Story of Your Life described the principle of least time…

    If you know the beginning and end points of a particle’s path (which the heptapods would), the principle of least action (a generalization of Fermat’s principle) gives you the path it takes from start to end. If you know the beginning position and velocity, the equations of motion* give you exactly the same path. Is one approach more or less teleological than the other? They both give the same answer, starting with two known vectors (the start and end positions in one case, the start position and start velocity in the other).

    I wondered if it might be easier to understand in English if it were phrased as “the principle of least time via conserved energy”

    I’m not sure how useful that would be, since conservation of energy (and other stuff) would also be determined by the action (via Noether’s theorem).

    *which are derivable from the principle of least action.

    Added note: this all presupposes a deterministic universe, which the short story seems to imply.

  24. says

    Owlmirror@#29:
    You’ve clearly thought about it harder than I have! I’m not sure where the line of “overthinking” lies.

    No matter how I think of it, it certainly looks like data and energy, at the very least, are coming back through time. What looks spontaneous to us might be the result of closed timelike curves between the write head or disk in the future and the read head or disk “now”.

    You’re right. Something has to come back through time, for her to have her “flashes” or “dreams”(I’ll call them “flashes”)

    I’m not good with the physics but I believe that the whole FTL/time travel thing depends on being able to manipulate information (sending a signal over a distance at FTL means the information has gone back in time, and you can manipulate that) Then things get hazy for me, because “information” in a brain is not just some nebulous thing: it’s encoded in changes in the electrical potential between and connections in neurons. For her to have her flashes, her brain would have been being changed (which actually is sort of how the flashes were represented… she’s doing something then suddenly her mind changes, which is cool because we mistake that for film-editing: movie “flashbacks” except these are not continuity breaks!)

    I guess that the aliens (or some other power) are doing more or less the same thing that the Chinese general did: fulfilling the fact that the information that was available as a “flash” in the past happens in the future. Because, it did, and it has to. “In 3000 we’ll need your help” needn’t be anything fancy, it could be simply that they had that conversation and always had that conversation, and always will have had that conversation.

    So: somehow an idea (physical brain states) travels in time.

  25. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @31:

    somehow an idea (physical brain states) travels in time.

    Nothing has to travel in time. From our point of view, Louise at some point acquired (fairly suddenly) memories of her future. That is a physiological change , but in a deterministic universe, this doesn’t require the travelling of anything back in time, since the future is fixed. All the information required to describe the future is implicit in the present.

  26. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @31:

    doing more or less the same thing that the Chinese general did

    This is the part of what I read in the wikipedia entry for the movie which set my alarm bells off. It says the general knew what he must do, without knowing why. That’s the deus ex machina in the film. Nothing comparable occurs in the short story.

  27. Owlmirror says

    @Rob Grigjanis:

    Nothing has to travel in time. From our point of view, Louise at some point acquired (fairly suddenly) memories of her future. That is a physiological change , but in a deterministic universe, this doesn’t require the travelling of anything back in time, since the future is fixed. All the information required to describe the future is implicit in the present.

    Hm. Are you thinking that the Heptapod language allows one to become a Laplacian demon, able to calculate future events subconsciously by cranking through the various states from the current time to the future time? Yet doesn’t that require total omniscience of the universe in its present state? Or at least total knowledge of everything that will (in future states) affect one’s personal timeline?

    This is the part of what I read in the wikipedia entry for the movie which set my alarm bells off. It says the general knew what he must do, without knowing why. That’s the deus ex machina in the film. Nothing comparable occurs in the short story.

    Ah! I think I know what you mean.

    [Um. SPOILERS AHOY!]

    [SPOILERS IMMANENT]

    [BREAK OFF NOW TO AVOID SPOILERS]

    [HERE IT COMES…]

    But the general does sort-of know why: He shows her his number in his present because she already called it in his past. He tells her in his present what she said because she told him in his past — and apparently added that she wouldn’t remember in the future what she was telling him at that time, so he tells her when they meet.

    Page 121 of the screenplay:


                        GENERAL SHANG
              You changed my mind. In a way, you
              are the reason for the unification.
              All because you reached out to me
              on my private number.

     
                        LOUISE
              Your private number? General, I
              don't know what, uh...
     
    Shang shows her his sleek SMARTPHONE. It's open to an ID
    screen with a number. She accepts it, staring at the screen.
     
                        GENERAL SHANG
              Now you do. I do not claim to know
              how your brain works, but I believe
              it's important you see that.
     
                        LOUISE
                        (beat)
              Wait. I called you, didn't I...
     
                        GENERAL SHANG
              You did. And you spoke to me. I
              will never forget what you said.
     
                        LOUISE
              General, you must forgive me. I've
              had a bit to drink tonight. I might
              need a reminder.
     
                        GENERAL SHANG
              Yes. You warned me of this as well.
     
    He looks over his shoulder, to make sure no one is
    eavesdropping. Then he leans close to her.

    In a way, it reminds me of the “performative” aspect described in the story. Louise is going to remember the number from the future, and call it, and say something to Shang, and Shang is going to be sufficiently impressed by this that he shows her the number that she will then call, and tell her what she said to him, which she will remember in the past and tell him. Since the future is determined, it is determined that Louise will learn this number, and what she said, somehow.

    Both Louise and Shang are “performing” here, so that the information will be properly transmitted in the way that it is determined that it will be transmitted.

    I also get the sense that Shang either intuited some of what was going on, or picked it up from Louise’s dissemination of information about the Heptapod language, but that may just be me reading into the scene.

