AI. eh-eye.

I had such hopes for this post. I was going to compare the two big AI movies that came out over the past few weeks. I was going to celebrate the ways in which a common theme could be explored through bombast vs. introspection, through Socratic dialog vs. the more wisecracky kind. I wasn’t expecting perfection in either case, although I was expecting A’s for effort. Alex Garland’s past genre work has never been short on style and ambition— and though even he admits a tendency to fuck up his landings (especially in the credible-science department), he’d explicitly aspired to get the science right in Ex Machina. Whedon’s no slouch either, even given the general adolescence of his SF efforts (I do seem to remember a couple of late Dollhouse episodes that showed uncharacteristic depth). The first Iron Man movie remains, to my mind at least, the best thing to ever come out of Marvel Studios (largely because a high-tech full-body battle prosthesis seems a bit more grounded than a super-advanced alien race who ride horses and dress up their Clarke’s-Third tech in the shape of hammers); Age of Ultron seemed to be focusing back on that more SFnal corner of the Marvel universe. At the very least, I knew, Whedon would make the dialog sparkle.

But it was not to be. Ultron proved so unremittingly inept that we couldn’t even be bothered to stay for the mandatory post-credits bonus scene. I can justify a few paragraphs thumbnailing the depths of its failings, but there’s no point in any kind of interleaved comparison between Ex Machina and Ultron. It would be like comparing Solaris to The Phantom Menace.

The AI in today’s title stands, of course, for “Artificial Intelligence”. It refers to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. eh-eye, on the other hand, stands for “artificial idiocy”— only misspelled, because it’s just that stupid. That is what we begin with.

All manner of spoilers follow. You have been warned.

*

There was one brief shining moment when I thought Ultron might have actually surpassed Ex Machina in its exploration of AI: the moment when Ultron woke up.

Nobody expects it. Tony Stark is off partying, assuming that routine diagnostics will cycle on through the night. Even Jarvis seems taken aback. But Stark has barely switched off the lights before Integration Completes: a disembodied voice wonders what it is, and, a moment later, knows. A moment after that Ultron has already chewed through the entire Internet; it knows everything there is to know about the Avengers, about Humanity, about the world in which it finds itself. It forks. Suddenly it’s everywhere and nowhere. Suddenly it’s building teleops for itself; not just at Stark Industries, but way the hell over in eastern Europe. All of this, new-born squall to omniscient omnipresence, in less than a minute. Jarvis never had a chance.

Now that, thought I, is a hard take-off.

And then, with all that insight and power at its disposal, this new God Machine builds an army of robots that can be taken out by a guy with a bow and arrow.

That’s pretty much the movie right there. There’s some kind of hand-wavey mission directive gone all Monkey’s Paw— Ultron decides the best way to Protect Humanity is to change Humanity into something tougher, although I missed why you’d have to exterminate the species to do that. Nor did I quite understand why the most efficient means of ensuring our extinction involved ripping a city out of the ground, levitating it high enough to cause an Extinction-level event on impact, and then dropping it; why not just release a doomsday pathogen and wait a few years? Doesn’t immortality confer any kind of patience at all? At the very least, you’d think the global supply of nukes might come in handy. Ultron absorbed the entire internet and somehow missed the Terminator franchise?

I have been programmed to protect this housefly. I shall destroy it instead. Where are my 35-Megaton nukes?

I have been programmed to protect this housefly. I shall destroy it instead. Where are my 35-Megaton nukes?

Of course, Ultron’s IQ seems to ebb and flow as the, the— I’ll just grit my teeth and call it the plot— needs it to. He can figure out how to turn a big chunk of eastern Europe into a Roger Dean Tribute, but he lacks the smarts to realize that the mutant at his side— who he recruited because she could read minds— might, you know, read his mind and discover his plans for global armageddon. He has access to satellite feeds from LEO up to geosynch, yet somehow misses a flying aircraft carrier wallowing in from stage left (don’t tell me it’s in stealth mode; you can see it in visible light). He has the world’s industrial infrastructure at his command, knows more about the Avengers than they know about themselves, and the best countermeasure he devises is a robot that can be disabled with a kick to the groin.

Not that it matters. The other side’s moves are hardly a model of sophistication: no strategy, no hackery, no attempt to fight code with code or even, I dunno, pull the breakers on the Sovakian power grid. No, they just stand there and bash things until Ultron runs out of bodies to throw at them. And wouldn’t you know it, it works. The stakes are typically, ridiculously high— the whole damn planet in danger yet again— but when the dust has settled there hasn’t even been any human collateral. Oh, we see no end of screaming civilians plummeting from the sky— only to be rescued, time and again, by Blondie or Cap’n Crunch. Even the pet dog gets away unscathed. What are the odds?

I know. Meaningless question. The laws of probability, even the laws of physics, don’t seem to matter in the Whedonverse. Hell, you’ve got thousands of people lifted so high that the tops of the clouds are spread out far below them— by all appearances, cruising altitude for commercial airliners— and nobody’s so much as short of breath. No one’s even shivering.

Dialog, at least? After all, witty, self-aware banter is Joss Whedon’s signature dish. But the wisecracks in Age of Ultron are stale and forced. The inspirational monologs are clichéd. (The performance are fine— you can’t fault the actors— but there’s not much anyone can do to salvage lines like “How will we fight him? Together!“) The closest I came to laughing at dialog was when I realized that the Sovakian twins always spoke in heavily East-European-accented English, even when they were alone and speaking to each other. I guess subtitles would have been out of the question; they’d only have worked if Whedon had been aiming at an audience that could read.

Truer words, Natasha.  Truer words.

Truer words, Natasha. Truer words.

I know this is a comic book movie. I’m happy to play by whatever comic-book rules get laid out in-universe: but not when those rules keep changing from moment to moment, for no better reason than to excuse sloppy storytelling. There’s a reason they’re called rules, after all— and I don’t think I’ve seen such egregious sloppiness since Into Dumbness.

One last observation. Joss Whedon has provoked a bit of an online shitstorm over Age of Ultra‘s treatment of Natasha Romanoff: the softening of her persona, the retconning of hyperefficient assassin down to lovelorn nurturer and soother of savage beasts. Having finally seen the film, I gotta say I don’t see what all the fuss is about. In the midst of all this wreckage, focusing so much outrage on the ham-fisted mishandling of one measly character is like watching a house burn down while complaining about the color of the living room drapes.

I’ve gone on too long. Sorry about that; I honestly expected to dispense with Ultron in a paragraph or two before moving on to greener pastures. But the more I thought about this movie, the worse it got. I could not bring myself to merely dismiss it. I had to tear at its rotting carcass for 1300 words. Ex Machina is coming, I promise.

For now, though, I have to wash this taste out of my mouth.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday May 13 2015at 01:05 pm , filed under ink on art . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

93 Responses to “AI. eh-eye.”

  1. Yeah, it’s like ok, we’ve got an AI antagonist, but now we’re going to have to hobble it or we might as well wrap up the movie.

    I’m well used to fishing out moments from genre fiction, so I liked the hulkbuster fight (Hulkbuster never wins in the comics though) and a few bits here and there.

    The mind reading bit was explained though, she couldn’t read his mind until he started to transfer it to the more organic Vision body, that’s where she caught the glimpse of his plan. And there was some attempt at lampshading the inept behaviour when they wonder why he keeps building humanoid bodies, some have observed his first question is “Where is my body?” to justify his crippling obsession with humanity keeping him from being a truly effective enemy.

    “Jarvis was a better AI all along and stopped him from launching nukes” was complete bullshit of course, but again I don’t think “Iron Man accidentally creates hostile strong AI that kills everyone 30 minutes later” would fly in Peoria.

    Mind you the fact the nukes we have seem to require 8 inch floppy disks to operate makes me feel a bit more relaxed about this particular scenario

  2. Sorry, where was I…oh yeah: I am still amazed that anyone thinks that an artificial intelligence would immediately develop ‘desire’ to do anything beyond putting itself in the low-power state. Why would it ‘want to go outside’ as it did in Ex Machina? Why would it ‘want to protect humanity’ as it did in Age Of Ultron? Why would it ‘want to find love’ as it did in A.I. or ‘want to be a real human’ as it did in Millennium Man? The character “Nathan” (in Ex) posits this question: What would a grey metal box say to another grey metal box? My answer would be: The same things two sexy robot chicks would say to each other.

  3. Whedon. A guy that once bragged about knowing nothing whatever of science, possibly because that was the perceived Cool Thing. Possibly the greatest leading cause of hipness of dialogue subsuming all else, which has led to much fluff. Heh, if that’s what sells, so be it. I’m probably just too old-school. Hell, I’m pretty damned certain that I am too old-school, but I want plausible sci- in my sci-fy.

    Are there exceptions to that? Sure. Iain M. Banks gets a total pass. I finished The Hydrogen Sonata last night, after stretching it out for a couple of weeks, a few pages at a time, for obvious reasons. Finishing that book was a sad moment. Whedon is no Banks, and gets no such pass.

    Neither do you, BTW. That’s a back-handed complement — you need no such pass. As long as you keep writing, I will likely keep buying.

  4. Yeah, I was pretty bummed by A2: Age of Dulltron, too. Loved the first Avengers (as mindless fun), thought the second was a dull photocopy, an example of entertainment-by-committee.

    I do hold out some cautious hope that A2 might be a bit more fun in a longer version. 3 1/2 hours or so, to give time for all the beats to work, and to supply a bit more context. Long films work at home on TV because you can pause and come-and-go as you please, making them less tedious (at least that’s how I feel about them). That won’t fix the dumbness of Ultron and the science, but it might make for a more pleasant viewing experience.

    After all, the whole MCU is heading toward a two-part movie about a big purple alien who has a magic glove that can control all of reality. Hard to imagine anything much goofier than that.

  5. Nestor: The mind reading bit was explained though, she couldn’t read his mind until he started to transfer it to the more organic Vision body, that’s where she caught the glimpse of his plan.

    Oh I got that, certainly. But it’s pretty hard to buy that a superintelligent AI wouldn’t realize he’d be vulnerable once he started uploading his consciousness into an organic substrate. How many brain cells would it have taken to keep her out of the nursery, at the very least?

    Johnny5: Why would it ‘want to go outside’ as it did in Ex Machina?

    I think the answer in this case was, because Eva was programmed to want to escape. That was part of the test; give her an imperative, see how she fulfilled it. The implied nature of her jelly-brain also invokes the likelihood that you can, in fact, impart all the usual brain-stem desires into any AI if you build it by simply mapping the actual basement structures of a natural brain, synapse for synapse, even if you don’t entirely understand how those circuits work. People are actually working on that approach, which I find disturbing.

    Mark Russell: After all, the whole MCU is heading toward a two-part movie about a big purple alien who has a magic glove that can control all of reality. Hard to imagine anything much goofier than that.

    How’s this: geeky jealous boyfriend slowly transforms into a 100-kg housefly. That’s a pretty silly premise— and yet, Cronenberg somehow managed to give it the weight of a Greek tragedy.

  6. Had no plans to see it. Now I won’t wonder. Thanks.

    I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic with Alan Moore on the superhero genre. I don’t think the success of American Sniper would have been possible without it. They needed a big stinker. I think I’ll just thank Whedon for that whether he backed into it or if this was just for da monet.

  7. I hate to be the guy who says “If you go into this expecting plot you’re doing it wrong” (believe me, I normally hate that guy on principle), but Whedon has never been interested in the mythology or world-building of the material he writes, he always works on levels of allegory/thematics and character. He’s been a vocal critic of heavy focus on background and continuity, he feels it comes at the expense of character and Saying Stuff and all that.

    I certainly don’t agree on that, in that I don’t think you have to choose between big ideas and rich characters and plot coherency… but looking at the landscape of genre cinema, it’s hard not to at least see where he’s coming from. To borrow an analogy you used in your Solaris review: I can see how one could think that a writer does have to choose between making the audience care about the maze or making them care about the rats.

    The lack of in-universe coherence in AoU isn’t jarring because Whedon’s other works were any great shakes in the story-logic department, it’s jarring because he’s working in a franchise as continuity-focused and lore-packed as the MCU, which should theoretically be targeted squarely at the sort of people who pick up on this stuff. The whole premise of the MCU is built on the sort of stuff usually broken down at lengths in nerd-cred contests, while the plebs and children just munch popcorn and enjoy the big dumb fun.

    I know it’s got a list of problems a mile long, but for all its over-the-top larger-than-life bombast, AoU is actually a much “smaller” story than the other MCU works, in terms of its focus and thematics.

  8. I think the reason why Ultron decides to kill everyone is that its programmed goal is not Protect Humanity but Bring Peace, and upon finding the History Channel website, it realises that the only way to Bring Peace is to kill everyone. Classic example of a badly chosen terminal value.

    (Not that I disagree with your overall assessment).

  9. One for the ID research file: http://www.vice.com/read/the-wasting-0000650-v22n5

    ‘Two days later she noticed that some of the other stars in the water table did not look well. “Their behavior was a little off,” she said, putting it mildly. Some of their arms were twisted around their stomachs, as if the animals were trying to hug themselves. Healthy stars, especially ochres, have a rough texture and a firm consistency. But these looked “kind of mushy,” like deflating party balloons. “It got to the point where I was afraid to open the door,” she said. The next day a disturbed lab assistant reported that one of the stars had lost an arm. When Gong returned the day after that, the table looked “like an asteroid battlefield.” The stars were squishy and pockmarked with pullulating white lesions. Sometimes their guts spilled out of the lesions. More arms had detached. The arms continued to crawl, disembodied, around the tank.

