Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Fallacy of The Unbounded Middle

In the pineapple episode of The Tick (animated series), the monkey Yank talked about "the fallacy of the unbounded middle". He was talking to a mad dictator who wanted to conquer more and more countries.  It seems to be not a common term, but I found this interesting bit:


Paul Fritsch said:
While I do not subscribe to the “The Grapes Were Sour” philosophy, it strikes me that the idea that immortality must be a good thing is an example of “The Fallacy of the Unbounded Middle” to use the monkey's terminology . That is, a little is good. More is better. Thus an unlimited amount is great. This turns out to be rarely the case. There is usually a point that is reached where more is no longer better, but worse. The first 100 million is good, but after that is just a burden. All billionaires have fulltime security and can never do the things we take for granted. Think “World of Tiers”. After a few thousand years, it all could get boring.


Update:
Pascal said:

I'm considering writing novels on that theme: Bruce Almighty, serious version. If you were to become even moree all-powerful than Superman, I mean REALLY, capable of doing almost anything you can IMAGINE... what would you do?
For the sake of convenience, we'll skip the whole part "becoming Absolute Overlord of the Earth and reveling in luxury and the terricfied worship of the masses".
You're all-powerful. Oh, and of course also as everlasting as you can beart to think. Time, means... it's all yours. Think you can do a good job at making the Universe a place you like more than now?

That is indeed an excellent question, which is asked surprisingly rarely. 


As a child I dreamed about being Superman. As an adult... in the real world, what could he *do* really? How often do you just happen to come across airplanes dropping helplessly from the sky? 

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Saturday, May 21, 2011   11 comments links to this post

11 Comments:

At 22 May 2011 03:53:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I can already hear R.A.F. making a snickering insinuation at your last sentence here...

But in order to make this comment relevant, here's another philosophical point to ponder:
"Power. How much is too much, and how would you handle it?"

Admittedly, it's a rather theoretical matter, since even the most powerful hyperpowers on Earth still act like they're scared of being overpowered.
Maybe because Superman is no longer a U.S. citizen that can be "patriotically pressured around"?... :-P

I'm considering writing novels on that theme: Bruce Almighty, serious version. If you were to become even moree all-powerful than Superman, I mean REALLY, capable of doing almost anything you can IMAGINE... what would you do?
For the sake of convenience, we'll skip the whole part "becoming Absolute Overlord of the Earth and reveling in luxury and the terricfied worship of the masses".

You're all-powerful. Oh, and of course also as everlasting as you can beart to think. Time, means... it's all yours. Think you can do a good job at making the Universe a place you like more than now?

[Disclaimer : any suggestions I read in this thread, I take the right to shamelessly steal if I like them. ;-) My lawyers say I can get away with it.]

 
At 22 May 2011 12:38:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is indeed an excellent question, which is asked surprisingly rarely.

Is it? It's a question almost everyone has asked themselves at some point. Btw, a serious Bruce Almighty would blow chunks which is why they made it a comedy.

 
At 24 May 2011 21:51:00, Blogger Dave Nielsen said...

Bruce Almighty was okay but one of Carrey's weaker comedies. I've heard Evan Almighty sucked shit but I haven't seen it. The idea done seriously probably wouldn't work, as it would be a bit like a stretched out version of an episode of Star Trek TNG where Q gives Riker Q powers.

 
At 24 May 2011 22:48:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"Blow chunks"... is that, like, "sucking molten death through a lead straw", but, you know, in reverse?... Or simply a synonym of "sh***ing bricks"?

I think Jim Carrey is the victim of an obvious injustice: he never pretended to be making anything else than childish all-out wild humor, ever since The Mask. You don't like it (liar, liar! Me, myself and I see through your riddler's deceptions), don't spoil it for the kids of all ages, to each his dumb and dumber own. Yes, man?

I'm still to watch both "almighties" DVDs (or the three of them, if someone were to make that Star Trek episode ;-). But I mean it: say you suddenly become "Q Superman", or close to it. You've always felt helpless about everything that's really wrong in the world. For instance, the fate of Afghan women, or poor people in New Orleans forced to live in accessible but still grossly overpriced housing in notoriously dangerous areas... if the banks don't kick them into the street first. Stuff like that. Or heck, why not the occasional three-times-a-day-hi-tech-airliner-merrily-plummeting-from-the-sky-and-you-just-happened-to-be-passing-by, but this is indeed rather trifle.

What I mean is, you're an ordinarily caring guy/gal, you'd love to have the power to alleviate all the suffering in the world... but once you finally gain it, HOW would you USE that power to actually accomplish that? Let's say you were kept by kryptonite from preventing 9/11, and you said "never again", vowing to now fix the very CAUSES.
(Hint : it will still be very-very-very complicated.)
For starters, lots of "what's wrong with the world" comes from plain human stupidity in just about everyone, but you'd hate turning into a dictator, because, like, you know, you despise dictators.

I'm sure if we were to give this as an essay subject to school kids of various ages, it would make for endless hilarity at the mix of poetry and kandor®.
Or it could lead to awesome wishes gone horribly wrong... }:-)

Anyway, before I try to burn my wax-assembled wings flying too close to THAT burning-hot topic, I think I'll start warming up with something simpler, for instance "The lighter side of growing up in an utter psycho mess such as wartime Lebanon". Trust me, it'll be good. Think of stuff like the die-hard trumpeteer scene at the start of Peter Sellers' The Party. :-P

And then I'll boldly go where Harry Potter never dared to go before: Domai meets Cthulhu! (What, you think I'm joking? Hoboy, are YOU in for a surprise! Sssssomebody STOP meeeee! Haa-haa-haa!)

 
At 24 May 2011 22:49:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

P.S.: Why Riker? For REAL fun, they should give Q's powers to Data or Spock.
"Badum-ching!"

 
At 25 May 2011 05:38:00, Anonymous Jes said...

Jim Carrey is my all-time favorite actor. Well, him and Bruce Lee...just thought I'd mention that.

 
At 22 Jun 2012 18:36:00, Blogger Dave Nielsen said...

the idea that immortality must be a good thing is an example of “The Fallacy of the Unbounded Middle” to use the monkey's terminology . That is, a little is good. More is better. Thus an unlimited amount is great.

I'd call this maybe the fallacy of the fallacy of the unbounded middle.

This turns out to be rarely the case.

As Captain Kirk said, "Too much of anything, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing." The thing is, while truly endless life might not be so great (but we have no way of knowing without anyone ever having lived beyond a mere 122 years), simply no longer aging doesn't make us immortal so if after 1,000 years or 10,000,000,000 years you've had enough it would be easy enough to end it.

There is usually a point that is reached where more is no longer better, but worse.

At which point you could end it. Unless you're religious and see suicide as a sin, but if you're religious and truly believe in that stuff you probably shouldn't accept immortality anyway.

 
At 22 Jun 2012 22:55:00, Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks.
How did you come across this old post again, Dave?

 
At 24 Jun 2012 17:15:00, Blogger Dave Nielsen said...

You know, I'm not sure now. I was searching for something, didn't include your name, and it must've come up in the list. Weird. I didn't think anything of it at the time but now I wish I could remember what I'd Googled...

 
At 24 Jun 2012 17:32:00, Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

It's amazing how often that has happened, for such a small blog. My sister searched for a Swedish folk singer, and found my blogpost about her.

 
At 3 Jul 2012 17:58:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

As Captain Kirk said, "Too much of anything, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing."

See, that's just the trouble with tribbles.

 

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