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    Owlmirror @35:

    Are you thinking that the Heptapod language allows one to become a Laplacian demon, able to calculate future events subconsciously by cranking through the various states from the current time to the future time?

    That’s rather ‘nowist’ phrasing ;-). You don’t have to calculate what you already know; heptapods don’t have a ‘now’, so any concept of ‘future’ would be artificial to them. In a deterministic universe, all paths are determined. The heptapod mind perceives its whole path as a unity, “all at once” if you like. The path is there, no calculations or time travel necessary.

    Of course, Louise is not a heptapod. Her knowledge of Heptapod B leaves her in a weird mixed state. Mostly in ‘now’ with past and future memories, but sometimes experiencing her whole (presumably post-Heptapod B) life at once, as a heptapod would.

    Any analogy is a bad one, but here’s one anyway: you’re on a sled in the snow, pushing yourself along. But you’re facing backwards. You see tracks in the snow behind you where your sled has gone. Perhaps you think you are making those tracks. Then for some reason you’re forced to turn around. The tracks continue ahead, all the way to your now-revealed destination. The tracks were always there, as was the destination. All that’s changed is your view.

  29. says

    At first I thought that key parts of what turned out to be plot were just emotion-background-gumbo for the main character

    Personally I quickly came to believe that the backstory was the main story. That the arrival of aliens was actually a metaphor for the new life that had arrived for her after those backstory events happened.

    I still think I’m correct in my assessment. The learning throughout the movie was a metaphor for processing what happened, and the meaning of it, and how to look at it, and so on.

  30. brucegee1962 says

    Just saw the movie.

    It seems to me that there are two different ways that this type of polysynchronous mind might work. (This also refers to other forms of future-seeing.) I think of them in terms of the scenario where a character is walking down the hall, knowing that the door at the end of the hall is rigged with explosives.

    In version A polysynchonicity, the person essentially sees several alternate futures, including one where she is blown up by the explosives. Assuming she isn’t suicidal, she doesn’t open the door, and leaves by a different route. I think the original place where I saw this idea, “The Weed of Time” by Norman Spinrad, had this type of futuresight: a planet full of animals that could never be caught by the crewmen because the animals always knew where the traps would be.

    Obviously, in a society where everyone had this ability, death by accidents would be very rare, with most people dying just by disease or old age. If you saw multiple outcomes from every decision you make and were able to choose the best, you should be able to maximize your life in all manner of ways.

    This version has problems if more than one person has the precog ability, though. In Spinrad’s planet, what would happen if a precog carnivore was hunting precog prey? What about two precog nations who declare war on one another?

    In version B, the heroine knows she is going to be blown up by the door, but can’t stop herself from opening the door anyway. Someone living in that way might feel that they lack free will and are just along for the ride – or perhaps, more positively, they might experience their entire life what we would call “simultaneously,” more or less making all their decisions at once.

    This would be even weirder than the version A society, though. People in the B society would say things like “I’m going to die in ten years, on April 12 at 10:15 am because I step off a curb without looking both ways” or “I’m going to die next week, because I cut myself yesterday and foolishly won’t go to the doctor when it gets infected, because I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

    I noted that the movie completely blurred the lines between which type of minds the aliens had. (SPOILERS)

    If her mother was a type B future seer, then the daughter Hannah might just as easily have died from an accident as from an incurable disease. Obviously, that would have been more than most viewers could have handled — “butbutbutbut she knew her daughter was going to have a rock climbing accident, and she couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to stop it? That would be the most horrible thing in the world!” The incurable fatal disease neatly dodges the problem.

    There’s also the scene with the explosives, though. (Alfred Hitchcock would be proud.) On the one hand, the aliens seem to predict and anticipate the explosion, tapping on the glass and seemingly trying to get the humans aware of it, then finally taking action to prevent the humans from being killed. That would indicate type A awareness – but in that case, why is one of the aliens killed, if they are able to take steps to prevent bad outcomes?

  31. John Morales says

    brucegee1962,

    In Spinrad’s planet, what would happen if a precog carnivore was hunting precog prey? What about two precog nations who declare war on one another?

    A variant is the “temporal fugue” in Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness.

    (Boom! goes local spacetime)

  32. brucegee1962 says

    Another alternative is that a battle could be like the climactic duel between Holmes and Moriarty in the second Sherlock Holmes movie. The two geniuses sit down, and both agree that, in every possible scenario, Moriarty will whup Holmes in a fight. Therefore, they take the whupping as a given, and move forward considering consequences as if it had already taken place. So with the predator/prey relationship, the prey might just lie down and let itself be eaten, rather than bother with a chase it was doomed to lose.

    I guess this type of precognition would pretty much make war obsolete, so that might be a good thing. The Syrian rebels would say “We really hate Assad, but since we won’t beat him, I guess we’ll have to lump it.” Perfect knowledge makes conflict obsolete?

  33. Mano Singham says

    This is a very interesting discussion. I was not aware of Marcus’s post and all these comments when I saw the film and wrote about it today on my blog, which may be just as well, since I like to see films without too much prior processing of them.

    While reading the short story (thanks Owlmirror @#9 for the link!), I too was a little concerned about the teleological emphasis of the Least Time principle (@#28).

    But I was amused by the idea that the concepts that we consider elementary in our world (such as velocity) may be complicated in theirs and vice versa. It is an idea that I discuss briefly in my forthcoming book, about how we might translate the science between us and extraterrestrials.

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