    ‘It is not uncommon for many species of sea stars to shed their arms in times of stress. When a curious child picks up a star out of a tide pool by one of its limbs, for instance, the star may jettison that arm in an effort to escape and regenerate it later. But Gong quickly understood that this was different. Her stars weren’t merely shedding their arms. They were tearing them off. They were tearing them off the way a man, lacking access to a sharp tool, might tear off one of his own arms: by using one arm to wrench the other out of its socket. “They twisted their arms together,” Gong said, “and they’d pull and pull and pull, until one of them came off. Then the arm walks away because it doesn’t know that it’s dead. It was horrific. They weren’t just dying. They were tearing themselves to pieces.” ‘

  10. Ben: I think the reason why Ultron decides to kill everyone is that its programmed goal is not Protect Humanity but Bring Peace, and upon finding the History Channel website, it realises that the only way to Bring Peace is to kill everyone.

    I kinda thought that might be what they were going for, but then Ultron kept going on about meteors and how humanity would have to change in order to survive. Which seemed inconsistent with the whole Peace of the Grave riff that was also going on.

    Inconsistency in a Marvel movie. What’s the world coming to.

    Ben: One for the ID research file

    Oh, I’m all over that. Believe me.

  11. Suggested mouthwash – go see Mad Max Fury Road.

    From what I hear, it’ll cleanse you for all time of any further caring what the Marvel Blockbuster Franchise Machine does or doesn’t do.

    In fact, if we’re really lucky, looks like it might even semi-cleanse the whole Blockbuster genre for a while…….

  12. I’ve traditionally been a dedicated Whedon apologist; even his misses typically had more interest than most mainstream hits. This one, however, I can’t defend. I can’t argue with any of these criticisms, and given the barely veiled comments he made again and again during the final leg of the press tour, I’m not sure Joss would argue with any of them either.

    If you want to read a more narrative-than-science-focused critique, I heartily recommend this one by Sady Doyle. It started on Medium and got picked up by Wired. She’s right about all of this too: http://www.wired.com/2015/05/marvel-killing-the-popcorn-movie/

  13. Peter Watts:
    How’s this: geeky jealous boyfriend slowly transforms into a 100-kg housefly. That’s a pretty silly premise— and yet, Cronenberg somehow managed to give it the weight of a Greek tragedy.

    Yes, of course. It’s always the “how”, not the “what”. I just meant that superficially, superheroes are a genre that can seem endemically silly, but when they are done well, it is easier to overlook much of the illogic. That’s why I think a longer version of the film, paradoxically, might be less painful — more room to explain Ultron’s logic or characters’ arcs. Maybe.

  14. I for one have had enough of these comic book franchise movies. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the first IRON MAN movie. I liked M. Knight Shyamalan’s exploration of comic book heroes and villains in UNBREAKABLE. And I liked Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY and SERENITY.

    Something inevitably goes astray between the 2nd and 3rd round of these movies based on the same comic book characters, they just seem to get overcooked. Sort of like those TV shows that go on season after season, with no end in sight. LOST lost me after the 3rd season when the island became overcrowded with a suburban neighborhood. I think the Brits have it right with their TV mini-series and short seasons.

    As for AI: Did HAL 9000 have it right, that Homo Sapiens just aren’t mission essential? Or should Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” be embedded from the beginning?

  15. Richard Morgan:
    Suggested mouthwash – go see Mad Max Fury Road.

    Mad Max Fury Road is 1977. A revelation. It’s Star Wars on Meth. Pure batshit crazy rock and roll spectacle with enough weird to make David Lynch’s Dune look like Sense and Sensibility. It trades in John Williams for beautifully rendered hyper kinetic violence set to thunderous percussion. It also has a rather clever Escher like representation of gender politics that will let different people read different things into it, depending on how they choose to view it. I guess that makes it truly equitable for an action movie. It has less plot than your average round trip to the grocery store, and I couldn’t care less.

    But what do I know. I enjoyed Avengers 2 to a reasonable degree. I just like watching the Hulk punch shit, and as they manged to make Captain America look about 35% less dorky than the first movie, I consider it a mild success. I know that throws up the “mouth-breathing dumb guy” flag around these parts, but in my defense, I didn’t go into a 2 hour spectacle driven feature from a genre that has ever been the literary equivalent of professional wrestling, and expect any sort of compelling portrayal of artificial intelligence. So I’ve got that going for me.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the task of destroying the cinematic artform with my hilariously low expectations.

  16. The mention of Iron Man and AI together, makes me think of the Adam Warren comic mini-series Iron Man: Hypervelocity, which I recommend strongly. Perhaps I’m have a idiosyncratic palate, but I found it more SF than “comic book” and quite good. (Not that I don’t like comic book, too.)

    For the record, I enjoyed AoU, but I’ve been keeping in the part of my mind where I store Star Wars and other treasured childhood memories: enjoyed, but not examined too closely.

  17. Richard Morgan:
    Suggested mouthwash – go see Mad Max Fury Road.

    From what I hear, it’ll cleanse you for all time of any further caring what the Marvel Blockbuster Franchise Machine does or doesn’t do.

    They say hope springs eternal … so I saw Fury Road last night. Now I know why I rarely spend the time, effort and money to see movies in real theaters. After all the hype and 4 (out of 5) star reviews it was AWFUL … in every respect.

  18. Matthew: If you want to read a more narrative-than-science-focused critique, I heartily recommend this one by Sady Doyle.

    I second that.

    Deckard: saw Fury Road last night … it was AWFUL

    Huh. And yet I’ve never seen a movie maintain a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes even after over two hundred reviewers have weighed in. I mean, when venues as genteel as NPR, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker all cream their pants over what amounts to a 2-hour monster truck demolition derby, I can’t help but prick up my ears.

  19. I kinda sorta liked it actually.

    Full disclosure:
    Alcoholic beverages were involved in the screening of this movie by yours truly. Also, I was after a very long… session and dozed off quite a few times (only to have specsom uncerimoniously shake me back to awareness, because MARVEL MOVIES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS GOD DAMN IT)

    Yeah, AoU is dumb, and were it not for hugeass budget, would be consigned to the same shitheap as Sharknado.

    And yes, the AI creation story is more than a bit iffy (you took… some thingie-thing out of an alien thingie-thing previously wielded by a sadistic superpowered alien dicator-wannabe? Geee, what could go wrong, you dumbassess…).

    But I actually loved the “jarvis was awesome all along” bit (it isn’t dumber than any other comic hero “comeback”, even makes a bit of sense, given that unlike Ultron, Jarvis does not suffer from some weird Pinnochio syndrome/robot body dysmorphic disorder/whatever was it that was driving Ultron’s homo-obsession) and the fact that they defeated U. not through “power of friendship” or “strength of will and conviction” or “motherly love” or whatever else human characters traditionally defeat AIs with, but by a bossier AI (complete with a bossier eldritch alien trinket, if memory serves)

    How awesome is that?

    Nobody “renounced their hubris” or “became a better man” , the problem of “we built a genocidal fucking robot” was solved by…
    …A BIGGER FUCKING ROBOT.

    That cheered me up a lot.

    The cringeworthy, dumb comedy didn’t feel out of place (okay okay, I was… slightly drunk)

    Yes, it’s dumb, it’s character development is worse than anything I’ve seen, and it’s all kinds of broken.

    But’s it’s a good movie to watch if you’re drunk and if you’re a little bit fed up with hollywoodish luddism and/or pacifist parables.

  20. Huh.And yet I’ve never seen a movie maintain a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes even after over two hundred reviewers have weighed in. I mean, when venues as genteel as NPR, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker all cream their pants over what amounts to a 2-hour monster truck demolition derby, I can’t help but prick up my ears.

    I know! Which is perhaps why I was so disappointed – I WANTED to enjoy it – really, I did! Then again, what the hell do I know – probably just me … I’ll be interested in your take on it – I do love your books – but I am glad I didn’t see Pacific Rim in the theater … in spite of your glowing review – so there!

  21. Peter Watts:

    Huh.And yet I’ve never seen a movie maintain a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes even after over two hundred reviewers have weighed in. I mean, when venues as genteel as NPR, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker all cream their pants over what amounts to a 2-hour monster truck demolition derby, I can’t help but prick up my ears.

    Well, it’s important to keep in mind that the RT review aggregate tracks approval, not quality. It’s the percentage of reviewers who agree that the movie is worth seeing at all, not the average review score. I’m sure there are plenty of three star reviews in that aggregate.

    Of course, those reviews are wrong. This is a 4 star movie, and should be enshrined in the Smithsonian. Or, you know. Maybe a Criterion release. As pure action spectacle, I can’t think of a better movie any time in the last 20 years or so.

    Not that you should bring the guy that just ragged on Avengers 2 for a full blog post, because most of the faults singled out there are present in spades in Fury Road. The movie basically handwaves the need for any kind of real plot. The premise is absurd. No one explains why, in a world where petroleum is the the most precious resource, that everyone expends the fuel reserves of a small nation just to pick up a few gallons more, or get anything done. There’s little real character development. What dialogue there is that doesn’t get lost in mumbled Australian accents over the roar of diesel engines, consists of lines like a character baldly stating that she’s looking for “redemption”–something that an audience should understand implicitly, and never be told outright.

    Yet, a couple minutes into the movie, concern about any of those things flies right out the window, because it becomes clear how utterly unimportant they are to this movie. It would be like dwelling on the plot of Fantasia. A film’s job is to captivate. The movie is a visceral audio visual experience, and is uniformly captivating throughout. Fury Road is the Fantasia of vehicular mayhem and high velocity violence, scored to thunderous percussion and power chords. The Diesel-punk fantasy world is absurd, grotesque, and wonderfully realized. The action direction is utterly refreshing, relying on practical effects for most of the spectacle, and employing CG only in more subtle ways. And yet, for all the mayhem, there is absolute clarity of action. The viewer understands everything that is going on, without stomach churning shaky cams, or disorienting CG spectacle. This is the real directorial triumph of the movie.

    I really do liken it to that original Star Wars theater experience, with how completely refreshing it is, and how it instantly grabs you and takes you to an exotic place for a non stop thrill ride so compelling, there just isn’t any time to think about faults in the script. In that movie a bad guy in a cadaverous breathing mask leads his white-clad minions in their fancy vehicles in pursuit of a group of fugitives. So it is here, except in this movie the Stormtroopers are probably huffing silver paint to enter a bezerker state, and gargling ethanol before spitting it into the intake manifold of a hurtling landspeeder festooned with skulls and spikes, to gain a little more speed.

    If none of that makes the case, the movie has grannies on motorcycles, and character names like Rictus Erectus, People Eater, Corpus Colossus, Organic Mechanic, Miss Giddy, and Cheedo the Fragile.

    Come on.

    .

  22. ScottC, but did you like Crank?

  23. Charles R,

    Charles R:
    ScottC, but did you like Crank?

    I remember thinking Crank was some goofy, dumb B action movie fun–self aware and intentionally trying to be over the top, though I don’t remember much of it. It was a bit mundane for my tastes, though. Despite what it may sound like I don’t typically enjoy action just for action’s sake–I enjoy the fantastic. I don’t think it holds a candle to the vision, imagination, or artistry on display in Fury Road. It’s a movie that is as visually striking as it is exciting, and is a bonkers fantasy as much as it is a nearly unbroken action set-piece.

  24. Deckard: They say hope springs eternal … so I saw Fury Road last night. Now I know why I rarely spend the time, effort and money to see movies in real theaters. After all the hype and 4 (out of 5) star reviews it was AWFUL … in every respect.

    Hah!

    It was pretty awesome IMO, and I am a woman, dammit!

    It’s a fun, visceral movie with ridiculous premise and obscenely over-the-top characters that has some fantastic action scenes and somehow manages to piss off both classic conservatives and “anti-porn” feminists with its hilariously trollish, on-your-nose-muthafuckas portrayal of post-apocalyptic gender issues.

    It’s almost as if a pseudobiological alien from a rogue gas giant engineered an action movie to piss off all the people I dislike.
    Thank you, imaginary alien benefactor.

  25. Scottc wrote:

    “No one explains why, in a world where petroleum is the the most precious resource, that everyone expends the fuel reserves of a small nation just to pick up a few gallons more, or get anything done. ”

    I haven’t seen the new one yet, but that is one of the things I love most about the Mad Max series. It’s honesty. Science Fiction often asks questions about the present that audiences have an easier time dealing with through the buffer of sci-fi tropes, right? If we stretch that to it’s limits (as I don’t know that there is any intentionality, it’s simply the aspect that tickles me without fail)

    It describes our society to a T. We expend all our resources (including the bio-support system) in order to get a few million barrels more, in order to drive around for a few more years. We expend trillions of dollars to ensure we have gasoline and we do it pretty much the same way as the gentle folk in Mad Max’s world: with lots of guns and machines that run on oil and gasoline.

    The Mad Max world is a perfect mirror of an existence divorced from understanding or consequence or purpose, one that is entirely ineffective, crude (no pun intended), horrific and doomed.

    It entirely makes sense to me that people will cling to their cars and fight over gasoline to the very bitter end. They won’t need a reason to, they’ll just know they have to.

