The Shoe Event Horizon

This segment ranks among my most favorite moments of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Secondary Phase, Fit the Eleventh, to be precise (the BBC radio series is the True version of the Guide, without all that tedious mucking about with printed pages).

Part of the brilliance is the twisted, yet straightforward, logic of the economic theory itself. But what makes it gold is how the narrative is presented in a teacher-student context, with a rather.. twisted… take on academic incentives. I’ve decided to waste 15 minutes of my life and transcribe the good bit below.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC Radio Series - The Complete Collection

TEACHER: Good morning, lifeform!

STUDENT: Hi teach!

Are you sitting comfortably?

Yes!

Then stand up. Harsh Economic Truths, class 17. Are you standing up?

yes.

Good. Posit. You are living in an exciting, go-ahead civilization. Where are you looking?

Up.

What do you see?

The open sky… the stars… an infinite horizon.

Correct! You may press the button.

Thank you! (tinkly music plays) Oh! That feels nice.

Posit. You are living in a stagnant, declining civilization. Where are you looking?

(subdued) Down.

What do you see?

My shoes.

Correct! What do you do to cheer yourself up?

Um. Press the button?

Incorrect! Think again. Your world is a depressing place. You are looking at your shoes. How do you cheer yourself up?

I buy a new pair.

Correct!

Can I press the button?

All right.

(twinkly music plays) Oh ho! So nice!

Now. Imagine everyone does the same thing. What happens?

Everyone feels nice?

Ah, forget the button, concentrate! Everyone buys new shoes. What happens?

More shoes.

And?

More shoe shops.

Correct.

Can I?

No.

Aww.

And in order to support all these extra shoe shops, what must happen?

Everyone must keep buying shoes.

And how is that arranged?

Manufacturers dictate more and more fashions and make shoes so bad that they either hurt the feet or fall apart.

So that?

Everyone has to buy more shoes.

Until?

Until… everyone gets fed up with lousy rotten shoes.

And then what?

(plaintive) Why can’t I press the button?

And then what? Come on!

Massive capital investment by the manufacturers to try and make people buy the shoes.

Which means?

More shoe shops.

(insistent) And then we reach what point?

(sullen) The point where I press the button again.

(exasperated) All right!

(twinkly music plays) Woo hoo hoo! Ah! That’s so nice! That’s really nice!

And then we reach what point?

(sighing with bliss) The Shoe Event Horizon! The whole economy overbalances! Shoe shops outnumber every other kind of shop! It becomes economically impossible to build anything other than shoe shops, and bingo! I get to press the button again! (twinkly music plays) Wooooo hoooo!!!!

(angry) Wait for permission!!! Now, what’s the final stage?

(distracted) Um. Every shop in the world ends up as a shoe shop.

Full of?

Shoes no one can wear.

Result?

Famine, collapse, and ruin… any survivors eventually evolve into… birds… and never put their feet on the ground again.

Excellent! End of lesson! You may press the button!

(twinkly music plays) Woo hoo hoo! Yee hoo hoo hoo! Oh ho! Oh, that’s nice! Thank you teach, goodbye!

Ahem, aren’t you forgetting something?

What?

Press the other button.

Oh. Right.

(twinkly music plays) Ooh ho ho ho! Woo hah hah hah! Wha ha hah ha ha ha!

Google 42

TechCrunch had a little blurb about Google’s investment in DNA sequencing. Duncan Riley threw a little 42-based humor in there for fun – check out his suggested Google logo for the project. Presumably they aren’t out to clone Douglas Noel Adams.

42.jpg

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Greasemonkey script that did nothing but substitute the above logo for the standard one at the Google homepage?

The Ultimate Answer

On a whim, I searched my RSS reader for any instances of 42. The result was disturbing. I think, just for a sense of completeness, I’m going to blog every reference of 42 I can find. Note that the politics-content of Haibane.info is still intended to remain zero. I instead request that commentary on these items be restricted to the larger and more important issue of how the occurrence of 42 in the story at hand might lend clues towards divining the Ultimate Question.

Let’s get started. Today’s 42ism comes from the UK, appropriately enough.

Gordon Brown is facing the threat of his first defeat in the Commons since taking over as prime minister, after a Guardian survey found strong – and growing – opposition among Labour MPs to the government’s plans to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days.

(followed by lots of blah blah about governmental something or other)

Intriguing. This suggests that 42, manifesting as a number of days for incarceration, is a proxy for the balance between the principles of human rights versus society’s need for security. Perhaps more broadly we might say that here 42 is a stand-in between the forces of chaor and order, where chaos is the expressive element of the Universe and order is the emergent structure that arises from it.

Judge Zaphod

If anyone else has been playing Final Fantasy XII for several hours, you might have noticed that the voice of Judge Ghis is unmistakably done by Mark Wing-Davey–otherwise known as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Given the “bad guys” all have English accents, I suppose it’s not too surprising that at least one of the cast from H2G2 should play a part (one wonders how many British voice actors there are these days).

If you don’t have the game and/or don’t plan on playing it, watch the trailer on the FFXII website. Turn up your volume. About 1:15 in, after you see the party in a cave, an older man says, “We’ve found it at last.” That’s him. Don’t watch beyond that if you don’t any spoilers (probably nothing major, but I like to experience all content as it comes).

Most of the time (so far) he’s in a full suit of armour, so his whimsical voice has an almost Darth Vader echo to it. Quite amusing, so it’s difficult for me to take his otherwise majestic and threatening character seriously. When he captures the heroes on the Dreadnought Leviathan, I half-expect him to quip, “I can’t help it if I’m lucky” or “zero out of one million points for style.”

In a month when everyone’s posted all the videos from this game on YouTube, someone should take all his scenes and insert clips from H2G2 in there.

muck about in the water and have a good time

Dolphins are dumb?

For years, humans have assumed the large brains of dolphins meant the mammals were highly intelligent.

Paul Manger from Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, however, says it is not intelligence that created the dolphin super-brain — it’s the cold.

To survive underwater, these warm-blooded animals developed brains that have a lot of insulating material — called glia — but not too many neurons, the gray stuff that counts for reasoned thinking.
[…]
Yet while dolphins aren’t as smart as people tend to think, they are as happy as they seem. Manger said dolphins have a ”huge amount” of serotonin in their brains, which is what he described as ”the happy drug.”

While the scientific aspect of these claims is beyond the scope of Haibane.info, let us remember what the Guide had to say:

Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reason.

Discuss.

Comedians and Dicks

I’ve commented before in my self-proclaimed classic Shut Up article that miscommunication is not the cause of all conflict in the world, in spite of what our teachers often say (in fact, quite the opposite). Nonetheless, it is a cause, and I do fear that it grows worse every day, in part because our society’s value systems (or memes, memeplexes) are becoming increasingly ill-equipped to handle it. I might touch on that more later, but my main goal this time around is to show by means of example how our increasingly advanced methods of communication as a society is actually undermining our ability to communicate, and is thus helping to cause conflict.

Continue reading “Comedians and Dicks”