?

Log in

No account? Create an account
In Time: the cranky person goes to the movies - Input Junkie
October 31st, 2011
12:33 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
In Time: the cranky person goes to the movies
In Time isn't a hopelessly bad movie. It has a number of good emotional effects and some moderately intelligent world-building, not to mention an action scene in the middle which got applause during the movie. I can't remember the last time I heard applause during a movie (not during the credits). The scene didn't surprise me (it had been rather well set up), so as a matter of courtesy, I applauded a plot twist later on which did surprise me.

However, the movie is unspeakably stupid and arguably evil.

The premise is that aging has been conquered. Everyone stops aging at 25, but they have a count-down meters in glowing green numbers on their arm because they have transferable time, and when they run out of time, they die. There's no time accounting till age 25, and then they get a year for free. Everything is paid for in quantities of time. Some people are barely earning a day per day, and others have centuries or more in reserve. It's claimed that the time restrictions exist because otherwise there'd be disastrous overpopulation.

The stupid/evil aspect is the idea that death is good for people.[1] Somehow, it's supposed to make sense that the horrible situation for poor people (vividly shown, mostly in the first part of the movie-- salaries drop and prices go up, too) is somehow more vivid and alive than the situation of the rich (heavily guarded, many of them don't have much to do), but the best thing is to get more time for poor people.

You could say that the movie is just saying that immortality is bad for people (I wouldn't mind being a test case to find out, myself) if anyone has to die for it, but there's also a repeated idea that (for the main characters), the true sweet vintage of life is living at a one day per day reserve.

Also, there are competing claims that overpopulation is a real problem, and that there's plenty of time. The contradiction is never explored.

I'm guessing on the "the poor are more alive" thing-- my situation has never been desperate and never been extremely well-off-- but I do know people from a wider range of incomes than mine (though none of the very rich), and they seem to be about equally alive. I will also note that there are a lot more people trying not to be poor than there are people giving up wealth to make their lives more interesting, so the evidence suggests that if there is more aliveness at the bottom, it isn't worth the pain for the vast majority of people.

I don't know where "the poor are more alive" idea comes from. Is it cross-cultural?

Back to the movie: I'm not convinced that there wouldn't be a parallel currency-- the time units are attached to people, or there are little time-holder devices. This doesn't seem like a good way to run even a medium-sized business.

I also suspect there would be people who age the way we do, either because the operation isn't available to them or because their parents don't think the risk of counting down to death is worth the chance of extended lifespan. (This was also a problem for the same director's Gatacca-- there should have been more of an underground economy.)

A minor point-- Salas, the main character who's spent his life poor-- is quite a dangerous hand-to-hand fighter. You don't acquire those skills without a huge time investment, but there's a notable lack of martial arts schools where he grew up.

More generally, it seems to me that a lot of people would be scrambling to acquire salable skills before they're 25, but that's not part of the story. Neither is the idea that at least artists and scientists would be making good use of extended lifespans. Most likely, so would anyone who cared about getting better at what they're doing.

One of the good details is the idea that poor people can be distinguished from rich people because the poor people do everything faster. However this is mentioned rather than (as far as I can tell) shown.

I think the right solution to the problem of time distribution isn't handing out more time (the quantities our two main characters could steal didn't seem like enough to make much difference, anyway), they needed to disable the countdown mechanism so that it couldn't kill. They might have needed to leave the tradable time system in place because abolishing the currency would be too disruptive. If we can get by with a currency based on trusting national governments and nothing else, perhaps they can manage on a purely electronic but hard to forge currency.

First, we have the time keeper (policeman) telling people to go home and putting down his gun (*sigh of relief*), and then we have our two main characters continuing their Bonnie and Clyde career on an impractically grand scale (excitement!). When I say impractical, I mean that they-- just the two of them-- are heading towards a huge time bank. Presumably, the only reason it's so large is that it full of those little time holders. You couldn't steal and transport them without forklifts and cohorts and trucks, oh my! And if it's full of guards, I doubt you could empty it without killing a bunch of people, which might make the moral message a bit less tidy.

An economist who thinks the economics makes enough sense to be worth thinking about.

An economist who doesn't like it, but for reasons other than mine.

[1] There's a tremendous amount of fantasy and science fiction which will tell you that death is good for you. I think it's sour grapes.

If you want some sf about an immortal who likes it, try Centuries Ago, and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore.