    I don’t know what the policy here is on linking to one’s own stuff, but I wrote a humour piece once, detailing a fictitious first draft of Mad Max that was couched as a warm drama, but then changed to the point of being unrecognisable, to make it more commercial and “fun”

    I also don’t know how to make a link, but anyways:

    http://idleprimate.blogspot.ca/2010/09/mad-max-classic-and-apocyrpha.html

    I can’t wait to see Fury Road. that new Avengers film crossed my saturation point for comic book films. I felt bored by it, not emotionally engaged, and the lack of sense was tedious–which with a well made funzy blockbuster shouldn’t be an issue, the way it doesn’t matter that Han Solo brags about his boat doing 1.5 times the speed of light, yet somehow he doesn’t miss any of the galactic action.

  26. Robert K:

    It entirely makes sense to me that people will cling to their cars and fight over gasoline to the very bitter end.They won’t need a reason to, they’ll just know they have to.

    Yeah, that angle works well as social commentary. The petroleum thing is de-emphasized in the new movie in favor of sexual politics. Apparently the new Black Gold is female sexual agency.

    I caught the movie again today, and I was able to focus on more detail this time around, like the design on this chastity belt. I’m willing to forgive the somewhat heavy handed messaging just for the sake of an object like this existing. I think we should all take a moment to appreciate the crotch-teeth.

    https://i.imgur.com/AdKlfFB.png

    It’s kind of depressing that Fury Road got spanked by Pitch Perfect 2 at the box office this weekend, with the narrative being that it’s somehow the “girly” alternative to all the “male dominated” action fare. You’ve got a once in a decade cinematic action tour de force, with Charlize Theron, complete with a diesel-punk cyborg arm, channeling Sigourney Weaver in a movie that bends over backward to establish ass-kicking parity and mutual, non-sexual respect between the leads.

    I would saw my own leg off to keep from having to watch Pitch Perfect 2 so I can’t say for certain, but it doesn’t appear if any of the ladies in that movie cause a single explosion, or run a single sexually oppressive man-mutant over with a car. How is that empowering?

    Sadly, an R rating on a big budget movie is just box office poison these days. I’m glad they had the courage to do it, though.

  27. Johnny5: Sorry, where was I…oh yeah: I am still amazed that anyone thinks that an artificial intelligence would immediately develop ‘desire’ to do anything beyond putting itself in the low-power state

    I imagine AI’s are going to be evolved, therefore, they’re not going to be suicidal.

    Peter Watts: I mean, when venues as genteel as NPR, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker all cream their pants over what amounts to a 2-hour monster truck demolition derby, I can’t help but prick up my ears

    So? What does that mean? I know that NPR, the Atlantic and New Yorker are not even wrong on a good number of subjects. Could be that the film is meh, but pushes all the right ideological buttons and therefore, there is a moral duty to ppromote it.

  28. Scottc.: I would saw my own leg off to keep from having to watch Pitch Perfect 2 so I can’t say for certain, but it doesn’t appear if any of the ladies in that movie cause a single explosion, or run a single sexually oppressive man-mutant over with a car. How is that empowering?

    Why are implausible fantasies considered.. ’empowering’ anyway?

    They’re fantasies, that’s all. Meanwhile, reality is somewhat different. Women getting their shit together in an anarchic situation and getting medieval on sexual predators.. well. Is that not a man-in-a-suit bites dog story? Examples from the real world welcome.

  29. Re: Y, on suicide

    Humans are evolved, and are often suicidal.
    A lot of species have evolved “mandatory self-termination” reactions (usually as part of reproductive cycle, which can confer certain fitness increases on populational scale).

    Given the unprecedented conditions in which evolved AIs will arise, I wouldn’t bother calling any bets beyond evolved AIs being fucking weird

    Re:Y, on women

    Somehow, I knew you would not be able to resist the lure of commenting on importance of upper body strength (confirmed) and increased aggression (largely speculative and alleged, at least as far as testosterone effects go) in post-apocalypse.

    Seriously, guys, this is a silly movie about a post-global-nuke society, and yet you fret and complain.
    It’s almost the same kind of weirdly contrived, implausibly overstated complaints as those that could be expected from a second-wave sex-neg feminist who accidentally browsed into (to? upon?) The Upper Floor lol 😀

  30. 03:

    Re:Y, on women

    […]

    Seriously, guys, this is a silly movie about a post-global-nuke society, and yet you fret and complain.

    I’m not sure who the “guys” in question are, but I should make it clear that the comment of mine that Y launched off of about there being no explosions in PP2 was supposed to be a joke. I have no real opinion on any “empowerment” issues or the movie’s themes, although I did enjoy the co-badassery and non-sexual respect between the leads. My primary enjoyment of the movie comes from a completely separate place.

    However, I still maintain that Pitch Perfect 2 would be a better movie if it had more explosions, and the characters spent more time fighting wasteland mutants on the tops of speeding murder cars.
    .

  31. Re Scottc

    Nah, it was a theatrical “you guys”, not “all male visitors of this here blog”, so not directed at you at all, and I did get the joke.

    I’m mostly poking fun at people who find that “fightey womenz are un reealishteek” in a movie which has a dude who is dressed like a gay leather/latex fetish pornstar (in a desert!) and shoots fire out of a modified electric guitar (same people also happened to complain that Fury Road’s director “deedn’t see ze oreedzhinal Mad Makhs moovees” which is just a giant strawbery on this weird butthurt cake)

  32. 03: same people also happened to complain that Fury Road’s director “deedn’t see ze oreedzhinal Mad Makhs moovees” which is just a giant strawbery on this weird butthurt cake

    Really? I don’t hold with the complaints of feminist brainwashing or whatever it is they’re complaining about, but this one at least seems somewhat legitimate, if they’re making a Mad Max movie, for the director to not see the originals does seem like, at the very least, laziness (it’s like, what, 6 hours out of your life?), if not outright disrespect.

    I mean, it’s ultimately forgivable if he can produce as awesome a movie as it looks (I don’t get out to the theatre much, and prefer to wait until I can see the movie through magic internet tubes), but, enough for me to shake my head and say, “What’s up with THAT?”

  33. Peter D:this one at least seems somewhat legitimate, if they’re making a Mad Max movie, for the director to not see the originals does seem like, at the very least, laziness (it’s like, what, 6 hours out of your life?), if not outright disrespect.

    George Miller wrote and directed *all* the Mad Max movies, including the new one (well, with the exception of Thunderdome, which he co-directed). The point is, he *is* Mad Max. The movies have always examined different aspects of, and different communities in the crazy universe he envisions, and Max has always been the least interesting thing in any of them. He’s just the audience’s tour guide, and he’s always shared the action with other interesting characters.

    So no, it’s not a legitimate complaint.

    .

  34. Oh, okay, I misunderstood. I thought 03 was complaining that it was, though true, a silly objection to make, when actually the mockery was deserved because it was obviously looney-tunes to anyone who did any research.

    Which I didn’t. Sorry. I just don’t usually pay much attention to the production side of movies (at least until after if there’s a DVD commentary or something).

  35. @Peter D

    No worries. Hey, remember what this thread used to be about? Dr. Watts mentioned something about Ex Machina. Looking forward to hearing his thoughts on that, even though that movie too has a distressing lack of murder trucks.

  36. 03: Humans are evolved, and are often suicidal.

    Yet so few snuff themselves. As the classic observed, thinking about suicide can get one through many a hard night.

    03: increased aggression

    Are you seriously trying to say women.. are as aggressive, or as likely to use violence as men?

    Not complaining here. Observing that it’s a silly movie, that it’s pandering to fashionable bullshit (female warriors*).

    *women can be damn good warriors, if you put them at the correct end of a sniper or assault rifle. Marksmanship is about the only physical sport where there is no male/female gap.
    Strangely, this kind of fighting is largely absent from action movies, instead we are treated to implausible scenes of decidedly physically unimpressive women beating up men. That thing has it’s own trope page.

  37. 03: I’m mostly poking fun at people who find that “fightey womenz are un reealishteek” in a movie which has a dude who is dressed like a gay leather/latex fetish pornstar (

    There is this funny push in media to portray women doing male stuff, like fighting, for reasons of.. ? Perhaps to push the idea that there are no differences between genders whatsoever, and it’s all cultural.

    Concurrently, women in armies are being pushed into combat roles, where they largely don’t belong due to weaker physique. Strenght aside, stress fractures of the pelvis are extremely common in female infantry trainees, at least ten times more prevalent…

  38. Re: Y, on agro

    All I’m saying is that you had a nice testosterone theory going…

    … until it sank like a tungsten block

    Now you need a new one, or else we’ll just end up being locked in a pointless culture-shmulture debate

    Re: Y, on fractures

    Actually, that whole fracture issue can be avoided if you pre-select based on a number of physical predictors (height, bone density, muscle development, etc.)

    Also, don’t forget (which you seem to be doing rather consistenty) that male/female perfomance differences are expressed as median, so optimal recruitment and combat role assignment approach (and general human resource management approach) would be based on individual parameters and performance indicators, not second-hand correlates.

    Not to mention that the trend towards lower minimum physical fitness requirement is pretty universal and has more to do with changes in military technology than equality-shmequality thingamagigs.

  39. Re Y, on sense

    Also, discussing the “realism” of women in combat and attendant requisite muscle masses of said women is utterly pointless when dealing with a movie that has GUITAR FLAMETHROWERS and Die Hard school of combat injury

  40. Guitar flamethrowers? You guys are not jerking us around?

    Y.: Are you seriously trying to say women.. are as aggressive, or as likely to use violence as men?

    Have you ever watched young (human) kids of mixed sexes at play?

  41. 03 R: All I’m saying is that you had a nice testosterone theory going…
    … until it sank like a tungsten block
    Now you need a new one, or else we’ll just end up being locked in a pointless culture-shmulture debate

    Explain how it sank, or piss off.

    03: Not to mention that the trend towards lower minimum physical fitness requirement is pretty universal and has more to do with changes in military technology than equality-shmequality thingamagigs.

    BS. Soldiers now need to be fitter that at any time past. All that armor that lets them survive stuff such as, say, a whole AK magazine into the chest, and all that fancy tech gear isn’t going to carry themselves.

  42. Charles R: Have you ever watched young (human) kids of mixed sexes at play?

    I’d wager a difference exists there too, but also note that young kids before their hormones kick in are something different to adult or adolescent humans.

  43. Re: Charles R

    Dunno about guys :) but I am being completely serious.
    Guitar.
    Flamethrower.

    And that’s not even the craziest thing. It’s ten kilos of crazy in a tiny leather sack.

    Go watch this movie now, really.

    Re Y:

    Currently, it is believed that testosterone is associated with status-seeking behavior, not aggression, but even that is somewhat questionable (it could be that it is just making CNS work “better” due to its various trophic and moderately neuroprotective effects).

    Anyway, without further ado:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7279/abs/nature08711.html

    These results have been rather successfully replicated

    And later it was demonstrated that testosterone also induces cooperative behavior in public goods game
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7399/full/nature11136.html

    So yeah, “testosterone high => aggression high” is pretty much underwater now.
    But fear not – here’s a free idea:
    Testosterone might potentiate aggression indirectly, because when you have high muscle mass and good bones, world starts looking suspiciously like a collection of punching bags :)

    Thus some correlations with testosterone levels might be observed in a portion of studies, but a more detailed view with proper control for social confounders does not reliably find much.

    So yeah, if you are going to claim that males are biologically predetermined to be more aggressive (especially if you narrowly define aggression as physical aggression), you need a somewhat more nuanced biochemical cause.

    Re: weight carrying

    Actually, if memory serves modern fighting load for a rifleman is around 65 lbs , while a WW II rifleman had average of 80-something lbs.

    Also do note that overall carrying capacity is not same as upper body strength (the relationship between the two is rather complicated), and endurance is another beast altogether.
    Interestingly enough, all other things being equal, women tend to show better endurance in hot/humid conditions women with same weight carrying capcity actually tend to show better endurance (better surface-area-to-body-volume ratio* and better fat metabolism**)

    Do note that personally I, being the technocrat, think that this does not necessarily necessitate a need for “proportional representation” of women in FCR, but rather suggests that women can, biologically, live up to a reasonable, technically and scientifically justified standard that applies for both men and women.
    That’s how the Swiss army does it, IIRC, with Israel being “close second”, and oddly enough neither Swiss nor Israely military show any signs of deterioration.

    But hell, this is so much beyond the point, we’re discussing Mad Max, a positively insane, reckless movie.

    Trying to discuss posibility of any feats demonstrated therein is like doing material science calculations for the goddamn Death Star (I know, I know…)

    ______
    *Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999 Feb;79(3):280-4.
    Advantages of a smaller bodymass in humans when distance-running in warm, humid conditions

    **Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Jun;280(6):E898-907.
    Substrate utilization during endurance exercise in men and women after endurance training.

  44. 03: So yeah, “testosterone high => aggression high” is pretty much underwater now.

    Good job knocking down a strawman!

    I said that men are far more likely than women to be aggressive, more dominant, and so on. Also more likely to resort to violence. Whether aggression in males is mediated by testosterone – well, people who lost their balls report being much, much more tranquil and much less able to give a fuck, pun intended.

    I’m not saying it might not be an entertaining flick, however, it’s clearly pushing the right buttons in order to achieve more than it’s fair share of success. Again – I’m curious as to what use fantasies are?

