I enjoyed the time dilation, which fits comfortably in both hardcore SFF (e.g. Speaker for the Dead) and Nolan’s own oeuvre e.g. Inception. The robots, spacescapes and alien landscapes are highly original and constitute the best parts of the film. On the other hand, the pacing is unusually bad, too slow at some points and too fast at others. Cutting out the in-universe injunction against space travel and the faff about love connecting people across dimensions would greatly improve the film.
It’s an uneven film, but it will age well. It reminds me of Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey, both of which are significantly more difficult than Interstellar but are now part of science fiction canon. It had one of the most interesting paradoxes I’ve seen in recent science fiction – you need data from within a black hole to understand how to manipulate gravity but you need to manipulate gravity to get data from within a black hole. The resolution of this paradox by beings who cannot directly communicate with humanity is at the core of the plot.
The story is not difficult to follow. However, the core paradox is revealed late and its significance is never highlighted, so it’s not immediately obvious how disparate things tie-in with each other. This makes the plot difficult to follow, and makes Interstellar uncharacteristically disconcerting for a Nolan film. I see a lot of people reacting to this by looking for non-existent plot holes.
I’m just going to excerpt the whole thing:
Most people get mad when you say they’re stupid, and when they’re mad, they’re not listening. Neither is anyone else who likes the person you just said was stupid. So congratulations: In one fell swoop, you have guaranteed that no one who disagrees with you will hear a word that you are saying.
Ultimately, calling people stupid is simply a performance for the fellow travelers in your audience. It’s a way that we can all come together and agree that we don’t have to engage with some argument, because the person making it is a bovine lackwit without the basic intellectual equipment to come in out of the rain. So the first message it sends — “don’t listen to opposing arguments” — is a stupid message that is hardly going to make anyone smarter.
The second message it sends is even worse: “If he’s stupid, then we, who disagree with him, are the opposite of stupid, and can rest steady in the assurance of our cognitive superiority.” Feeding your own arrogance is an expansive, satisfying feeling. It is also the feeling of you getting stupider.
I’m always fascinated by the number of people who proudly build columns, tweets, blog posts or Facebook posts around the same core statement: “I don’t understand how anyone could (oppose legal abortion/support a carbon tax/sympathize with the Palestinians over the Israelis/want to privatize Social Security/insert your pet issue here).” It’s such an interesting statement, because it has three layers of meaning.
The first layer is the literal meaning of the words: I lack the knowledge and understanding to figure this out. But the second, intended meaning is the opposite: I am such a superior moral being that I cannot even imagine the cognitive errors or moral turpitude that could lead someone to such obviously wrong conclusions. And yet, the third, true meaning is actually more like the first: I lack the empathy, moral imagination or analytical skills to attempt even a basic understanding of the people who disagree with me.
In short, “I’m stupid.” Something that few people would ever post so starkly on their Facebook feeds.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 inserted Section 114A into the Evidence Act of 1872. It states
In a prosecution for rape … where sexual intercourse by the accused is proved and the question is whether it was without the consent of the woman alleged to have been raped and such woman states in her evidence before the court, that she did not consent, the court shall presume that she did not consent.
In other words, in a he-said-she-said scenario, courts are required to presume the man* guilty, unless he can prove otherwise.
*Only men can be accused under the new law, because enlightened activists decided that female-on-male and female-on-female rape don’t exist.
1. Megan McArdle speculate brilliantly on what factors are responsible for shitty personal finance. Universal, and a must read.
2. “Love is not enough.“
4. Eugene Volokh wins the cultural appropriation debate. Extended analysis here.
5. Why poor people buy status symbols. Speculative but interesting.
Megan McArdle explains it brilliantly:
When very different groups are trying to live together in one big country (or one big city), you inevitably end up with sharply clashing desires, harshly discordant visions of what constitutes the good life and the public weal. Compromise should be sought where compromise is possible, but sometimes it isn’t; sometimes, the law has to choose one side or another. For the side that loses, this is not just perceived as a loss, but also as a demotion, a relegation to outsider status: The government cares about them, and not me.
More here. It’s US centric, but still one of the most insightful posts I read this year. Needless to say, this facet of democracy is not a happy one.
There are two popular arguments for affirmative action. These are the Argument from Equality and the Argument from Diversity.
The Argument from Equality says that people from different genders, races, castes etc are the same. Members of these groups are equally hardworking, intelligent, enterprising etc. If one group is underrepresented in a field, it isn’t because of the personal characteristics of that group. Blame typically falls on “discrimination” – people treating individuals differently on account of prejudiced beliefs about their race, caste, gender etc. Affirmative action is required to fight such harmful prejudice.
The Argument from Diversity says that people from different social groups aren’t the same. They have different experiences, ideas, strengths etc. Members of a minority group have insights that members of the majority group don’t. Decision making, learning etc is better when there are a variety of perspectives at the table. Thus, preferential treatment for underrepresented minorities is desirable.
Both arguments conclude that institutions should provide favorable treatment to underrepresented social groups. However, they have opposing premises. The Argument from Equality assumes that all people are the same. Thus, under-representation is an injustice. The Argument from Diversity assumes that people from different social groups are different. Thus, some people to have insights that others lack.
A priori, there is nothing fallacious about either argument. However, a person must choose which of the two opposing premises he or she agrees with. If women are different from men, then perhaps it is these differences, rather than workplace discrimination, that causes women to earn less than men. The Argument from Equality fails. If women are the same as men, there is no valuable insight that they bring that men lack. The Argument from Diversity fails. You can either argue from equality, or from diversity, but not both.