Of Dragons & Ruined Cities

XMark

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Wow, this article really connects for me. For years I've been noticing a worrying trend of movies and video games showing the deaths of innocent bystanders and massive collateral damage in major action sequences without demonstrating the slightest bit of care for the victims involved. I think I really started to notice this trend around the first Transformers and GI Joe movies. You'd think that we'd be more sensitive about this kind of thing since 9/11 but maybe that just desensitized us instead?

Like, at the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness
all the characters seem to just forget that a giant spaceship just crashed and wiped out the entire downtown core of San Francisco and tens of thousands of innocent people with it, and we're supposed to believe it's a happy ending when in reality their success in their fight against Khan means absolutely nothing in comparison to its devastating consequences.

At least the level of collateral damage in the new Superman movie seems to have been noticed by the majority of viewers instead of flying under the radar like so many other recent movies.

Maybe there isn't some kind of evil trend going on, and it's just that big budget movies need to show big explosions, but they can't show the mangled victims because they're aiming for the almighty PG-13 rating. I think implied off-screen violence should affect a movie's rating far more than it currently does. In many ways, implied mass deaths are more disturbing than ones shown onscreen.
 

immortalfrieza

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Therumancer said:
All of this is technically true, but it won't be done and I think you know it. You are also acting under the assumption that mass murder is the only possible solution, and it's not. Population control could just as easily work, as well as finding ways to get more out of nonrenewable resources as well as making more effective use of renewable ones, which I have no doubt is going to happen eventually, probably not until it starts to get as bad as you describe (if history has proven anything it's that humanity won't really deal with a problem until it becomes so big it can't be ignored anymore)but it'll happen.

It is definitely true that we need to start getting into space, terraforming, and start forming viable colonies on other planets if our species can reasonably expect to survive in anything resembling comfortable conditions after the next century or so I'll give you that, but progress is slowly but surely being made so I doubt that will be a problem. Unless they significantly extend human lifespans in the next few decades everybody here will be long dead before that happens anyway, so nobody here needs to worry about it.
 

srpilha

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Some very very interesting points in that article and in the discussions above. I particularly agree with Thanatos2K in that sense that there is a kind of trend in overdoing the representation of any sort of "drama", especially in US movies.

It comes to a point where I consider US culture to be in great part iconoclastic, or at least articulated around that: you have to break a big icon in order to feel something even happened, and you have to show it being broken. How many times has the Statue of Liberty been thrown down or damaged in any way? Massive quantities of people and buildings going to waste is a variant on that. All the action has to be visible on the exterior, or else the public feels there *is* no action, no story, no narrative at all. Of course, not all US movies are like that, but I do see that trend a lot in them, and have for a looong time.

Naturally, in order to break a big icon, you have to make one first. Which is another important part of US culture, I feel.
 

Hiramas

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I'm kind of a sentimental person.
When watching Lord of the Rings, i am really sad that the elves are leaving, that the old kingdoms lie n ruins and all.
So, i am kind of affected by Disaster Porn in the way that i am getting thrown out of my immersion in the story by the though "really, did they have to do this?" when the bad things or the destruction just go out of proportion.

But Dark Knight Rises is a positive example here imho. The damage done to Gotham just shows how bad humans behave if social rules don't count.
My bad example, and i wonder why yathzee hasn't brought it up, is Avengers. New York just gets bashed to pieces. You can take it for granted that a lot of the aliens did not engage in the central battle and caused a lot of "off screen" damage. As awesome as that movie is, that really itched my while watching it.
Pacific Rim is too awesome to care about this, though. While it mostly cares not to drown us in disaster but uses it in exactly the right doses, hitting a giant monster with a container ship is just to fkin awesome.
 

Aggieknight

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Brilliant, Yahtzee.

You've given me a lot to ponder during this morning's grind.

I've often considered the inescapably larger scale of destruction in movies to be part of the drive of bad directors to be bigger and badder than the ones that came before him. Remember the shock value when Independence Day blew up the Whitehouse? Now how many times did it get blown up in movies this summer?