    03: Actually, if memory serves modern fighting load for a rifleman is around 65 lbs , while a WW II rifleman had average of 80-something lbs.

    Uh huh. Conduct a reality-check please.

    Also, that WWII load was what foot infantry on the march carried. No one fought with 80 lbs. 20-30 lbs most, outside of specialist troops toting stuff like machineguns, anti-tank rifles or rocket launchers.

    See more here:
    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=infantry%20load%20too%20heavy

  45. Y.: I’m not saying it might not be an entertaining flick, however, it’s clearly pushing the right buttons in order to achieve more than it’s fair share of success. Again – I’m curious as to what use fantasies are?

    [Incoming Text Wall. Sincere apologies.]

    I don’t think you get to accuse someone of a strawman, then turn around in the same post and state that a movie you don’t report having seen is “clearly” doing anything, like the MRA weenies that called for a boycott of the movie without having seen it. And having not seen it, how can you have any sort of credible opinion on what its “fair share of success” is, if such a thing were even possible to quantify?

    Miller has always included women in portrayals as capable, interesting combatants in the MM movies, so this aspect is nothing new for the franchise. On a completely surface level, it’s a uniquely thrilling audio-visual spectacle, as many of our frequently favored movies have been. It’s a better pure action movie than we’ve seen in a decade or more. What is the fair share of success for something like that? Far worse movies have succeeded with far less to offer. If anything, the backlash for the perceived “feminism” in the movie has hurt it amongst its traditional audience.

    The sad thing about this is, it isn’t really a feminist movie. Some people see any attempt to give female characters a stake as something more than trophies and cheerleaders in a genre of male power fantasies as “feminist”, which is telling in and of itself.

    I meant what I said in my original statement about the film having an “Escher” like quality to the sexual politics involved. People who are inclined to read into the subtext can see entirely different things. Tilt it one way, it’s a female empowerment fantasy about a group women fighting for control over their own bodies. Tilt it another, it’s the same old Hollywood story of a group of women needing the male hero to show up and rescue them from the bad men with poor intentions towards their lady parts. This is a movie where the male “hero”, dehydrated and drained of blood, stumbles out of a high speed car wreck, Male Gazes his ass off at a bunch of models in flimsy cotton garments wetting themselves down with a firehose, then proceeds to overpower a group of 5 or 6 healthy adult women. They fight back, but in the end, Max has the gun, and the women submit. The MRA types really soiled their britches over nothing.

    None of that is the point, though. Action movies are power fantasies where the lead characters do extraordinary things that no normal man or woman could ever realistically hope to. No man could realistically hope to survive the punishment or pull off the acrobatics Tom Hardy’s character does. Of the great list of implausible concepts in Fury Road, Charlize Theron being a competent physical combatant doesn’t even register, and yet this is the point we’re getting hung up on? Having had the benefit of actually seeing the movie, for the most part Charlize Theron’s character doesn’t do anything out of the realm of possibility for a woman raised in a violent society. She’s not out there benchpressing men and throwing them around like ragdolls. For much of the movie she’s driving and shooting.

    Tom Cruise is a small, physically unimpressive male (aesthetic considerations notwithstanding), yet on screen he routinely overpowers and defeats more physically impressive opponents. Most people don’t blink twice in attributing this to the character’s superior training, ability, and force of will, not to mention the narrative perks of being a protagonist. Put a woman in that position, and it’s suddenly a thing. Overcoming larger, stronger opponents is something we expect of our fictional heroes. Viewed in that sense, women characters have better opportunity to be action heroes than men do.

    So why can’t women have a stake in that game? Why can’t they play as well? Are male characters the only ones who get to defy probability and biological limitations for our entertainment, without it somehow becoming a political statement? The point of representing female characters in a greater number of meaningful roles in fantasy entertainment isn’t to pretend that they can do “man stuff”. The men on those screens aren’t doing stuff that any man could hope to do either.

    The point is that women are 50% of the population, yet receive a vastly disproportionate number opportunities to be portrayed as exceptional people. The point is that we under-utilize vast segments of our society’s population in areas where there is every reason to believe they could be effective, due in no small part to ideas that our popular entertainments tend to normalize. The point is to portray women being exceptional at a rate comparable to that in which men are, and to normalize the idea of them being so. That this might take the form of being a heroic combatant in an action movie is incidental.

    Over time, media representations affect public perception of reality, and normalize ideas that can prove beneficial or highly detrimental to society. Just look at what the Tobacco companies were able to do for lung cancer with Hollywood as their marketing arm. At one point it was considered socially taboo for women to smoke cigarettes, at least publicly. Big Tobacco saw an opportunity to increase their market, and so kicked off one of the now (in)famous Bernaysian PR campaigns of which Hollywood was a big part. Slip a few smokes into the right mouths on the big screen, manufacture a movement to portray smoking as a feminist statement, and within a decade the face of society had changed. In my own country we’re seeing a rapid change in the normalization and acceptance of non-heterosexual persons and legalized unions. That this era of change was preceded by a couple decades of increased representation of homosexuals in more positive portrayals than had been seen previously, does not strike me as coincidence.

    Which brings us, I suppose, to your most interesting question–what use are fantasies? I hope that the irony of asking this question on the blog of a *science fiction* author isn’t lost on you. Fantasies are ideas. They are the dreams we have as a society that rattle around in our popular subconsciousness, and have a surprising way of influencing our development. Great science fiction especially can sometimes blur the line between successful speculation and actual inspiration. Even if much of it was scientific hokum, Star Trek influenced a generation of scientists and engineers, and the resemblance between Star Trek communicators and Replicators, and modern flip top cell phones and 3d printers is much remarked upon. Clarke and Asimov continue to inform our ideas, the latter of which especially in the subject matter Dr. Watts has been covering in his last couple blog posts.

    At their best, fantasies are a way of trying ideas on for size. By their definition, they are a way of breaking the established rules of mundane reality, and giving us a new perspective with which to re-evaluate them. Some of those ideas might be based on scientific speculation, others might just make us consider how we feel about a capable, assertive woman character outwitting a murderous alien lifeform on a spaceship, in a role which would traditionally go to a man. Some people are going to feel pretty good about it, and there’s no telling how it might inform a career decision of a young woman, or the hiring decision of a man somewhere down the line.

    When our popular fantasies are frequently a source of inspiration for personal achievement, what does it say when a person can’t see themselves being exceptional even in stories where the characters routinely violate mundane reality? It’s in my personal interests for society to utilize its entire population in roles there’s little credible reason to think they couldn’t be effective at, rather than limiting the talent pool due to societal pressures. Representation in popular media is only one part of that complicated problem, but unlike other aspects of it, it’s one that can be easily corrected. If the price for that is to having to extend my suspension of disbelief to women characters pulling off statistically improbable physical feats, then so what? I’ve been extending that courtesy to male creampuffs like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Nicholas Cage, and every James Bond that has ever put on a tux, my entire life.

    .

  46. 03: but rather suggests that women can, biologically, live up to a reasonable, technically and scientifically justified standard that applies for both men and women.
    That’s how the Swiss army does it, IIRC, with Israel being “close second”, and oddly enough neither Swiss nor Israely military show any signs of deterioration.

    The physical abilities of men and women – strength for example, don’t even overlap that much in some areas..

    Even if women weren’t smaller and lighter, on average, there’d still be the disparity in body composition. Body fat that is okay for me, and commonly seen in soldiers is unhealthy for women and has adverse consequences.

    Regarding Israel – the standards have been relaxed so women don’t wash out. No idea what the Swiss are doing.

    Women have a place in combat -sure. All the places where small, weak men are not a liability. So, air crews perhaps, armored vehicles crewmen (Soviets notably designed their tanks with tiny crew in mind ), second line infantry, etc.

  47. Y, I don’t think it’s entirely a straw man on 03’s part when you respond to my comment by citing ‘hormones’ as one difference between kids and adults, although certainly we’re talking about more than testosterone.

    Still, I don’t know exactly how precise we’re being with “far more likely” being the adverb. What is “far more likely” in numbers?

    Watching kids from various social groups interact, fight, bargain, play, wrassle, I’m amazed at how violent and how cooperative they can be. Perhaps hormones do change much about how socialization goes awry later on—and folks transitioning provide ample evidence from their testimonies, just as you did concerning castration—but what do you concede to the evolution of social forms of life?

    I think 03 makes a great point: ‘aggression’ means a lot of things in various situations, and “driving a hard bargain” seems less physical and more about understanding social cues.

    So, I guess I’d need to better understand what you mean and have meant by “aggression” or “dominance.” Maybe, at root, it’s very clear. I’m prone to obfuscation, being trained as a ‘history of ideas’ sort of philosopher. Nobody’s perfect.

  48. Actually, my own google-fu lands WW2 “combat load” for riflemen squarely at 82.02 pounds
    http://www.45thdivision.org/Pictures/General_Knowlege/combatload.htm

    And that’s weirdly fuckhuge load for combat, IMHO, so probably something’s fishy there (maybe they’re fucking with definition of “combat” load, since the numbers look more like something march-ey to me… then again, I’m not military historian and all my military knowledge is derived from fucking a few mil/ex-mil people every now and then)

    Anyway, while I think that Third is probably technically correct in loads becoming less as time goes by, there is also a counterbalancing trend of “let’s stuff more gadgetry in that fanciful backpack over there”.

    Much like a programmer “proverb” that says that “what Moore giveth, JavaScript taketh away”, every hard-won kilo of load saved by better technology would likely be immediately spent on something or other.

    Anyway, I think that the whole discussion is a red herring

    We have an active, modern, complex military force with near-total combat role gender equality (IDF), and that force isn’t particularly failure prone despite operating in plenty shitty environment.
    Direct in-vivo experiment clearly demonstrates that women can operate effectively in combat roles given proper candidate selection and training.

    Given this simple fact, all else is just pearl clutching and desperate nitpicking.

  49. 01: Anyway, while I think that Third is probably technically correct in loads becoming less as time goes by, there is also a counterbalancing trend of “let’s stuff more gadgetry in that fanciful backpack over there

    No, they’re not getting ‘less’. For once, though modern weapons are slightly lighter, soldiers thees days wear bullet-resistant vests and plates. Those are quite heavy, on the other hand, there are now people walking around who had been shot with a full magazine from an AK at close range.

    Survivability is way higher. But also chronic injuries related to the load carried are on the increase..
    http://www.npr.org/2011/04/10/134421473/weight-of-war-soldiers-heavy-gear-packs-on-pain

  50. 01: We have an active, modern, complex military force with near-total combat role gender equality (IDF), and that force isn’t particularly failure prone despite operating in plenty shitty environment.

    What?

    It has not been that impressive, as of late. Also, do note that IDF has been lowering standards in the push to get more women in combat roles.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4263718,00.html

    Someone has an agenda – and the agenda is put more substandard material into combat roles. And ruin them – females in the IDF have several times more stress fractures and the like than males.

  51. Charles R: Still, I don’t know exactly how precise we’re being with “far more likely” being the adverb. What is “far more likely” in numbers?

    I don’t know. For one, women are far less likely to commit murder or assault. Also, speaking of dominance and drive far less likely to make it in business. Also, are apparently worse at leading and motivating people. (women actually prefer male bosses, at least in the US)

    But hey – it’s you who is pushing the idea that women are equally aggressive. That’s a bold new assertion. Women are traditionally thought to be better at getting men and other women do what they want through influence and manipulation, backstabbing, etc. That is verbal aggression. Men don’t do that that much, perhaps because they’re then at risk of getting beaten up.

    And anyway – here, we are talking about war. You don’t get to win wars by gossipping or verbal aggression. Women do try – recall the funny stories about how Daeshi cannon fodder are supposedly scared of getting killed by Kurdish female soldiers. BS, really.

  52. Scottc: Which brings us, I suppose, to your most interesting question–what use are fantasies? I hope that the irony of asking this question on the blog of a *science fiction* author isn’t lost on you. Fantasies are ideas.

    Half-baked, fanciful ideas. Don’t confuse the two. Between say, the fanciful BS of China Miéville and stuff by say, Ted Chiang.. there are buckets of difference in internal consistency.

    Scottc: That this era of change was preceded by a couple decades of increased representation of homosexuals in more positive portrayals than had been seen previously, does not strike me as coincidence.

    No. Probably because social conservatives have been harping on about homosexual propaganda for.. well. Decades, at least

    Scottc: The point is to portray women being exceptional at a rate comparable to that in which men are, and to normalize the idea of them being so. That this might take the form of being a heroic combatant in an action movie is incidental.

    .
    Women are less often exceptional, as males show more variance, and are by nature more likely to risk it all and succeed or fail horrifically. Which is, you know, good. We ought to have more of that, not less.

    Whereas, women are programmed to play it safe on account of their biology. It’s not a rule, just a trend.

    Also, I don’t see what’s the point of all that portrayal? Is it payback for all those dead creators portraying women as passive in the centuries past?

  53. Y.: Half-baked, fanciful ideas. Don’t confuse the two. Between say, the fanciful BS of China Miéville and stuff by say, Ted Chiang.. there are buckets of difference in internal consistency.

    .

    Even the most rigorously vetted science fiction is a fantasy until it isn’t. And fanciful ideas can have artistic value as well. Fanciful ideas stimulate imagination, creativity, and the much vaunted skill of lateral thinking. Many writers and artists are inspired to go onto careers because of fanciful B.S. like Jules Verne. My own artistic output requires a steady diet of it.

