Re: >H ART: The Truman Show

Michael Nielsen (
Sun, 21 Jun 1998 08:31:47 -0600 (MDT)

Spoilers for the movie below.

On Tue, 16 Jun 1998, Kathryn Aegis wrote:

> Airplanes lose parts that fall from the sky and posters in the
> travel agency warn of dire consequences to those who venture abroad (yet
> this does not deter Truman from booking a flight to Fiji, one aspect of the
> plot that seems out of place.)

This was one of several aspects of the move that detracted from the
overall effect. The "things are falling apart" aspect was overplayed,
especially with the severely localized rainstorm that hit Truman while he
was on the beach. Still, these were relatively minor quibbles.

> The filmmakers brought out this theme in the latter half of the movie by
> casting it as a classical epic, in which Truman battles against a
> manipulative god who would rather kill his creation than lose his control
> over it. Truman survives a terrible storm and thinks that his escape is
> complete---and then his boat literally runs into the end of the world. Now,
> please understand--I don't generally have big emotional reactions to movies,
> most are too calculated for my taste. But when Truman stands against that
> wall and realizes the true enormity of what he faces, and he throws himself
> against that well, trying to physically will himself through it to
> freedom--well, I just lost it and had to go see the movie again in order to
> see the full ending!

I also found that scene to be exceptionally moving. He remained
weird, goofy Truman ("that is one strange cat, my man"), while
demonstrating tremendous dignity and strength of will to continue on,
even after crashing into the end of the world. The part was played in
character, but what a character! "Who are you?... Then who am I?". Each
line and action at that point had a grace and dignity about it
that was true to Truman's own character, especially vis a vis the opening
scene and several of the scenes with Marlon; self-awareness, coupled with
a sense of humour.

One other aspect of the movie that I found especially interesting
was Cristof's position with respect to his creation. It seems that
similar ethical problems will be faced by any creator of an
artificial intelligence.

Is it ethical to contain an AI in a limited world? This is an especially
interesting question if one takes the point of view that the most likely
path to Artificial Intelligence is an approach based on evolutionary

Is it ethical to broadcast details of an AI's "life" to other
researchers or interested parties?

Is it ethical to profit from the actions of an AI?

None of these questions is new, however I found that they were made
especially vivid by the movie. I'm not sure of any of the answers. I
have an instinctive revulsion against Cristof's position, but I can imagine
giving a qualified "yes" as the answer to all of the above questions,
under some circumstances.

Michael Nielsen