Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Review, Post-Production

Well, King of Ferrets, Inquisitive Raven, and I watched it and we can’t un-watch it. We paused at various spots to comment while I recorded the audio. I’ll eventually get around to editing, including taking out our silences, whether awkward or thoughtful.

One point I raised in the conversation was the stealing of cars, since there were many in the movie with “don’t take” written on them. Given that gas went up to $40 per gallon in the movie, it left me wondering: Who would benefit from auto theft? Where would the black market demand come from? On the other hand, I could understand selling them for scrap metal. Then my brother, who is a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, enlightened me to another theft motive and the flaw in my thinking.

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The Truth

There’s a villain named Doc Scratch in Homestuck who got me thinking about what it means to be a skeptic or a scientist, as well as what it means to be human in an uncertain world. He is a nearly omniscient being who manipulates the cast into furthering his master’s goals. One of his big things is that he never flat out lies. He’ll tell “temporary lies” for the sake of jokes, which necessitates revealing the lie in the punchline. When he’s called out for “lies of omission,” he has a very good response:

Lies of omission do not exist.
The concept is a very human one. It is the product of your story writing again. You have written a story about the truth, making emotional demands of it, and in particular, of those in possession of it.
Your demands are based on a feeling of entitlement to the facts, which is very childish. You can never know all of the facts. Only I can.
And since it’s impossible for me to reveal all facts to you, it is my discretion alone that decides which facts will be revealed in the finite time we have.
If I do not volunteer information you deem critical to your fate, it possibly means that I am a scoundrel, but it does not mean that I am a liar. And it certainly means you did not ask the right questions.
One can make either true statements or false statements about reality. All of the statements I make are true.

(I’m amusing myself by duplicating MSPA’s antics. If you can’t read it, highlight it.)

We’re story tellers, not just to other humans, but to ourselves. We don’t record all the details of an event the way a camera would, we simplify it into a story where we mostly keep the details that we consider relevant while dumping minutiae. We put this story in our memory and when we call back that memory, we reconstruct it from those elements. Our biases color the interpretation, and we can easily drop details that contradict the story we want to tell each other or tell ourselves. We can also embellish by making up details to convince ourselves of the story’s trustworthiness. Recalling the memory can also change it.

Knowing that our memories are unreliable is one reason we need documentation. An experimenter’s memory may be distorted over time, but if his experiment’s results are recorded as they come in, self-deception from biased memory becomes less likely. Cameras are generally more trustworthy than eyewitnesses, and journals are generally more reliable than your personal recall.

Another aspect I want to bring attention to is the point about asking the right questions. Like Doc Scratch, the universe doesn’t “lie” by capriciously violating its laws to produce deceptive results. If we don’t control for a confounding factor in an experiment’s design, it’s equivalent to being sloppy in asking a question.

We aim to ask questions like “Does A cause X?” If, however, we know that B can cause X and don’t design the experiment with a to exclude B or hold B constant between experimental and control groups, we’re being sloppy and asking “Does A or B cause X?” without realizing it. When the affirmative answer comes in, we fall victim to the sloppy question because it remains possible the positive outcome was actually the result of B’s known influence, while A did nothing.

The universe isn’t malicious like Doc Scratch, but a lot of pseudoscientists are, and in effect, they use his tactics to allow us to deceive ourselves if we aren’t careful and self-aware. There are also plenty of people who don’t acknowledge the complexities of human experience and don’t realize they’ve been deceiving themselves while leading others down the same road. Science is hard work because we acknowledge the difficulty and complexity in asking questions of an uncertain universe. It’s the only way we can trust our results. Self-deception, on the other hand, is quite easy.

Game Concept: “Tutorial”

I had an amusing thought for a joke game. I think we can all say we hate forced tutorials, and I find it particularly annoying when you’re forced to go through the steps just demonstrated. The idea is to make a parody of such tutorials as well as overwrought and unnecessary game mechanics. It starts insultingly simple, telling you how to pick up an item. As it goes on, doing something “simple” involves following complex interacting rules that aren’t mentioned until you inadvertently violate them. Over time, the error messages get impatient with you: “You can’t alchemitize a silver weapon with a Pargon rune while your Lunar Orrery is in a waning phase! What’s wrong with you?!”

For naming conventions on game mechanics, I’d draw inspiration from MS Paint Adventures, including some shout-outs to it. I’d also probably poke fun at real games that overdo it.

Hanging Pictures

One of the old things I did with the original Doggerel series was provide a “helpful image” at the front of the post that had some humorous take on the subject matter or made some kind of reference I could link to. I stopped doing that after a while. Sometimes image searches just didn’t find what I was looking for. Sometimes I just didn’t feel motivated.

I’m thinking about picking that back up, and a little crowd sourcing might help… Though I again realize I don’t have much of a crowd at the moment. (Hi, Yakaru!) So, if you’d like to help, think about images to go with woo cliches as well as my existing Doggerel entries and drop a comment with a link. Don’t wait for me to write up the entry if you’ve got a worthy visual pun. The right image might encourage me to bump up a Doggerel on the schedule.