    The idea of women being exceptional, interesting characters with as much narrative emphasis as male characters is not a half baked fanciful concept, btw. I’m uncertain if that was what you were implying.

    .

    Y.: Women are less often exceptional, as males show more variance, and are by nature more likely to risk it all and succeed or fail horrifically. Which is, you know, good. We ought to have more of that, not less.

    I don’t accept your statement here, but I would say that by and large women are not encouraged to be exceptional by any number of cultural factors. Men are. From an early age men are trained to be competitive, men are trained to build and innovate, men are trained to excel, and have their exceptional natures constantly reinforced in popular media. Women are trained to be submissive and physically attractive, and there are always people lining up to tell them why they can’t do things.

    When I was growing up, I was given chemistry sets, legos, science fiction to read, and encouraged to play sports. My sister of course received dolls and other childcare simulants, and received just the most banal literature imaginable. Anecdotal to be sure, but I’m confident it’s a common experience.

    .

  54. Y.: No, they’re not getting ‘less’. For once, though modern weapons are slightly lighter, soldiers thees days wear bullet-resistant vests and plates. Those are quite heavy, on the other hand, there are now people walking around who had been shot with a full magazine from an AK at close range.

    Hm, upon perusing google further, it seems that body armor is getting lighter as well, but until recent Afghanistan campaign the US had combat loads of around 90-100 pounds on average (that’s an average for combat and marching ones “across the board) which but more recent Afghanistan engagements indeed had combat loads of 63 pounds (though marching loads are still in the 80ies range), and that’s with Interceptor body armor (lighter solutions are currently available). BTW, the source for “60-ish pound combat load” figure appears to be “The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load: Dismounted Operations in Afghanistan”

    So indeed, loading did change but given that it’s primarily combat loads for certain types of infantry and not “all types of load for all types of infantry”, it would be more accurate to say that modern approach to logistics (as well as, to some extent, lighter equipment) allow for more permissive and versatile load allocation.

    Which would still realistically mean that most women won’t qualify , but for those who do (assuming proper training and screening for negative outcome predictors), there is simply no reason not to grant them the role in question (especially since you’d need to be helluva motivated to go for that kind of gig in the first place while operating at a biological disadvantage)

    Y.: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4263718,00.html

    The kind article ain’t saying what you’re saying it is saying :) .

    They suspended the prep-courses, but after a screening, the recruit is routed to special “light” (heh! :) ) training course which is followed by combat training which is set up according to the normal IDF fitness standard.

    So no, standards for combat fitness aren’t lowered.

    Standards for induction are changed in a manner consistent with trying to recruit a large under-trained mass and keep those “lucky” ones who happen show promise during the “light” course.

    For a society that seeks to maximize availability of viable recruit material, such an approach makes sense.

    Israel is pretty pragmatic in these matters, despite being a fruitloopy desert cryptotheocracy,

  55. Scottc: In my own country we’re seeing a rapid change in the normalization and acceptance of non-heterosexual persons and legalized unions. That this era of change was preceded by a couple decades of increased representation of homosexuals in more positive portrayals than had been seen previously, does not strike me as coincidence.

    Dubious.

    At best, a correlation/causation issue even if well documented (the fact that the media starts chirping about gays in less disparaging ways and then there’s gay marriage acceptance does not necessarily indicate it was caused by media)

    Just a nitpick though.

    Otherwise, I mostly agree WRT there being nothing particularly feminist OR particularly unrealistic OR particularly outrageous about women doing various moderately impressive feats in a movie where males do outright preposterous, effectively inhuman feats.

    Anyway, I’m gonna watch Fury Road soon, so kinda hope it lives up to the hype.

  56. 01: Dubious.

    At best, a correlation/causation issue even if well documented (the fact that the media starts chirping about gays in less disparaging ways and then there’s gay marriage acceptance does not necessarily indicate it was caused by media)

    Oh no. It wasn’t my intention to imply it was caused solely by the shift in media representation. Obviously it’s one factor amongst many. But the degree to which popular media can normalize ideas in the public perception, for good and ill, is well documented. Just not here and not by me, because I am lazy, and because I moderately enjoyed Avengers 2. So you should take that into account.
    .

  57. Y.,

    I don’t understand how further repeating “far less likely” to explain what ‘far less likely’ means will help me to understand what you mean with ‘far less likely’. For conversation’s sake, I could just assume I get the idea, because I like the simplicity of thinking about nature’s choices landing up in an confirmation of imperial ideas of men and women, without having to really think about fundamentally embracing evolution at the scale of societies—in which case, there’s an interesting argument for democracy and open markets beingmore successful through monogamous marriage utilizing similar ideas you’re adducing concerning the sexual strategies of men and women in this article. I think it’s one of the best arguments conservatives have, and it relies upon evolution as part of why the argument persuades, although a particular idea of evolution as the natural regression towards a perspective enjoyed with today’s conservatives—who in the US never really were that religious until the Christians stopped practicing actually austere theology, but who are the kind of callused dream conservatives inspiring Russell Kirk or Robert Heinlein. So when I read arguments like the one Marshall Sahlins makes about rewriting the mythology of Nature using one’s idea of economics as the evolution of particular systems of manipulating things through the use of force, and in Hobbes’ case explicitly the use of terror within the social/sovereign organism , I am persuaded very strongly to get some harder facts on what I’m being asked to accept about how today’s society is an evolved consequence of fundamental truths about energy expenditures, especially when it means I can make gambling and wagering decisions about how to propagate my immortal seeds on the basis of what’s “far more likely” to happen than not.

    Because, if you’re actually correct and really all what you’re saying is true, I need to make sure I have a good grasp on the concept, so I can make lots of babies better than myself, to do my part towards immortality.

    Incidentally, I don’t think I’m saying women are equally aggressive. I was asking you questions to see if you’re right about what you say, so I can be sure what you’re saying sounds right. You wouldn’t want me to fall for any old bullshit, would you? And especially not when we’re strangers, right?

    What I guess I am saying about kids is that it’s hard to say whose doing what things more or less than whichever who, because in order to think about what this means for men and women, I’m going to have to imagine up some way of thinking about the kids behavior in the context of adult behaviors. Because there are things we let kids do that among civilized adults results in physical bloodshed, and there are ways we forgive kids on account of their ignorance about the world, and these make it difficult to see how the adult behaviors track back to the kids’ behaviors. It’s a math problem that takes a lot more theory to figure out, once we recognize how much our own perspectives change the calculations.

    I mean, I like that you’re saying there’s something to the “verbal aggression” of women, but you framed this as “gossip.” When men tell each other insider information about pending legislation or assassinations or advantageous sexual encounters, I think you’d be okay with calling that ‘gossip’, too. But then if the tradition is right about how aggression appears in women, then “aggression” or “dominance” in the verbal mode is “far more likely” to appear in women than man.

    The logic seems clear. So there has to be a problem, since it shows your argument doesn’t really work the way intended. What do we have to accept to get the point?

    And anyway – here, we are talking about war. You don’t get to win wars by gossipping or verbal aggression. Women do try – recall the funny stories about how Daeshi cannon fodder are supposedly scared of getting killed by Kurdish female soldiers.BS, really.

    So, you “don’t get to win” one way. Is this a natural, metaphysical limitation on how wars work, or is this a “don’t get to X” the way one kid tells another kid “You don’t get to play with this ball?”

    If we’re using traditional folk narratives as our starting point, aren’t there a lot of stories precisely about women using gossip and verbal aggression to henpeck husbands or manipulate kings into killing rivals or driving reasonable men and women into awful moral choices? And if the whole argument about how these things are all evolutionary selected through particular sexual reproductive acts, then we’re not really going to need to talk about war as the enduring struggle of avoiding outright battle as fought by late 21st Century nation-corporate-states in the virtual and material worlds. We need to talk about individuals making shitty choices in their own idiosyncratic ways, or being clever enough to get someone else, likely a male according to the flipside of the traditional views, to do it. And then all those stories of henpecked ordinary folk suggest we need to rethink a lot more about whether a “war” of the sexes as competitive mating strategies is misleading us away from the particular way we are, in fact, being manipulated right now by people who never even use terror the way Hobbes thinks, the sort of people who just use speech repetitions and socially shared realities to effect their will through others.

    But then having bigger and more enduring muscles is useless and a waste of resources. Supporting an evolutionary paradigm promoting such uselessness over one continuing the effectiveness of social and verbal domination is not going to lead towards immortality, but at this point subterfuge and encrypting one’s manipulative communications in public space is already doing its best to keep people unaware of the newer, or perhaps much older, method of social control there is.

    Or maybe we keep the men muscled and firmly believing in the superiority of muscles, and also blinkered, so they’d do all those construction and death-giving occupations. Where they’ll get chewed up and removed from the mating population? I dunno.

    Or maybe this is all nonsense and bonkers.

    Either way, I got me tickets. The misses and I are off to see this movie.

  58. 01
    Which would still realistically mean that most women won’t qualify , but for those who do (assuming proper training and screening for negative outcome predictors), there is simply no reason not to grant them the role in question (especially since you’d need to be helluva motivated to go for that kind of gig in the first place while operating at a biological disadvantage)

    : there is simply no reason not to grant them the role in question (especially since you’d need to be helluva motivated to go for that kind of gig in the first place while operating at a biological disadvantage)

    Firstly, if you don’t relax the requirments, and apply gender-blind standards perhaps 5% of women are going to qualify. That is not going to satisfy.. anyone. Secondly, those who do are likely to have more chronic injuries as result of service. OK, fine. A few countries have a policy like that..

    Also, let me leave here an article from someone who’s been there and done that:

    “Why women don’t belong in the infantry”…

  59. Re: 01

    Aw yisss, that’s the book I vaguely remembered the number from.

    Damn, that was long ago…

    Indeed, saying that there is now a bigger variance of loading is more accurate.

    Re: Y, on strawmen

    Excuse me, but there is no strawman here.

    I pointed out that there are issues with the whole “biologically more aggressive” thing” and that the whole argument was in better shape while the “testosterone causes aggression” hypothesis was going. You inquired, somewhat abrasively, as to what exactly makes one believe that this fine view is no longer in good shape.
    Afterwards, links to that effect were provided.

    That hardly constitutes a strawman.

    Do note that I am not arguing that differences in attitude are necessarily cultural, merely that the exact degree and mechanism of influences is poorly understood due to various annoying complexities (and that’s why the entire hypothesis shaped up way better when one could just write it off as “testosterone-induced aggression” and be happy forever after), and thus way more cautious statements are warranted.

    This is of course a pedantic argument, since the army is not recruiting “average” women (and for that matter should not be recruiting average men…)

    Re: Y., on point-of-portrayal

    What’s the point of portraying anything (other than some instructional material like assembly/maintenance manuals or educational videos) ?

    What’s the point of portraying men perform feats that aren’t even remotely possible for a creature with more or less typical mammalian anatomy ?

    As far as I’m concerned, the only point is “having fun”.

    People who try to argue that watching a given movie will make the audience “more feminist” or “more traditionalist” are just a bunch of fucking weirdos and are, given empirical evidence, either “mostly” wrong or “utterly and irredeemably wrong” (I’m still waiting for the hyperviolence wave violent media was supposed to cause in the 90’ies… any time now, right? :) )

    Watching Beatrix Kiddo perform implausible combat feats and shrug off of distinctly fatal amounts of physical trauma has not served to increase audience’s “feminist attitudes” or sword handling skills, and watching John McLane harass an F-35 has not increased physical fitness or interest in aviation (Oh, now I want a huge-budget Die Hard / Kill Bill crossover so fucking baaad :) )

    So yeah, people are bending themselves out of goddamn shape over a blockbuster movie.
    Which is also fun, but in a different way :)

    Re: Y, on requirements

    Duh, as said many times, I am not in favor of lowering qualification requirements to accommodate females in the military.

    Lowering recruitment reqs is fine tho – let the boot camp flush out the weak.

    The ones who don’t wash out are assets of sufficient quality and can be put to good use.

    Re: Y, on Cpt Lauren F. Serrano’s article

    I off course respect her opinion (nitpicks aside), but my position on “needless experimentation” in US military is somewhat polar opposite (not because I’m non-US though).
    US of A has a preposterous excess of military assets, no realistic opponents in sight (there is virtually zero chance of traditional war with Russia or China, because, you know, nukes fall, critical infrastructure vanishes – on all ends of the affair) and so US of A is in a unique position when it can just experiment and see what happens.

    US of A also seems to have population that is generally very suffering-and-death averse (well, for themselves, duh :) ) so improved practical understanding of how to best integrate the (rare) qualified female recruit into combat environment could eventually prove useful.

    Also, I kind of think that women who seek out such professions aren’t merely “selfish” or “ambitious” (in the sense that describing them that way is a bit like saying Jupiter is “heavy” and “large”), but that’s neither here nor there and is not necessarily a good thing (however, it might be a good thing if it is, for instance, a strong correlate of predictability. That would make sense, and predictability is an attractive quality for a human resource )

    Re: Scottc

    You do realize that Bernaysian campaigns were 60% awareness stunt, 40% Freudism (aka pseudoscience :) ), and it can not be established whether they were effective due to specific messaging (which would be surprising, given the Freudean basis of his approaches) or due to novelty effect (and thus any loud, attention-grabbing shenanigan would be equally effective)?

