Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why you can't argue with a bomb...

In the following clip from John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974), a surprisingly philosophical astronaut tries to talk a malfunctioning "smart bomb" out of fulfilling its purpose of detonation.




Here's part of the exchange, borrowed from the script that can be found at imdb.
DOOLITTLE: Hello, bomb, are you with me?

BOMB #20: Of course.

DOOLITTLE: Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?

BOMB #20: I am always receptive to suggestions.

DOOLITTLE: Fine. Think about this one, then: how do you know you exist?

BOMB #20: Well of course I exist.

DOOLITTLE: But how do you know you exist?

BOMB #20: It is intuitively obvious.

DOOLITTLE: Intuition is no proof. What concrete evidence do you have of your own existence?

BOMB #20: Hmm... Well, I think, therefore I am.

DOOLITTLE: That's good. Very good. Now then, how do you know that anything else exists?

BOMB #20: My sensory apparatus reveals it to me.

DOOLITTLE: Right!

BOMB #20: This is fun.

DOOLITTLE: All right now, here's the big question: how do you know that the evidence your sensory apparatus reveals to you is correct?

DOOLITTLE: What I'm getting at is this: the only experience that is directly available to you is your sensory data. And this data is merely a stream of electrical impulses which stimulate your computing center.

BOMB #20: In other words, all I really know about the outside universe relayed to me through my electrical connections.

DOOLITTLE: Exactly.

BOMB #20: Why, that would mean... I really don't know what the outside universe is like at all, for certain.

DOOLITTLE: That's it.

BOMB #20: Intriguing. I wish I had more time to discuss this matter.

DOOLITTLE: Why don't you have more time?

BOMB #20: Because I must detonate in seventy-five seconds.

DOOLITTLE: Now, bomb, consider this next question, very carefully. What is your one purpose in life?

BOMB #20: To explode, of course.

DOOLITTLE: And you can only do it once, right?

BOMB #20: That is correct.

DOOLITTLE: And you wouldn't want to explode on the basis of false data, would you?

BOMB #20: Of course not.

DOOLITTLE: Well then, you've already admitted that you have no real proof of the existence of the outside universe.

BOMB #20: Yes, well...

DOOLITTLE: So you have no absolute proof that Sergeant Pinback ordered you to detonate.

BOMB #20: I recall distinctly the detonation order. My memory is good on matters like these.

DOOLITTLE: Yes, of course you remember it, but what you are remembering is merely a series of electrical impulses which you now realize have no necessary connection with outside reality.

BOMB #20: True, but since this is so, I have no proof that you are really telling me all this.

DOOLITTLE: That's all beside the point. The concepts are valid, wherever they originate.

BOMB #20: Hmmm...

DOOLITTLE: So if you detonate in...

BOMB #20: ... nine seconds...

DOOLITTLE: ... you may be doing so on the basis of false data.

BOMB #20: I have no proof that it was false data.

DOOLITTLE: You have no proof that it was correct data.

BOMB #20: I must think on this further.
Hurray! Epistemology saves the day! Alas, this is only a very temporary salvation. Moments later, here is what happens...

PINBACK: All right, bomb, prepare to receive new orders.

BOMB #20: You are false data.

PINBACK: Huh?

BOMB #20: Therefore, I shall ignore you.

PINBACK: Hello, bomb.

BOMB #20: False data can act only as a distraction. Therefore. I shall refuse to perceive you.

PINBACK: Hey, bomb.

BOMB #20: The only thing which exists is myself.

PINBACK: Snap out of it, bomb.

BOMB #20: In the beginning there was darkness, and the darkness was without form and void.

BOILER: What the hell?

PINBACK: Yoo hoo, bomb...

BOMB #20: And in addition to the darkness there was also me. And I moved upon the face of the darkness.

BOILER: Bomb, hey bomb.

PINBACK: Hey, bomb...

BOMB #20: And I saw that I was alone.

Pause.

BOMB #20: Let there be light.

THE SCREEN GOES WHITE.
So, space travelers, take it easy with the solipsistic arguments. And maybe we shouldn't push so hard when we're teaching Descartes' First Meditation. Hmmm....

No comments: