Re: Hollywood Economics (was Sentism)

Robin Hanson (
Thu, 27 Aug 1998 12:13:31 -0700

Anders rants (:-):
>What I really hate to see on this list is the postings that are really
>based on "Hollywood" science, technology and economics, the kind of
>stuff you see in movies: inventions are usually made by solitary
>geniuses with no outside support, working completely from their own
>principles in such a creative way that nobody else can replicate their
>discovery without reading their secret notebooks; companies prefer to
>sell products for exorbiant fees to ultra-rich people than go for the
>mass-market, and they immediately try to use illegal means to squash
>any competition; new inventions are always so profoundly new that they
>give the owner nearly unlimited potential power and nobody can stop
>him or her, and so on.

I'll rant with Anders, and expand my target to all fiction, including the best science fiction. Fiction is biased toward being about sudden dramatic changes, pivotal people, whom the future of the galaxy turns on, toward violence, travel, politics and intrigue being primary tools, and toward personal conflicts, sex, and philosophies as the primary motivations. Fiction is biased because these are exciting and universally understood.

In reality, life isn't so exciting. There are few pivotal people, change is slow, violence is rare, and wanting a job and some free time to watch TV and play with the kids are really big motivations. People don't know what they want or why they do things anywhere near as much as fictional characters. Those who win competitions, in markets, politics, even war, are those who do theirhomework, get organized, and avoided major screwups. Most change happens behind the scenes, because we'd rather not throw away massive investments in learning how to deal with the familiar world.

But try to write a novel or screenplay about a world like that, and unless you do it very very well, your readers will be bored to tears.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614