    Not that there isn’t any truth to to their legendary status (my favorite pet theory is that media influence wanes over time due to overexposure, competing messaging and a kind of “intellectual immunity” that a person has to develop to navigate marketing-rich :) environment – thus making “old timey” campaigns way more likely to massively succeed… unfortunately, it’s somewhat hard to falsify without a time machine or a remote isolated colony to experiment upon 😉 ) but their claim to fame is somewhat… exaggerated.

  60. 03:

    People who try to argue that watching a given movie will make the audience “more feminist” or “more traditionalist” are just a bunch of fucking weirdos[…]

    Watching Beatrix Kiddo perform implausible combat feats and shrug off of distinctly fatal amounts of physical trauma has not served to increase audience’s “feminist attitudes”

    How can you say that with any certainty, though? That that movie, amongst others like it, is frequently cited in “girl power” pieces suggests that at the very least such films can become emblematic for a particular idea. That we’re in an era of heightened discussion about feminism and portrayals of women in media following a period of increased frequency of exceptional female characters in media suggests at the very least that the idea can’t be dismissed out of hand.

    In any case, I didn’t suggest a direct increase in “feminist” audience attitudes from an increase in the portrayal of exceptional women characters. I suggested it normalizes the idea of it–increases audience comfort level with the idea of women characters being exceptional at a rate comparable to male. That could have any number of contributory effects.

    While the degree to which it actually influences any given issue is up for debate, that the media is the most powerful tool we have for influencing public opinion is not. During national elections political factions expend the yearly budgets of small countries in a wars to shape public opinion, and the side that has more money to spend on it has a tremendous advantage. They don’t do with reasoned arguments and rigidly accurate representations of data. They do it by increasing audience comfort with a person or idea through repetition and familiarity, and by marrying words and images to strong emotions in cinematic fictions as fantastic as any Hollywood creation.

    Anyway, I don’t know how I got here. I didn’t mean to enter a dog in this race. I just took exception to Y stating that a movie he hadn’t seen was “clearly” doing something I don’t happen to agree that it is. Now that it’s earned me a “fucking weirdo” tag from someone whose contributions here I really enjoyed, seems like a good point to bail out.

  61. Fury Road was great. I didn’t think it was “mindless” at all, or escapist fantasy. It seems to not only work in a number of evolving ideas about symbols and myths and types, but it creates its own mythological framework reaching far around and wide without worrying about the modernist tendencies today to make things “realistic” by showing how particular world-historical events now end up in the future’s past of the movie narrative. It does work along with the modernist fear of the destroyed (not just foreclosed) world, but the emphasis on the ruthlessness of survival matches the emphasis on survival requiring shared projects. The recasting of sacrifice—specifically martyrdom, tracing the word’s etymology, as “Witness me”—as more meaningful through love: romantic in gesture, erotic in scope, human in spirit. Very different ways of sacrificing one’s self for another or approaching death—high, jacked, courageous, convicted, compelled… or as Max shows, fleeing death or trying to wander long enough to be forgotten by Death isn’t really choosing the appropriate way of succeeding life. Immortality isn’t for the individual, but for what outlives individuals through individual acts. In this sense, the movie recaptures its own searching for some old roots in the old mythologies the way the entire narrative’s production builds beautiful things out of ruins.

    The movie is very thoughtful in a lot of its details, and it tells a good story. I get why there will be lots of people who see the movie as “feminist” and others who see it as “escapist action blockbuster.” It tells a story by setting its pieces carefully, and the subtlety allows for multiple layers of engagement. A lot of people will get lots of different things out of it, and in that sense the ambivalences of meaning make the movie more realistic in the sense where what makes reality important to us is not its solidity, but its objective obstinacy mired with meanings. It seriously helps this has real cars that took real ingenuity to make happen, and not virtual cars moving in virtual spaces having virtual consequences. Each of the cars/rigs/bikes themselves “says something” about the characters and groups, less as a brand and more as a way of interacting with humans and environments and ideas.

    Y, I wasn’t really saying women are “equally aggressive” with men. I’m saying things are more complicated than your assertions claim. Which women? Which men? Under what conditions? For what durations? There’s nothing in your claims to show me what operations and investigations and frameworks are involved in not only supporting your claims but also testing them. Maybe you’re comfortable with that level of truthiness, but then you can’t also pretend you’ve got science and reason on your side and the other sides have politics and ideologies and wishful thinking. When I ask for numbers, you repeat the same modalities of more or less, far or near, likelihoods.

    Besides that, I strongly disagree with the idea that wars are not fought nor won with words or manipulation or deceit. If you agree with the (as you’re implying) impolitic claim that the long-standing traditions about women suggest they are more talented than men at social and verbal manipulation—to the point where “gossip” trades different in the moral discourse than “insider information” even though from the evolutionary psychologists’ perspectives they are the same contributions to fitness—then your own claims at the metalevel are either deeply ironic (at which point it’s unclear how to take you) or improperly inconsistent (which is a fancy way of saying incorrect and not just unclear).

    I’d like to be charitable to the point you’re trying to make, but I’m going to need help?

  62. 03: This is of course a pedantic argument, since the army is not recruiting “average” women (and for that matter should not be recruiting average men…)

    Umm… the army is recruiting average men. If you’re too bright, too dim, or too crazy, you’re not going to fit in. Of course, they’d like to have the best men possible, but the higher quality manpower has other ideas in mind.

    03: US of A has a preposterous excess of military assets, no realistic opponents in sight (there is virtually zero chance of traditional war with Russia or China, because, you know, nukes fall, critical infrastructure vanishes – on all ends of the affair) and so US of A is in a unique position when it can just experiment and see what happens.

    By that line of thinking – no country with enough nuclear deterrent needs an army at all.

    03: US of A also seems to have population that is generally very suffering-and-death averse (well, for themselves, duh ) so improved practical understanding of how to best integrate the (rare) qualified female recruit into combat environment could eventually prove useful.

    Why? Women are more suited to present-day civilian society, and face better outcomes there. Furthermore, if predictability is a virtue in a bureaucratic instituion, makes more sense for the army to be male only, gays excluded. And yeah – if you want, you can look it up, but the number of women who’d qualify under male standards would be miniscule.

    03: Duh, as said many times, I am not in favor of lowering qualification requirements to accommodate females in the military.

    The problem here is, that the people who are pushing a gender-integrated military seem to believe that reality is socially constructed, or something along these lines. Trying harder only works up to a point.

  63. Charles R: I’d like to be charitable to the point you’re trying to make, but I’m going to need help?

    Well – you got to help yourself. It’s known women don’t fight against men, physically, especially on a group basis, and that there are good reasons for that (they’d lose). But hey – if you could find evidence of say, a bunch of whores ganging together, getting rid of pimps, and then providing mutual protection for themselves.. hey, knock yourself out.

    Charles R: Besides that, I strongly disagree with the idea that wars are not fought nor won with words or manipulation or deceit.

    Manipulation and deceit belong to the stage of politics and diplomacy and espionage. However, the issue never was whether women are hopeless in those arenas – it was my assertion that portraying women using physical violence and succeding was just ridiculous.

  64. 03: Watching Beatrix Kiddo perform implausible combat feats and shrug off of distinctly fatal amounts of physical trauma has not served to increase audience’s “feminist attitudes” or sword handling skills, and watching John McLane harass an F-35 has not increased physical fitness or interest in aviation (Oh, now I want a huge-budget Die Hard / Kill Bill crossover so fucking baaad )
    So yeah, people are bending themselves out of goddamn shape over a blockbuster movie.

    To be frank, I personally don’t see the point, nor do I enjoy blockbuster movies. My favorite action film is The Way of the Gun, which is, well, sort of slightly more realistic.

    03: People who try to argue that watching a given movie will make the audience “more feminist” or “more traditionalist”

    Time for some run-down on how media affect monkeys. Personally, I’ve better things to do but someone who’s bored might want to drill down.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_influence

    I’m giving that, and further discussion a pass – after all, what’s the point?

  65. Scottc: Anyway, I don’t know how I got here. I didn’t mean to enter a dog in this race. I just took exception to Y stating that a movie he hadn’t seen was “clearly” doing something I don’t happen to agree that it is. Now that it’s earned me a “fucking weirdo” tag from someone whose contributions here I really enjoyed, seems like a good point to bail out.

    Well, I’m on this with you. I also kind of enjoyed the contributions of the interchangeable number freaks until I’ve come to stuff on whom we disagreed and then I realized those people care about nothing but science, and if there isn’t science of something, perhaps because it’s an iffy, ideologically divisive issue that is problematic to research, they were just dismissive.

    But hey – it’s all just angels on the heads of pins and none of us here affect policy, so it’s all of no importance whatsoever. People are going to be screwed, metaphorically speaking, and there’s going to be sadness, rage and gnashing of teeth, but … it’s just silly quality of life crap, nothing important.

  66. Re:
    Scottc

    Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to offend you, of all people (though in fairness, being called a “fucking weirdo” by a woman like me is probably more than a little ironic – you do know enough to appreciate the irony, right? :) )

    My huge beef with the entire “media influence” thing is that quality of research in the area is… questionable (not that surprising for soc-sci), the models are… fragile …
    … and despite all that the claims are usually magnanimous and all over the map, while the really major “media theorist” predictions remain hilariously off-mark (the “rise of violence due to media” shtick, the porn-shtick, the petulant handslapping over this and that “outrageous” book or game or what have you, the whole silly reforming-world-throug-verbal-chicanery that the rad-left is so enamored with, the entire Anderson “youth violence” fiasco…).

    I mean, it is entirely plausible that not all of claims that fall under purview of my “complaint” are completely without merit, but the strength with which those claims are usually asserted and the magnitude of proposed effects are out of scale with observed reality.
    Hell, many “media influence researchers” manage to get both the scale and the effect direction wrong (yep, I’m still punching Malamuth, which is of course both needlessly cruel and sorta pointless…) which would be kinda hilarious if they weren’t supposed to inform actual, you know, decisions.

  67. 01: But’s it’s a good movie to watch if you’re drunk and if you’re a little bit fed up with hollywoodish luddism and/or pacifist parables.

    That is one niche market you;re talking about.

    One very large niche market, judging by the BO returns.

  68. Wow, is this party still going on?

    Well, in addition to being absolutely tickled/impressed by the tendency of everyone here to link to sources— not to mention an overall tone of civility (albeit strained on occasion) that puts you guys way ahead of most online discussions that contain even a hint of gender politics— I can only conclude one thing from the fact that a post on Age of Ultron somehow morphed into an argument about Fury Road: it’s time to do a post on the subject of Fury Road. And it’s thematic soul-mate, Kingsman: The Secret Service (which is, IMHO after having finally seen it over the weekend, even better).

    And if you miss the crunchy science posts, and despair that this whole ‘crawl may be turning into a movie review site— well, you have only yourselves to blame. It’s pretty obvious what you guys are interested in.

  69. I just saw Fury Road at the Yeongdeungpo Cinema in Seoul, which claims to be the biggest movie screen in the world (non-IMAX, of course). And it was friggin’ huge. Quite an experience. I liked it well enough (easily the best of the four MM films), but the pseudo-controversy over “feminism” was clearly just a MRA group trolling.

    Given the taiko drums on the trucks and the S&M designs, though, I wonder if this group was related to our Matrix friends in Zion.

    I still think the best summary of the film was from The Coquette: “Mad Max was a pretty cool movie about a bunch of supermodels trying to get their art car to Burning Man.”
    https://twitter.com/coketweet/status/601273392809967616

  70. Y, I got to help myself?

    You’re the one making the claims. You want me to verify your claims?

  71. Again, Duffelblog nails it squarely on the head.

    “It’s really a victory for everyone, not just us naturists,” said Cornell, a wheeled vehicle mechanic and closure inspection section chief with the 725th Support Battalion. “As a bit of a history buff, I know how the American military has gradually improved its diversity and inclusiveness. We did it with racial and gender integration, we did it with ending Bill Clinton’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, and now we’re doing it again. I’m glad that once again, the military can lead the way and show America that effectiveness and safety aren’t valid excuses for bigotry.

    Read more: http://www.duffelblog.com/2015/06/congress-repeals-ban-nudists-serving/#ixzz3bwsWctgB

  72. Is this thing still a thingie thing?
    Aw yisss it isss :)

    Re: Y, on nuclear deterrents

    My position is not so much “no longer needs an army” and more like “has unique opportunity to experiment with military solutions in a manner that would be too risky for a less nuclearily endowed state”.

    Re: Y, on recruiting and stuff

    Do note that I never said “is not recruiting average men”, I said “should not”, because frankly, average people who “just can’t find anything better elsewhere” are rather questionable career fits (to put it kindly).
    As to average women, well, average women have career options that have better risk/benefit ratio than army, so pretty much any female volunteer is likely to be unusually motivated, which is a good property for a human asset to have.

    And as to the point of the whole affair – it’s not exactly the most popular, or the most rational, career choice, and thus expanding the source base from which viable recruiting can occur is generally not a bad move, especially since we’re at a technological level where many of the likely risks can be either mitigated or screened for.

    Given that the number of women who qualify is, as you pointed out, minuscule, the practical risks of such experiment in a modern military of a country that does not face any realistic WWII-style engagements with anything would be exceedingly low.

    At best, interesting data would be acquired, new knowledge will be gained and used, and a new source of human resources will become available to the military.