Then again, I'm tiring of the steady drive for movies and games to get more Nolan-y. Gritty over-realism (yes, I just made that word up) and excessive PG-13 violence was fun for a while (read:two Batman movies) but at this point, I'd rather have a fun action romp ala 1980's movies.
 

IrisNetwork

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From Knack to Superman to Batman to 9/11. You're just overthinking it Yahtzee. Now go watch Pacific Rim for more thoughts on collateral destruction.
 

Colt47

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I guess I don't feel the same way as Yahtzee, at least about natural disasters and other situations involving massive death. There's a difference between not feeling anything, and acknowledging that due to ones position there is nothing one can do about an event due to resource limitations on the individual: be it time, money, food, etc.

Heck, it is these limitations that lead to society developing the way it is. We live in a society that inherently depends on the collective effort of multiple people, and we pipeline our efforts so that the workload eventually reaches the right place.
 

Lightknight

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Interesting stuff about the nature of dragons shifting according to market trends.

However, I feel like you're making the same mistake here as you did with video game violence. That we know all of this is fake. We are not fooled into thinking that the falling digital skyscrapper in a video game is full of real people. It's just a show. There's a reason why I smashed through New York as the Hulk and knocked buildings down all over the place without so much as blinking but 9/11 was a blow to many Americans who weren't even in New York. There's a HUGE gulf of a distinction between thousands/millions/billions/trillions harmed in a video game and even one person stubbing their toe in real life. I feel sorry if my wife stubs her toe. I feel sorry when market places get bombed in the Middle East. I sip my tea and wait for the story to continue if someone nukes an imaginary city in a video game. No harm is being done and that's why I don't care. There's no one in that imaginary city who is going to leave real orphans behind. There's no one being physically hurt in the game in any way. 1s are merely shifting to 0s and vice versa.

A failure to readily distinguish between the ones and zeros of code and human life (or even animal life in general) would make games miserable indeed. The collateral damage is there to look cool. Nothing more.

There may be a day where sentient code becomes a thing. Where digital characters have thoughts and emotions and even fear death. That'll be a day where morals and ethics may start to apply.
 

Gerishnakov

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In my experience, most people don't actually seem to get that the world is full of terrible events and horrific losses of both life and property. These are then the same sort of people who get uppity about depictions of violence and mass death in all forms of media. If more people took the time, and it really isn't that much time, to educate themselves about what goes in the world as a whole then we'd at least start to get more rational perspectives on events.
 

Atmos Duality

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Yahtzee said:
That's why half the internet is so fucking condescending now, stuffed to bursting point with patronizingly-written social justice Tumblr infographics, and 'comedy' articles with titles like "10 Things You Never Knew About Science Except You Totally Did Because You Paid Attention At School".
Don't forget "internet celebrities" who thrive on writing condescending, patronizing articles under the same guise of reason and self-superiority. Those are a dime a dozen on the internet now.

Muspelheim said:
I believe another root cause to misanthropy is that it is a pleasantly easy way to turn your back on the world. To not let it close enough to actually bother you. Engagement in anything is taking the risk of maybe becoming disappointed. If you make up your mind that it is worthless from the start, it's playing it safe.

Not to mention, if you only look at the negatives, which there is more than plenty of, it also does make some logical sense. It feels less like giving up for the sake of security, and more like simply being realistic.
Aversion of risk is (arguably) the oldest defense mechanism we have. There are infinitely many more opportunities to do things that are harmful to oneself than beneficial. But complete aversion to opportunity is suicidal.

More broadly, empathy/understanding and apathy/cynicism go in cycles. Most of the developed world is deep into the "cynical apathy" phase, simply because we haven't conducted enough self-destruction to create room for growth, while others have capitalized heavily on that entirely at our expense.

Combine that with the incredible increase in the reach of communication, and it's trivially easy to fixate on the many many negative things happening around the world. Our defense mechanisms are working overtime just to cope.

