02 May 2014


Early Edition: Lottery Winner

By this point, I'm sure you've thought about lottery numbers or winning horses or other news items that can be used to make easy money. Or maybe you haven't thought about them at all! =P Pop culture is a language, but while most people seem to speak the Sliders dialect, fewer are conversational in Early Edition. I'm considering putting this series on hiatus, in favour of a more promising one, at least for the rest of the month.

"Thief swipes mayor' _______" ???
(Anyone else getting a different sort of 90s flashback . . . to Ghostwriter? LOL!)

One of the show's running gags/conflicts is Chuck's persistence in trying to get tomorrow's stock numbers. Gary always says no because he doesn't think the newspaper should be used for personal gain like that. But in this episode, after Gary is again frustrated (by the newspaper itself!) in his search for a job that will both pay well and give him the time he needs to prevent tomorrow's disasters, Chuck makes a worthwhile point: if Gary wins the lottery, he'll have enough to live on and get to be a hero full time! Well, if you put it that way . . .

Now, there's a certain issue I've been thinking about for a long while. Without going over the details, let's just say that it has to do with not liking the way some professionals earn a living. And I've boiled it down to two points: a) the people they are getting money from, whom I think are exploited; and b) the roots of what they are exchanging for the money, which I don't think can be blithely ignored. I bring this up again not to make trouble (Really!), but because those two standards show up in this very episode.

Take the first point: games of chance are not wrong in and of themselves--but unless you can find a city-wide lottery that does not exploit the poor, chances are (Ha!) that it wouldn't be very moral to buy a ticket.

Then there's the second point, which is the hill that Gary seems determined to be homeless on. He just doesn't think the newspaper should be used that way, and I think that we all respect him for it. But as of this episode, all he has is what Plato would call an "unfastened" opinion. (I'm so inordinately proud of myself right now that I should be punched.) That is, it's also possible that Chuck's glib suggestion is the right way to go. At the moment, we just don't know.

But neither did Meno's slave "know" geometry until Plato got him to explain a proof, so there must be a way for us "to recollect" the right thing to do here. (Yes, punch me now. Just do it.) So what do you think? Would it be ethical for Gary to use his "insider" information to support himself? If your answer is yes, do you have further recommendations for how he should do it? If your answer is no, why not?

Your Turn to Be the Hero: See the previous paragraph.


Brandon said...

That's enough ingenuity to be proud of, to be sure. But if it fits, it fits.

Thinking back to the pilot, I think Gary's s use of the paper at all is connected with the fact that he thinks of it as a public good -- it's his only way of making sense of it at all. If he used it for himself, he'd have to go back to being baffled as to why it is happening!

But I think there may be something to the idea. (If learning is like thinking through things until you remember, just more basic, then one would expect that even unfastened opinions sometimes have some reflection of what knowledge would be.) We've already seen -- and of course, when you think through the implications of the paper, it becomes even more obvious -- that the paper has the capacity for creating total catastrophe. After all, for all practical purposes it really is a summary representation of all the potential in all the lives in the city. It's too big to be used for private gain. And while I don't know that it was intended, I think we see something of that in this episode -- after all, there's a sort of parallel between the paper and the government, which is also a summary representation of all the potential in all the human lives of the city -- and we can see the corruption of using the latter to enrich oneself. That may well tie into both your concerns about how certain professionals earn their living.

I think the main difficulty with EE is that it's one of those shows that people like but haven't seen in years and years; and the underlying concept is a much subtler one than Sliders (if you can imagine or play-pretend an alternative world, you're already nearly fluent in Sliders; but it's hard to think through the implications of the foresight that EE is about, given that the foresight is on such a vastly greater scale than our own).

Enbrethiliel said...


I love the parallel you've pointed out between the newspaper and the government! =D I had felt, while drafting this post, that there was a unifying theme that I wasn't getting, but I didn't see it until now. Then again, the different subplots are so clumsily connected that perhaps this parallel was not really intended.

Indeed, Gary tends to steer clear of government matters. (He goes to the police when he can think of no other options, but he never considers trying to get the mayor to intervene in a bigger way.) The only other "political" move of his I can think of is the time he stopped a senator from being papped with a woman who was probably not his wife. And that kind of surprised me, because I think most other people would have been happy to let the senator get caught, whether they had voted for him or not! =P

I do want to finish at least the first season of Early Edition, so new posts will probably start coming next month.