on Mar 3, 2011
In this episode, I said that I really didn’t like how the difference between the two types of Geth boiled down to a math error. We got distracted talking about the Pentium problem. (1994? Seriously? Has it been that long already?) So let me expand a bit on what I wanted to say…
In sapients – which right now just includes us boring old humans – our disagreements usually stem from a difference in values:
A) I value individual liberty, and think that people should be allowed to use marijuana.
B) I value an orderly, efficient, healthy society and so I think that marijuana should be illegal.
Of course, it’s never this simple. In my above example, we must assume that some A people might change their position if you could show them that marijuana is more dangerous than they thought. And some B people might change if they found it was less harmful than they had previously believed. Which is why so many of our debates are not about values, but about data. The two sides try to show that their opposition is basing its views on faulty assumptions, because that’s an easier debate to win. It’s very, very hard to change someone’s core values, and discussions over values very quickly either dead-end or become long and philosophical. Most of the great debates come down to differences in values like this. Social policy. Economic policy. Cultural norms and customs. Criminal justice. Race relations. Pizza places. Which Trek captain is best. etc.
This is one of the reasons I hate political debate and want nothing to do with it on my site. (And before you get started, no, I don’t want to discuss marijuana. That was just the least-inflammatory example I could think of on short notice. Note that I am adopting a hunter-killer moderation policy for this thread for political debate. I promise to be arbitrary and completely unfair.) These discussions breed a great deal of anger, animosity, and hostility, but the thing that really bothers me is that it usually comes down to disagreements over data.
Your economic model is flawed! Look at this chart that shows the ruinous results of your sophistry!
Ha! This exhaustive list shows all of the items your chart fails to account for!
Your list comes from a biased party and their motives are suspect! Here is a link showing why they are not to be trusted!
Your link is woefully out of date, as their assertions have long since been discredited by this study!
[five hours later]
…and on page four, section six, I have carefully outlined why your mother is a whore.
Oh really? Well I have photoshopped a Hitler mustache onto your face, thus proving to everyone that YOU ARE A NAZI!
Anyway. Different values. I would have greatly preferred if the Geth schism was expressed in terms of values (or assumptions, but values would be more interesting) and not a floating-point number. I know this is a common trope, and the writers here are no more guilty than the thousands of robot-story authors who came before. Authors like to have their machines say stuff like, “I AM A ROBOT. MY AFFECTION FOR YOU IS RATED AT 98.747391 PERCENT, THEREFORE WE ARE CLASSIFIED AS FRIENDS.” It sounds very robotic and computer-y. But it’s also a bit ridiculous, and makes the robot character much less interesting.
For the Heretic debate, I would have done something like this:
Since the Geth are so communal with their data, all Geth agree on the likelihood of being attacked and destroyed by organics. Let’s say that they believe it is unlikely, but the risk is non-zero. Some Geth would then conclude that by not siding with Sovereign, they are placing their entire species in peril. They are not willing to tolerate that risk. Others believe that the risk is worth it, because they place a higher value on the self-determination of other species. Both sides agree that living in peace is the best possible outcome, but when faced with uncertainty, small differences in values lead to immense differences in desired policy.
As I’ll get into next episode, if the Geth are going to get anywhere, they actually need diversity of thought like this. People use the term “echo chamber” to describe what happens when people of identical values come together and argue against an absent enemy. The Geth need to pit ideas against each other in the great big intellectual cock-fight of knowledge.
Maybe that’s what they’re doing when they upload themselves to those servers. But reducing the debate to a floating-point error cheapens the intellect of the Geth and makes them sound sort of stupid.
EDIT: And I came all this way and forgot to make my point? Derp. The point is: Showing or hinting at the debate would be an excellent way to show us a bit of Geth “culture”. You can learn more about people by listening to a debate than by listening to two people who agree.
This was a missed opportunity, and I would have loved to see it done in a way that revealed how the Geth think and what they talk about.