Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chorus of the Dead

In the celebrated graphic novel Watchmen, one of the main characters is a superman named Dr. Manhattan. A scientist, he is reduced by a freak accident (the incident?) to pure energy. His physical body is obliterated but his electromagnetic “soul” persists.

With this transformation in mind, check out this quote from the whispers Sawyer hears on the beach in Outlaws:*
Oh my god there's a guy out there
Dennis (?) find out what's going on
Did he see us?
Open it
Did you see what direction he went?
Right through those trees
Go and get him
There is an explanation (resolution?) and I bet you haven't thought of it
What is it?
He's been in a plane crash
Are you sure?
I know what it's like for a plane to crash
Complain, complain, complain
I want to get closer
I know what you said, but he's looking around
What if he shoots us or something
There may be something, but it may be slack (?)
Let's go
Has he seen us?
(Alarms go off)
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry
(faint...could be echo from alarm)
Intruder, Intruder
Hide against the bushes
Open the door
I know what it's like for a plane to crash
Complain, complain, complain
I know what you said, but...
As others have noted, the foregoing sounds eerily like the dialogue of ghosts – ones who may not know they’re dead. Now check out this quote from the whispers in the jungle when Shannon gets shot:
She likes the guy, she likes the guy
Your life and time is up
Help me
(Screaming in the background)
Shannon, meet me on the other side
Her song
Hi sis
(Gun shot)
Note how at least one of the whispers apparently refers to Shannon as "sis" when she's shot. Recall as well that Vincent led Shannon to Boone's grave right before she died.

Is it possible the whispers are the electromagnetic remains of everyone who's ever died on the island? Could this explain the island's strange electromagnetic forces? Perhaps, nothing, not even our electromagnetic souls can escape the Island's magnetic embrace.

Could the whispers be a chorus of the dead?

*Transcripts of the whispers courtesy of rvturnage, penyours, and the other incredible folks of the Whispers Thread at the fuselage.

Edit: May 10, 2007: I think Ben is holding Jacob's electromagnetic "ghost" prisoner in that remote house. Maybe He was once the leader of the Others and got killed during the hostilities. For a long time, Ben was the only one who could "hear" Jacob and thus tap his powerful psychic mind. But now Locke can too, which threatens Ben immensely. And what did Jacob say to Locke? "Help me..."

I once argued that the Lost Experience is a metaphor for what's happening on the show. Recall that the main plot line involved a dude of dubious origins (i.e., Mittelwerk) taking control of the Hanso Foundation and imprisoning old Alvar himself. That's basically what's happening on the Island now. Ben has seized control of Jacob's foundation, holding Him prisoner and speaking in His name.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Jack Pressed the Button...

The most recent repeat went to great lengths to portray Jack as making a grudging and dramatic leap of faith to keep pressing the button. Occurs to me, however, that what Jack did was completely rational. In fact, I'd submit that any true man of reason would do the same.

It all has to do with Pascal's Wager. Pascal once posited that it made rational sense to believe in god (i.e., be a man of faith) because the expected value of belief is always greater than the expected value from non-belief. In other words, the cost of not believing is so great if god exists (you go to hell) that it overwhelms any competing considerations.

This same dilemma gets played in all sorts of debates over how to assess risk in the face of catastrophe. Basic rational choice theory posits that the cost of a negative outcome should be discounted by the probability of occurrence. For example, if I have a 50%chance of getting a $100 ticket when I speed, my expected cost each time I speed is only $50 (meaning I'll continue to speed as long as I obtain more than $50 in value from doing so).

Some outcomes, however, are so costly (e.g., nuclear annihalation) that they skew the risk analysis irrespective of their probability of occurrence (infinity discounted by even a miniscule probability is still infinity). That's basically what we have on the island, where the possible cost of not pushing the button (i.e., the end of the world) is so great, it makes rational sense to keep right on pushing, almost irrespective of whether we believe Desmond.

In a way, therefore, our man of science really had no (rational) choice.