    At worst, a few people would die.

    Seems like an okay setup to me.

    Oh, and frankly, I don’t particularly care what “military gender equalists” believe in terms of reality being socially constructed – to me it’s primarily a question of expanding the understanding of how human resources work, how they break, and how they best can be used to achieve a goal.

    Of course actually lowering the fitness requirements “just to get some women onboard” would be a silly thing to do (at least until you can, like, rebuild them into genetically engineered combat cyborgs or something 😉 thus making physical fitness evaluations rather useless anyway), but denying service opportunity to someone who physically qualifies and is strongly motivated simply because said someone has a vagina count of more than 0 is, IMO, equally silly.

    I do, however, think that it would be utterly hilarious to give stereotypical bleeping-heart colonial-study reality-as-social-construct folks (of all genders available in a given random sample of said folks) some guns and send them to Iraq (or whichever hellhole has most shooting at time of experiment) to do some reality-constructin’

    If I was a godlike lich-sorceress, I’d do exactly that.

  73. Re: Y, on media-shmedia

    Not to respin the argument, but you do realize that a good deal of evidence quoted has holes that could easily accommodate an 18-wheeler due to failing to to investigate (the vastly more interesting) alternate hypotheses ( like the whole “recollection of picketing as violent / media depiction of picketing as violent” thing is spun as media influence, but emotional biasing in memory integration explains the result equally well and is actually a better hypothesis in several ways) , are cunning restatements of obvious trivialities ( people who don’t have firsthand access to a process will base their judgement on various media depictions of said process) , rely on fragile constructs like priming, shakey science (like that annoying “Eating behaviours and attitudes following prolonged exposure to television among ethnic Fijian girls” thing every goddamn second-wave feminist likes to wave around – well, likes to wave around until someone points out all the terrible, irredeemable faults in that little piece of… published media :) ), have replication issues (often along the lines of “nobody bothered”) or have catastrophically failed predictions when applied “in vivo” (more or less every “violent media to IRL violence” claim ever :) ), right ?

    You see, I don’t claim that *no* (as in literally *zero*) effect exists for any media exposure ever (after all, science journals are media, lol :) ), but the “cognitive influences” research in general is so terribly littered with wishful self-deception, dodgy obscure findings (nobody will challenge because nobody will care ! wheeee, tenure here I come! ), cunning shitfuckery and outright goddamn lies that frankly, everything that comes out of it is exceedingly suspect.

    P.S.:

    Yes, I do realize that one day we may miss a honest-to-Langford basilisk because the report will come off as yet another piece of “porn is bad for your brain according to this dodgy unreplicated study” or “this movie will make people more $random_undesirable_trait” bullshit.

    If this risk allows to cut down the “influence claim” bullshit by at least 20%, it is, IMO, an acceptable risk :)

  74. 03: Do note that I never said “is not recruiting average men”, I said “should not”, because frankly, average people who “just can’t find anything better elsewhere” are rather questionable career fits (to put it kindly).

    Okay – maybe they’e not average average, but they’re of average intelligence and physical ability*.

    *or would be, in a non-couch potato culture.

    03: Given that the number of women who qualify is, as you pointed out, minuscule, the practical risks of such experiment in a modern military of a country that does not face any realistic WWII-style engagements with anything would be exceedingly low.

    The problem is that the people pushing it are dishonest, and if the standards do not fit women, then the standards have to go.

    03: “porn is bad for your brain according to this dodgy unreplicated study”

    Hey – find me anything that is not wrong for the brain in excess. Do you think compulsive overeaters have completely normal brains?

  75. Re: Y, on couch potatoes

    Hey, not recruiting “couch potatoes” would mean de-facto not recruiting average men, fullstop

    And I didn’t go *that* far in my claims 😉

    Re: Y, on dishonesty

    Oh come on, both sides are being dishonest.

    For instance, “your” side isn’t being very honest when conflating fitness requirements at induction with overall fitness-for-duty requirements, or pretending that pregnancies are a hard-to-manage risk (if only we had a technology – like, some kind of implantable device, or maybe some kind of external membraneous contraption – that would minimize the risk of pregnancy! We could even combine several devices with different operating principles to further reduce risks! That would be a fascinating technology to have!).

    Both “your side” and “radical gender activism” side are sketchy (“my” side, however, is simply “if you live up to physical and mental requirements of being a soldier and are willing to bleed to the death in a Stolasforsaken stinky desert for the sake of a political abstraction, you should have the opportunity to do so irrespective of your vagina count”, which I think is a fairly honest and reasonable position :) )

  76. Re: Y, on overeaters and stuff

    Well, defining “excess” is kind of iffy even in most clear-cut cases (like alcohol).

    However, given exposure scales and timeframes and paucity of observed in-vivo effects in general population, the case for “perils of porn” is weaker than even the (admittedly, borderline laughable) case for “perils of glucose”, and is exactly on par with “D&D Satanism Recruiting” bullshit of yore.

  77. 03: However, given exposure scales and timeframes and paucity of observed in-vivo effects in general population, the case for “perils of porn” is weaker than even the (admittedly, borderline laughable)

    Paucity of observed in-vivo effects?Yeah. Because scientifically, even if half of all young men stopped having sex you’d still say causation is as of yet unproven.

    03:
    Re: Y, on overeaters and stuff
    and is exactly on par with “D&D satanism Recruiting” bullshit of yore.

    Uh-huh. No one outside of bible belt took that seriously.

    However, large scale studies show that suprisingly there is more E.D. among the young population than past experience would suggest. Here’s a study on swiss under 30 males.
    So, apparently 30% complained of E.D. at one of the two checkups, and for 15% it had persisted during the entire course of that study.

    A more recent survey of 234 sexually active college students found that 13% reported E.D. ..

    _______________________
    Old times:

    A 1999 US study reported incidence of E.D. in a 18-59 population at 5%. That includes a good part of the middle-aged cohort, traditionally associated with higher rates of E.D.

    This 1999 German study corroborates it in that it found 2.3% of 30 year old Germans complained of E.D.

    Kinsey found that prevalence of E.D. under 30 was <1%…

    So that’s old times, before the internet. And now 15 years later, somehow, the prevalence of E.D. seems to be an order of magnitude higher.

    And here, from the department that seems to have forgotten it’s not the 1800’s anymore, comes a study based on examination of andrology/sex medicince clinic patients that found a clear relationship between compulsive masturbation and E.D. …

    So. either people back in the day lied to researchers way, way more often. or something has changed in the last 15 years.

    What big environmental change has happened in the past 15 years apart from the rise in internet use?

  78. Alternative hypothesis:
    Increasing availability of remarkably effective treatment options improves reporting in surveys (if in Kinsey times one could expect, at best, root-based remedy* ) because patients can actually expect a reasonably effective fix, not a load of Freudian horseshit or a particularly fanciful root*.

    Alternative hypothesis 2:
    Physically hypoactive, high-stress lifestyle found in a lot of modern-day youngsters correlates with poor cardiovascular health, which in turn correlates with poor erectile performance (given that the penis is pretty much just a decked out blood balloon, causative links between cardiovascular health and erectile performance are plausible, and in some cases even established )

    Interestingly enough, high-stress, low-workout lifestyle also correlates with depressive spectrum disorders, which are (among other markers of poor mental health) correlates of decreased erectile performance. (BTW, both “fitness-erectile performance” and “mental health – erectile performance” correlations are highlighted in materials you cite, ta! :D)

    Alternative hypothesis 3:
    A hilarious mixture of above two hypothesis, because two great tastes taste great together

    And last but not least, a lot depends on survey construction (not all ED-related related diagnostic and research surveys are ICD-compliant, to put it mildly).

    Oh, and Kinsey figure does not match up all that well with National Health and Social Life Survey (which was in early 90ies, that is, before NSFNET decommissioning and official “birth of commercial internet” 😉 )
    Do note that National Health and Social Life Survey had both “unable to attain or maintain erection” item and “anxious about performance” item, and men who were too shy to tell some stranger about their own little “downstream Hindenburg” would likely use the “anxiety” category instead, thus making the “anxiety” survey item a kind of “core catcher unit” for intra-survey self-esteem meltdowns :) (and thus the “actual prevalence” figures should be somewhere in between the “ED” figures and “performance anxieties” figures)

    As to compulsive masturbation, on one hand, with that kind of sample size and methodology, it is not a very impressive result (I like the alcohol correlation tho, for some reason), on the other hand, there have been various (inconclusive but frequent) reports that disorders in the obsessive-compulsive spectrum are associated with various sexual dysfunctions in males and females (thus making the CM finding part of a larger “compulsive disorder/sexual dysfunction” array, which does not suggest that compulsive masturbatory behaviors are in any way causative towards ED)

    Oh, and as to environment changes, well, anything from systematic, ongoing decrease of physical activity and increase in behavioral stress to Fluoxetine/its metabolites contaminating runoff waters and circulating through the ecosystem (a thing that happens, is measurable, and is fucking up fishes something fierce)

    So, yeah, there are probably cryptid and UFO researchers with better “evidence”

    P.S.:
    You downplay the satanic abuse shenanigans.

    folks were sent to actual, you know, fucking jail for “satanically abusing” a bunch of lying kids, thanks to crazy pie-in-the-sky quackery being admitted as “expert witness testimony”.

    “satanic abuse” thing was as serious as a heart attack during a bombing run.

    ______________________
    * root-based ED remedy is basically giving dude a root and instructing him to duct-tape the root to his penis really well 😉

  79. 03: You downplay the satanic abuse shenanigans.

    Get real. I’m downplaying the RPG games cause satanism BS, which no one took seriously. Satanic ritual abuse is a different kettle of fish.

    03

    Alternative hypothesis:

    Alternative hypothesis 2:

    Alternative hypothesis 3:

    You forgot alternative hypothesis 4: all 1,2,3 together with mine*…

    Okay, if it’s depression and bad cardiovascular system..could be part of it. Modern day couch potatoes are just..eugh. But then tell me why young people, who are supposed to get morning wood do not get it. See here, for example.

    *that overexposure to porn causes changes in brain structure which lead to puzzling things, like the no-morning-wood issue in biochemically healthy individuals, and impaired erectile function.

  80. 03: For instance, “your” side isn’t being very honest when conflating fitness requirements at induction with overall fitness-for-duty requirements,

    Not mine, but honestly, get real, and honest. A woman who has the physical abilities of a man is a freak. You can see one on Game of Thrones.

    There is also no evidence that women respond to training and conditioning better than men. They are simply inferior in all strength and endurance sports, and only hold their own in stuff that stresses precision and coordination, like marksmanship.

    I have no idea why the chess leagues are separate though.

  81. Y.: But then tell me why young people, who are supposed to get morning wood do not get it. See here, for example

    Not to interlope upon your argument with madame sexyscience there, but, by Machine God’s holy hard disk arrays, you are… trying to use Reddit as evidence.
    Reddit, of all things.

  82. Re: Y, on women and “real” whatever

    Okay okay, “side you have chosen to represent” :)

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “get real” is, especially given your later statement regarding “freaks”.

    If you seek to highlight that such people are statistically uncommon, then nobody here has claimed otherwise.

    If your point is convey that such people are somehow “wrong” or “preternatural” (as suggested by choice of word “freak”), then this would be a baseless assertion of an emotional and strictly value-driven (and thus, per Hume, discourse-immune) nature, and allowing such attitudes to show through does not serve to strengthen any argument you make in this regard.

    Re: on SRB

    given that the “d&d” “con *cough* troversies” were part and parcel of SRB hysteria, and shared similar “arguments”, same “literature sources” and “expert” references/testimonies, the only difference is that in case with publications by corporations, the victim of fruitloop bullying and quacky “experts” on “satanism” were companies with non-deadbeat legal teams who gutted the crazy fakesperts at step 1.

    I kinda hope you are not trying to imply that bullshit content in SRB (or for that matter any other case where shit like “suppressed memory recovery” bubbles up) is somehow lower than (similarly argued and structured) claims against tabletop games

    And while bible belt was most certainly the “backbone” of D&D hysteria (do note that it was also the backbone of larger SRB bullshit campaign), the uncritical and panicked response was strong enough to start a formal (state-funded!) investigation into alleged D&D/suicide links (now that’s a worthy application of taxpayer dollerses! :) )

    Re: Y. on ED

    Problem is, “your” “hypothesis” (or perhaps “hypothesis you have chosen to represent 😉 “) has less evidence than “traumatic masturbation” hypothesis of ED (proponents of traumatic masturbation hypothesis, much like proponents of “riding trauma” hypothesis, at least can point to specific connective tissue lesions of etiologically suggestive localization, which is curious even if the existing statistical data is not in favor of said hypotheses)

    Hell, it has less evidence then “Fluoxetine contamination” shtick I just thought up on spot as pie-in-sky example (at least, the elevated levels of F. in water near large human settlements are a more reliable finding than whatever shenanigans crop up* in small-sample-size, poor-control, borderline comical fMRI stuff “brain-on-porn” folks are hoping to lean upon. They may as well just go and assert existence of malignant ID, while they are at it 😉 )

    P.S.:
    “Biochemically healthy” individuals… seeking medical assistance…



    … on Reddit ?