That's just my take; I'm just an anonymous nobody on the internet.

Ipsen said:
But boy, Yahtzee has an extended, excruciating hardie for internet comments, it seems.
Yes, yes he does.
At this point it's just amusing to me.

Metaphorically, I envision Yahtzee as this one loud man in the sewers yelling at the walls for their thick stink, ranting at the rats for their incessant chattering, and raging about how shitty his waders are when the light of escape is always right behind him.
 

oneofm4ny

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erm What?!

This was strange, depressing read and totally misses the mark. Games aimed at a male audience always offer a lot to destruct (space invader?, super mario, bomber man), because it's just stupid fun and not a reflection of our current state as a species.
Yahtzee please take a vacation or watch some good old movies.

Hollywood seems to be fascinated with pseudo 911 footage. They are even more obsessed with computer generated SFX. Man of steel is a prime example of this. The producers seemed hellbent to shove as much awesome scenes into it as possible.
"Imagine a burning oil rig!" - "But how should we get superman there?" - "We just tell the story in flashbacks! Nobody will notice!" - "Great! Nobody cares about story anyways."
"How should Jonathan Kent die?" - "Heart attack to show that there are some things even superman cannot prevent." - "No thats not awesome enough! A tornado!" - "But wouldn't sups just save him in time?" - "Hmm no superman is not allowed to save him, because humanity would fear him and hunt him down and it's not like he is invincible or anything. Oh wait..."
The last superman movie is simply a train wreck and will be quickly forgotten.
Nuff said.

What worries me, is what is actually displayed: The medias post 911 obsession with torture to get information is really troubling (e.g. 24, Splinter Cell Conviction, Game of Thrones Season 3 etc.). Hopefully it's just a phase and the media will grow out of it.

Regarding overpopulation:
@all
read up on some numbers (no total population count is not enough ;-) ):
There's a great documentation at http://www.gapminder.org/ explaining this. Even some interactive diagrams.
TL;DR: Birth rate in a country declines right after the wealth of its people increased. So fix poverty -> fix overpopulation
Oh nooos but big corporations need more cheap worker slaves. Hmm what could be the problem here?
 

KasraF

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Err... Is Yahtzee alright? I mean, great article and everything, but that was really dark. Has he broken up with his girlfriend or something?
 

Therumancer

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immortalfrieza said:
Therumancer said:
All of this is technically true, but it won't be done and I think you know it. You are also acting under the assumption that mass murder is the only possible solution, and it's not. Population control could just as easily work, as well as finding ways to get more out of nonrenewable resources as well as making more effective use of renewable ones, which I have no doubt is going to happen eventually, probably not until it starts to get as bad as you describe (if history has proven anything it's that humanity won't really deal with a problem until it becomes so big it can't be ignored anymore)but it'll happen.

It is definitely true that we need to start getting into space, terraforming, and start forming viable colonies on other planets if our species can reasonably expect to survive in anything resembling comfortable conditions after the next century or so I'll give you that, but progress is slowly but surely being made so I doubt that will be a problem. Unless they significantly extend human lifespans in the next few decades everybody here will be long dead before that happens anyway, so nobody here needs to worry about it.
Well, I didn't want to get into a lengthy discussion about this, so I'm just going to say that one always has to hold onto hope which is why I posted this. See, the whole idea that some other solution will present itself and "this is something for further generations to work on" is no longer true, we're at the point where something need to be done rapidly or we're going to lock ourselves into a cycle that dooms humanity. A slow, humane reduction of the population over generations is no longer viable, since we will have long since used up all of the resources before we got the population down to the required level, especially when you consider people can live up to 80 years now. Likewise, while I did not focus on this in my initial post, a world unity is going to be needed for any kind of serious space exploration. At the end of the day some people are just not going to be willing to give up their own culture or national independence, while the spread of ideas can, and has done a lot of it, again we're on a very tight time table. While we won't agree on much else, at least not politically, Steven Hawking for example has run the numbers and pretty much come up with us having 30 years (if I remember) for a global government and to begin serious space exploration before the current trends will have rendered us incapable of doing it even if we later established the pieces.

