My latest Locus column is "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard", an essay about the way that our narratives about the future can pave the way for bad people to create, and benefit from, disasters. "If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?"
Apparently, editor John W. Campbell sent back three rewrites in which the pilot figured out how to save the girl. He was adamant that the universe must punish the girl.
The universe wasn’t punishing the girl, though. Godwin was – and so was Barton (albeit reluctantly).
The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.
It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.
Moral hazard is the economist’s term for a rule that encourages people to behave badly. For example, a rule that says that you’re not liable for your factory’s pollution if you don’t know about it encourages factory owners to totally ignore their effluent pipes – it turns willful ignorance into a profitable strategy.
Cold Equations and Moral Hazard
Wikitribune (strapline: “Evidence-based journalism”) is a newly launched project from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, conceived of as a crowd-edited, crowd-funded tonic against fake news.
Intelligence officials from the so-called “Five Eyes” network, which includes the United States’ FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, are gathering for an annual intelligence-sharing exchange today in New Zealand. Reuters confirmed the get-together, at which spy agency reps from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will also gather.
When occult historian Mitch Horowitz’s excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing’s weird connection to New Age mysticism: (Bannon) professed deep interest in the book’s themes, and encouraged me in my next work, “One […]
Yeah, Bluetooth audio is pretty common these days, so why should you care about these earbuds? Look how happy that woman up above looks. She’s got FRESHeBUDS in. Boom. There’s your reason. She’s also at the beach and it appears to be a very nice day.But for the sake of promotion, wireless earbuds are fast becoming the […]
“Gets stuff done,” is a good way to be described by anybody. Especially by coworkers or bosses. Because whether you’re in finance or a children’s librarian, stuff needs to get done. But how do you make sure stuff gets done? You definitely can’t do all the stuff yourself, unless your company/organization/government office consists entirely of you. And […]
Even the most expensive pair of hi-fi headphones can’t match the feeling of bass rumbling through your body at a live show. That’s why music aficionados designed The Basslet, an accessory that reproduces that sensation from your wrist. Does it make your whole body shake with deep subs? Not really, because that would be terrifying, but […]