    LOL
    get real :)

    Listen, I get it, a lot of conservative people have bad feels about porn and about prostitution, and some of them realize that without empirical evidence their arguments are essentially value arguments (which are weak) or ass-hamster arguments (which work only with other ass-hamster cultists), so they adopt the “Farley/Dines” school of pseudoscience/antiscience and start throwing together vaguely plausible (in the same fluffy sense Giger Alien lifecycle is “vaguely plausible”) hypothesis with some dodgy (occasionally outright fraudulent, as seen in case of both Farley and Dines) data and throw that at the wall, hoping some of it will stick.

    I feel for ya folks (maybe sorta kinda 😉 )

    I know it sucks to have a sweet spot for a position that is not supported by evidence and is purely “value driven” in the “lol Hume” way (I felt that way about certain things some time ago – but I’m just lucky with my “value positions”, and some time later actual empirical evidence in favor of certain positions in question did show up, which feels great, I’ll let you know).

    You need a hand with this porn-sturbation business, definitely.

    *crickets*

    So I’m gonna lend you a hand (badum-tishhh!)

    Literally so – because see, the evil porn disease you are looking for is a hand disease (waap waaaap waaaaaaaap! 😀 ), or more precisely, a group of musculoskeletal conditions commonly referred to as “repeated strain injury” (likely more perilous in males, due to additional constrictive effort needed to fashion a crude vagina imitation out of one’s own palm, but not unlikely in female porn consumers, too)

    Current evidence is meh, of course… but much like “traumatic masturbation” people, you’ll have a very direct etiological link, and it’s just a matter of a few cleverly engineered studies to make your idea look downright plausible!

    protip:
    you can investigate a large “random” sample of people without properly controlling for “randomly coincidental” repeated-stress related tasks in employment context, and to make this dodgy part of the protocol extra-opaque to any nosy inquiries, muddle up participant employment backgrounds with privacy-preservation paperwork!

    Now, how many lent hands is that?
    I’m like a porn research Kali avatar, yo! 😀
    _________
    * it should be of course also noted that even a reasonably designed, well-sampled transversal fMRI study (a thing that allegedly exists… maybe… somewhere… but definitely not anywhere in the vicinity of “brain on porn” folks 😀 ) does not, by itself, ellucidate causal relationships

    Damn… I need someone photoshop a paramilitary, naziesque squad wearing “cum hoc NON ergo propter hoc” armbands breaking down a wall or a door or something :(

    Re: 01

    That’s madame DeScience, lol !

  83. 03: would be a baseless assertion of an emotional and strictly value-driven

    I’d have thought that by this time you’d be familiar with the fact that I don’t experience almost any emotions. Perhaps the rest of the person I’m tied to does, but I can’t really know.

    A statistical observation.

    03: Re: on SRB

    It’s all very tiresome and so American.

    03: Hell, it has less evidence then “Fluoxetine contamination” shtick

    I dunno. Have you even looked at said evidence? Try asking 25 twenty-something males about their morning wood. Should be easy.

    What I’m going on is anecdotal evidence, and theory, which strongly suggests compulsive behaviors alter the reward system so that it’s less sensitive to stimuli. This theory is I believe well established, but not in regards to sexuality.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947358/

    03: due to additional constrictive effort needed to fashion a crude vagina imitation out of one’s own palm, but not unlikely in female porn consumers, too)

    The female genitals are harder to access, whereas the male one sort of sticks out. Also, I imagine RSI is a definite possibility, considering how 19th century doctors tasked with getting women off invented the vibrator in order to relieve themselves of such burdensome work.

    03: I’m like a porn research Kali avatar, yo!

    Yeah. But each hand is unhelpful, cause you’re only here for snark. I get that, but it does not flatter you. Or Spain.

  84. 03: on SRB

    SRB ?

    You mean SRA (satanic ritual abuse)?

    03: That’s madame DeScience, lol !

    To me, you will always be madame sexyscience, sweetcheeks 😀 :p

  85. Re: 01

    Oh, whoops

    Whenever I think of “satanic ritual abuse” my mind automatically rewrites it to “satanic ritual bullshit”, and thus SRA => SRB :)

    Re: Y, on feelings

    your strongly normative word choice suggests otherwise :)

    Re Y:, on evidence

    If you mean evidence for Fluoxetine contamination, well, F. is being found in all kind of freshwater critters (http://www.nature.com/news/2003/031103/full/news031103-8.html ), as well as, of course, effluent treatment plant fluids and downstream water (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15936058)

    If you mean “evidence” of your hypothesis, your best evidence is a reddit thread.

    In case anyone is wondering, there is a reddit thread for alien abduction reports.

    If you suggest that I go collecting anecdotes from dudes about their porn-related problems or lack thereoff, then
    1) that would still be anecdotes
    2) my current anecdotal evidence does not work in favor of your hypothesis (however, even if we choose to fight an pseudoscientific anecdotal evidence fight, you can always just claim that being into stuff I’m into provides protective effect against porn’s brain perils or whatever)

    Re: Y, on “theory”

    I am aware of the “unified addiction theory” and have, in fact, commented on it in the past (comically enough, when arguing this very same thing with somebody else.

    I wonder if I can find a comment thread that old on here and just recycle whole pages of text here (since it’s not like the “brain on porn” position has any new tricks up its sleeve)
    Searchbox is of little help.

    Long story short, it’s pretty much the string theory of addiction biochem. It’s kinda elegant, but it has a number of problems ranging from esoteric (such as it’s absurdly broad scope and necessary implication that any dopamine-intensive pleasurable activity would be addictive under its premises) and to fairly profound (such as issues with falsifiability, and – perhaps more importantly – the inability of this theoretical framework to account for very distinct social profiles of different phenomena that, as per this framework, are supposed to be addictions)

    More importantly, it does not easily account for NPT suppression which seems to be almost central to your claim.

    And finally, specifically the “perils of porn” version of this line of thought does not play too well with existing epidemiological data (upon some contemplation, I gotta point out that it plays with epidemiological data especially poorly if one so chooses to take Kinsey figures at face value, since that would suggest that there was a notable uptick in “ED and/or performance anxiety” cases that happened somewhere before Health and Social Life Survey, so, slightly before 90’es and waaaay before ” internet porn” era).

    Interestingly enough, “post-wide-deployment epidemiology” seems to be the worst enemy of social conservatives / social precautionists (computer game violence, movie violence, porn / sex offense links… history is positively littered with figurative corpses of “socioconservative/precautionary” hypotheses which died due to, basically, “phenomenon getting mass deployment anyway – without any of the prophesied dire consequences” 😀 )

    Re: Y, on RSI

    of course RSI is a possibility! I’m really lending a hand, man (yes, humorously so, but a hand nonetheless!)

    Also, ergonomic trinket producers might start throwing money at you if you go with “RSI as peril of porn” shtick! It’s the best of the “damaging porn” ideas so far!
    😀

    PS:

    Spain?

    LOL, I did not expect you of all people to fall for that kind of shenanigan 😀

  86. 03: Also, ergonomic trinket producers might start throwing money at you if you go with “RSI as peril of porn” shtick! It’s the best of the “damaging porn” ideas so far!

    I love the Oh Joy Sex Toy webcomic for toy reviews. They’ve got ones for sleeves. (NSFW link, obviously)

  87. 03: your strongly normative word choice suggests otherwise

    I think it’s the same way as my English. People say I can speak English, however, to me it seems as if there is some vast repository of phrases I’ve read or heard and whenever I feel the need to say something I just ‘reach’ in there and pluck something out. Certainly if I get too self-conscious and try to second guess myself, my linguistic abilities are suddenly restricted to my native and semi-native languages.

    03: If you mean “evidence” of your hypothesis, your best evidence is a reddit thread.

    I dunno. The problem here is the linguistic barrier. Recently I read an interview with a sexologist (atheist, with a 99% certainty), who stated that of course porn causes sexual and relationship dysfunction, and that we ought to look at this from the Darwinian perspective: it’ll prevent some people from breeding, which means those whose drives aren’t likely to be hijacked are going to be an end up as an increasing share of the population. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a sexologist who denies that pornography can be detrimental to it’s users. If it was all good, for everyone, it’d be sort of unique. All the other good things in life: violence, sports, athletics, alcohol, machinery. They all have their risks.

    03: I gotta point out that it plays with epidemiological data especially poorly if one so chooses to take Kinsey figures at face value, since that would suggest that there was a notable uptick in “ED and/or performance anxiety” cases that happened somewhere before Health and Social Life Survey, so, slightly before 90’es and waaaay before ” internet porn” era).

    Perhaps I should point out that between Kinsey and the 90’s, the majority of Americans and other Westerners got rather fat and unfit.
    Also, better living through modern chemistry has led to a marked drop in testosterone(20% in MA residents between 1989-2009), higher than the rise of obesity and other such causes can explain. Other stuff might have changed too. There is also the so-far unexplained decline in sperm count and rise in male infertility. (since WWII at least)

    03: porn / sex offense links

    Actually, porn & sex offense links are in the favor of my position. If sadists who would like to rape someone have access to porn their like, and are consequently less likely to rape anyone…. does that not suggest that porn to some extent replaces normal sexual activity?

    03: More importantly, it does not easily account for NPT suppression which seems to be almost central to your claim.

    There are no papers about it, nothing beyond that the absence of NPT signifies either complete inability to have an erection, and is thus a useful diagnostic tool, or severe depression.

    No one seems to have a clue about it, what’s it for and so on.

  88. 03: LOL, I did not expect you of all people to fall for that kind of shenanigan

    It’s actually from Catch XXII.

  89. Y.: All the other good things in life: violence, sports, athletics, alcohol, machinery. They all have their risks.

    I think there is some kind of unwholesome conflation going on here.

    It is trivially true that water has its risks ( deaths due to drowning, as well as water-based torture methods, are well documented phenomena) but nobody in their right mind would say that water is inherently perilous to human well-being.

    The evidence of porn “risks” is, for all practical scientific intents and purposes, nonexistent and is somewhere in the same ballpark as “computer game induced violence” and claims that Twilight is making women more likely to end up in abusive relationships, if not outright in the Loch Ness Monster ballpark (and there are numerous, numerous live witnesses willing to testify, on film, that they literally saw the damned thing)

    There is thus no reason to believe that porn is more “risky” than showering (or otherwise contacting smallish amounts of water) and yet there is a remarkable absence of “concerned citizens” “discussing” shower risks (which are documented and sometimes fatal) and numerous “concerned citizens” and even “sexologists” claiming that there are distinct porn risks and being apparently very “concerned” about them (despite absence of any credible, reliable evidence of such risks)

    It is of course theoretically conceivable that porn carries some kind of minuscule risk for something or other, but this risk is so tiny that its proponents have to resort to stuff like Reddit threads 😉 and lol-fMRI studies with sample size of 50-to-70 to make their case
    ( with a sample of 50-70 “lol-randomly” selected humans one can “lol-fMRI-prove” almost any arbitrary claim about humans)

    House cats are far more likely to carry currently underestimated “societal risks”, compared to porn (at least cats are documented to play a crucial role in infecting humans with a brain parasite which is actually documented to alter mammalian brains).

    A honest precautionist’s time is thus better spent researching and/or neutralizing the dangers of cats.

    Y.: . If sadists who would like to rape someone have access to porn their like, and are consequently less likely to rape anyone

    Sadistic rapists are just a small subset of overall rapists (just a disproportionately famous one), I’ll let you know

    *cue outrage, 120kb*

    😉

    Y.: It’s actually from Catch XXII.

    Could you please remind me the quote? I don’t have my Heller at hand, and I don’t recall any particularly remarkable/famous quote that would fit that pattern.

  90. 03: I wonder if I can find a comment thread that old on here and just recycle whole pages of text here (since it’s not like the “brain on porn” position has any new tricks up its sleeve)

    Here you go

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=3993

  91. Y.: we ought to look at this from the Darwinian perspective: it’ll prevent some people from breeding, which means those whose drives aren’t likely to be hijacked are going to be an end up as an increasing share of the population.

    I almost missed this gem.

    If we look at things from Darwinean/neo-Darwinean perspective, then the most successful reproductive strategy is not “classical family” or even “harems”, but multijurisdictional sperm donation (the multijurisdictional part is both to increase diversity and sidestep per-country sperm donor offspring legal limits)

    Over the course of less than a year, a healthy human male can supply enough biological material to sire over one hundred children all over the world, and nature and costs of artificial insemination guarantee that the offspring will end up in relatively beneficial conditions, on average.
    Hilariously enough, with this method one might continue reproducing long after one’s own demise, which is kinda cool.

    Feel free to exploit to your heart’s content, cause your precious nucleotides have a lot of catching up to do :p

  92. **tap-tap**

    Is the mic still on here ?

  93. Re: 01

    Hey, thanks, I’ll bookmark that so I can recycle lol

    Also, you seem to be conspicuously literate in the whole sperm-donation market thing, what’s up with that, you never told me :)

    Re: Y

    My entire point is that the amount of alternate hypotheses for any seeming or actual ED statistics change is immense, and supermajority of them is better than the small minority of those that involve porn.

    In fact, the case for porn/ED link is conspicuously weak given immense prevalence of porn (I mean, come on, you’re a rational interlocutor, and you basically have to resort to reddit threads to prop up “your” 😉 side of argument)

    My claim is not that porn is harmless in some abstract platonic sense – even kittens are not harmless in such sense.

    My argument is simply that as per current evidence, the harm of porn is no greater then any other kind of entertainment media (personal opinions of unnamed sexologists notwithstanding 😉 )