UPDATE: I got a little too much into Cube World this weekend, plus I’m considering the possibility of having someone else to help me cover it on Skype. Drop a comment if you’re interested in being that other person. If I don’t get any volunteers, I’ll do it by myself on July 20.
Last year, I slogged through writing that stream of consciousness review of part 1. Part 2 has made it onto Netflix, but this time, I won’t have my brother to back me up. He just doesn’t think he’ll be able to stand it. I should probably get myself psyched up and prepared for the horror when I go through it this weekend. I’ve never read the book, so I don’t know the fine details of where the story will go. Or linger in tight circles. Whatever. Cue commentators jealous of my innocence, providing dire warnings about how even indirect exposure via adaptation will fry my neurons.
One point of concern is that I’ve heard, at least in the book, this is where the legendarily bad, hours long author tract will be. I’m morbidly curious how the movie handled it. Trimmed down to minutes or even sound bites? Split up into voice-overs that parallel the “action” in the story? Relegated to DVD Special Bonus disk?
I am curious about something I heard was in the story, once. Most of the criticisms I’ve read were strictly about the crimes against literature and Ayn Rand’s economic and political naivete, but seldom much detail about the science. One science-related criticism I did read was pretty brief and went something like this: “If your ideal society depends on a free energy device, it’s time to rethink things.” Apparently Galt is such a self-made genius that he was able to violate the laws of thermodynamics because there was a market demand for it or something.I suspect I’ll be dealing with the “lone super-genius toiling in obscurity” trope in this, expanded to multiple such geniuses coming together for the sake of rebelling against the society that dared question their brilliance or “suppress” their research with peer reviews and ethics committees. In real life, this is the sort of hipster cliques we expect egotistical cranks to form when they’re too incompetent and out of touch to earn the respect of the scientific community.Once upon a time, it was possible for a lone scientist to unravel a lot of mysteries with powerful unifying theories that turn the scientific community on its head for a generation. They could do that because our ignorance was much more massive in the early days. These days, we’ve pretty much got all the broad strokes down. All that’s left are increasingly fine details like the bottom floor of particle physics and complex systems like those of biology. Researching those things require massive de facto collaborative efforts. Just knowing about problems in the first place often takes extensive research into the works of others, just to be sure no one else has already solved it, or to make sure no one else has already tried your hunch and failed. You don’t get to make your science from scratch like Cave Johnson.
Given the critiques of Ayn Rand’s books, I doubt she let scientific reality get in her way when she wanted to make a Mary Sue. If every scientist worked according to the lone genius trope, treating science like a private enterprise, I suspect we’d more likely be trapped in a dark age, with scientists acting like fantasy wizards. To avoid “theft,” they’d encrypt their knowledge alongside their misconceptions in deliberately obscure symbolism that only people indoctrinated into their tiny clique could decode. Knowledge so encoded would easily be lost if the clique died out or even if the younger generation couldn’t tie their brains into the same knots as their predecessors did to encode that knowledge. Put simply, science would devolve into a smattering of mystery cults. Thankfully, that’s not how scientists roll in this day and age.
The whole “Going Galt” trope smacks of obliviousness about the interdependency of humans, and I doubt watching the movie will smooth over the problems I have with the philosophy. I don’t expect the book to be any better, so I’ll pass on that for now. Yes, there are geniuses with natural talents out there who can do amazing things. They are arguably “superior” as individuals in terms of ability. But they can’t do those amazing things without an infrastructure that seeks out and nurtures those talents while negating their weaknesses. Not every genius can bootstrap themselves up, and in the vein of “what use is a child?”, genius isn’t obvious in childhood. Ironically, I think people like me stress equality of opportunity in hopes that all the geniuses will have a chance to demonstrate their inequality and use it to maintain and improve the system for their own sake as well as society as a whole.
So, that’s a lot of the problems I predict I’ll have with the movie and its philosophy.