If you want sf about living on a short time tether that's more sensible than the movie, try Rachel Caine's Working Stiff. It has the worst first day at work in the history of worst first days at work, and the book might not be a good choice for readers with major medical squicks. The nanotech for creating zombies is a little dubious (magic pixy dust by evil military-industrial pixies [2] is what it is), but the story logic isn't bad if you can live with the nanotech.

[2] Sorry, no actual pixies in the story. It's a shame. If I want the contemporary human race ruled by an inimical outside force, I may need to read David Icke. This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/510294.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

(20 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:October 31st, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Wasn't there a STTNG episode in which a couple had the opportunity to have their youth restored, but they declined because they wouldn't be able to think of anything to do except repeat the same experiences they'd already had? That one really annoyed me.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I haven't watched STTNG, but there was a relatively recent Egan story which handled it a little better by really detailing how much they'd done and how much they'd run out of new ideas-- their lifespans were much longer than ours.

I can imagine hitting a point where only brain modification would give you a chance of experiencing something new. I can't imagine running out of interesting brain modifications.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:madfilkentist
Date:October 31st, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Such as the Beatles singing "I don't care too much for money"...
[User Picture]
From:agrumer
Date:October 31st, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
How rich were they in late '63/early '64? That was just as they were starting to become popular in the US.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think "money can't buy happiness" is a semi-truth. Money can buy lack of some kinds of misery, but that's not the same thing. There are depressed rich people.
[User Picture]
From:malkingrey
Date:October 31st, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Also, if you're got enough money to solve all of the kinds of life-problems that are solvable by throwing money at them, then any problems you have left are pretty much by definition going to be intractable ones.
[User Picture]
From:rimrunner
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I can't remember where I read this, but there was some study or other showing that money does buy happiness—to a point. That point is not far removed from where "lack of misery" is achieved (of course, I can't remember how happiness was defined for study purposes). After that, you basically hit diminishing returns, so to speak.

And now I'm reminded of something that Gene Simmons of KISS (of all people) said, which was that what having a lot of money does is give you the opportunity to forget about money. Not having to constantly wonder whether you can afford something or what's going to break this time might be its own kind of happiness.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That money buys happiness-- up to a fairly modest amount of money-- was the conclusion of a lot of happiness research, but I think the conclusion is being reconsidered.

All I know about Simmons is a interview he did with Terry Gross, and he did seem to have a wide pragmatic streak.

Edited at 2011-10-31 10:34 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:goodbyemyboy
Date:October 31st, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes. Believing that the poor are better off that way is a very convenient way to assuage any guilt one might have at not helping them.
[User Picture]
From:malkingrey
Date:October 31st, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This was also a problem for the same director's Gatacca-- there should have been more of an underground economy.

I've noticed this with a lot of sf, in both the written and the visual media -- the writers/directors/whatever often have a strong grasp of (or at least a strong affection for) economic theory, but not much awareness of what actually happens when theory and the real world meet.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Brunner's Into the Slave Nebula didn't have the black market that it should have, but what examples are you thinking of?
[User Picture]
From:richardthe23rd
Date:October 31st, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Worse than the first-day-at-work in Training Day? Wow.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Much, much worse.
[User Picture]
From:green_knight
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You can't live if you're working hard to survive. Worrying whether you'll keep the roof over your head, whether and what you'll eat that night, whether you'll be able to replace/fix anything that's broken (from lightbulb via clothes to the car you need to get to work) takes effort, and it's neither fun nor inspiring. Poor people spend a lot of time just getting by - walking instead of taking the bus, making and mending, hunting for bargains. And they rarely have fulfilling jobs, wonderful surroundings, and things that improve their lives.

Money can't buy happyness, but lack of money *will* make you miserable.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
It's conceivable that the "poor people are more alive" idea is based in observing that poor people refuse to spend their limited spare time on "entertainments" which aren't actually entertaining.
[User Picture]
From:ice_hesitant
Date:October 31st, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't know where "the poor are more alive" idea comes from. Is it cross-cultural?

Cicero. Poor farmers are awesome as regarded from the perspective of a massively wealthy land owner.

Jesus. The meek will inherit the earth.

Feudal apologia.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:October 31st, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I was wondering whether there were independent non-western sources.
[User Picture]
From:themangoavenger
Date:November 1st, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The idea of currency that is only stored in people or time holders seems like a big step backwards, presuming it precludes electronic transactions, as the existence of a time bank would imply.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:November 2nd, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
(Link)
"Time bank" was my name for it. It was huuuuuge. I can't think of any reason for it to be so big unless it's full of time holders.
nancybuttons.com Powered by LiveJournal.com