See it's nice to say "well, we need to make better use of resources, and find alternatives to this, and ummm yeah..." but the end result is that none of that is a guarantee, and of course the clock is running, where what I present in the end saves humanity, it's just horrific in the short term, and of course no sane person wants to live through that. I don't particularly want it myself, but it's at this point pretty much what we're looking at.

I could say a lot more on the subject and totally de-rail this thread even further, but understand I've spent a LOT of time on this subject, and talked to some very smart people. At the end of the day I advocate what I do not because I'm a racist or a sociopath, but because it's pretty much the truth, and the only way to guarantee our survival. Your quite correct the odds of it happening are minimal, but I've at least tried, in my own small way, with my own small life, to save my species... and yes, one of the reasons I'm depressed all the time is because the ideal outcome is horrific, yet the alternative means that in the long run humanity is going to fail, die out, and never live up to the potential we're capable of.

See a big part of it is that if you follow resource depletion, there aren't centuries worth of stuff remaining. Just at the current rate of consumption we're pretty much out of stuff in a few decades. We'll have strip mined the planet bare, and clear cut most of the usable timber. What's more the vast majority of people STILL won't have a reasonable lifestyle since we just don't have that much stuff. That means this likely happens within the lifespans of people here now, which is why we've been being warned about it so much. Saying "well, maybe we can get it under control in a couple of centuries if next generations decide to do the hard work and make the tough choices we won't..." just isn't an option.

Also, without going much further, I'd also point out that what I generally advocate results in my own death. I have no illusions about being one of the survivors of a war that wipes out 90% of the population given my own problems. Some people seem to get this impression that what I'm talking about amounts to me wanting to run around with a flame thrower and a sheet over my head, or that I expect to sit around "watching World War 3 on pay TV" but that's hardly the case. I'd try to survive of course, but really, I'm fully aware of what rolling those dice means for me and consider that a small sacrifice for the eventual benefits if it results in a world capable of functioning within our resource limits and getting up into the stars.
 

immortalfrieza

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Therumancer said:
If you're going to advocate something, try to advocate something that actually has a chance in hell of actually succeeding. You might be right, the only way to preserve the human race might be to simply kill off most everybody, but we both know that if that ever happens it won't be until we're already so far past the point of no return that we literally have no other choice.

I still don't think you're correct though, what you advocate might be the simplest way and in the end the necessary way, but I don't think it's the only way and it won't really fix anything in the end anyway. It would just set humanity back from the deaths and destruction it would require and we are just going to start breeding back up again until resource pressures force us to do it again, and again, and again until there's nothing worthwhile left. Even for your plan to work would require an unrealistically massive shift in the way society functions just to reach the mass killing stage, not to mention afterwards.

Besides, the only way we'd pull that off is either state sanctioned murder across the entire planet or massive nuclear war, the former would never be allowed to come to pass and the latter could just as well result in the mass extinction of the entire human race defeating the purpose.

I also think we have a lot longer than a few decades.
 

Therumancer

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immortalfrieza said:
Therumancer said:
If you're going to advocate something, try to advocate something that actually has a chance in hell of actually succeeding. You might be right, the only way to preserve the human race might be to simply kill off most everybody, but we both know that if that ever happens it won't be until we're already so far past the point of no return that we literally have no other choice.

I still don't think you're correct though, what you advocate might be the simplest way and in the end the necessary way, but I don't think it's the only way and it won't really fix anything in the end anyway. It would just set humanity back from the deaths and destruction it would require and we are just going to start breeding back up again until resource pressures force us to do it again, and again, and again until there's nothing worthwhile left. Even for your plan to work would require an unrealistically massive shift in the way society functions just to reach the mass killing stage, not to mention afterwards.

Besides, the only way we'd pull that off is either state sanctioned murder across the entire planet or massive nuclear war, the former would never be allowed to come to pass and the latter could just as well result in the mass extinction of the entire human race defeating the purpose.

I also think we have a lot longer than a few decades.
Well actually it has a good chance of succeeding to be honest, the key element is to prevent a baby boom after the events that reduce the population, that is where draconian regulation is more likely to come into play.

As far as the practicality of killing off 90% of the human race without causing extinction, that's pretty simple actually. The biggest boundary is simply morality. We honestly don't need nukes, WMDS, or other assorted things to do the job, conventional bombs, missiles, etc... work just fine. The problem is that the first world that has most of these weapons in general does not use them, even when they should be doing so, at the best of times. We pretty much downsized the military in the US for example because we could eliminate entire civilizations rapidly without needing WMDs, making the need for conventional troops less important if we were challenged. The idea being that if something like 9-11 happened we'd just flat out wreck The Middle East and call it a day. In reality however morality got in the way and we pretty much broke the country trying to rebuild our troop numbers, intelligence services, and similar things while sending reserves out to fight in ways they were never intended to simply because of morality.

See at the end of the day I simply believe a nation like the USA, that at least has the idealogy in a textbook sense to lead to the formation of a functional world government when the smoke clears, needs to pursue it's own interests to the point of starting World War III on terms where it can still win. Right now we have the missile interception technology to render the threat of WMDs almost obsolete (a point that upset Russia as it violates deals made with the now-defunct USSR not to do that, and also fueled some of the problems during the Georgia incident due to Poland hosting missile interception bases that severely limit the ability of Russia to get missiles out of their own air space and leverage the EU that way... requiring they pretty much invade Poland in order to take out the missile base(s) before they could even consider threatening the EU with WMDs at the moment).

Hence why I pretty much figure we might as well push China back hard instead of always backing down, in order to demand they obey international IP laws and such. I see World War III as being inevitable to begin with, and it simply comes down as to whether it happens quickly enough to save humanity, and of course who seizes the initiative and winds up winning as that very much defines the path the world will take for human survivors after that point. The big thing in such a war is more about fighting to break cultures and civilizations rather than simply attacking military infrastructure (which can always be rebuild). Basically we need militaries made up of the equivalent of Arthur "Bomber" Harris with similar hawks calling the shots, rather than diplomats and polliticians more concerned with moral principle than bringing about any kind of lasting, positive, change.

Understand we will NOT agree here and this isn't the kind of discussion that really applies to the intent of this thread. The bottom line is that at the end of the day your an idealist that seems to believe things will just work out if we continue to stick to a moral high ground. I'm more of a pessimist that believes in reality it all comes down to who the biggest bastard happens to be, and the "good guys" are all dependent on who gets to write the history afterwards which is why when you look back on almost any bit of history and dig far enough you will come to the conclusion almost everyone who did anything was a giant jerk at the very least. It's depressing, but there you are. Nobody cares if you stood for the right things, because after the smoke clears your not the ones who get to write the records.

I very much believe that unfortunately the greater good, and the best possible future for the human race, involves truly terrible things having to happen pretty much right now, or in the very near future. Not because I want to wallow in blood, but because the world sucks, understand in all likelihood what I'm saying means I die as well. I do not believe we can rely on some magical 11th hour save, actually what I'm advocating is in the scope of humanity close tot hat already, beyond a certain point, any change of course becomes more or less impossible which is half the problem.

But as I said, we are not going to agree, and I try not to focus on my own depressing take on things because it tends to annoy some people who just haven't yet had their idealism totally smashed by reality, and/or who think I have some kind of motivation behind what I'm saying rather than ironically... humanitarianism, since it comes down to what's best for our species and having the brightest possible future ahead of us.
 

immortalfrieza

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Therumancer said:
Believe me, I agree with you on some level that what you say may ultimately be a necessary and in the end unavoidable step. However, I'm an even greater pessimist than you apparently because I realize that there's no way in hell that people are going to just up and take that step, and even if they do they're going to completely F*** it up somewhere along the line and result in humanity's total extinction instead.