Saving Interstellar: A Mental Rewrite of Chris Nolan’s Latest Masterpiece

blackhole-movie-wormholeFriends who know my work as a systems theorist, including my speculations about the evolutionary developmental (evo devo) nature of our universe, and the potential attraction of universal intelligence to black hole-like environments (the developmental singularity or transcension hypothesis) have asked me for my take on Christopher Nolan’s latest film. Here it is, along with a fun exercise, called the “mental rewrite,” that we all tend to do when confronted with story implausibilities, an exercise worth doing for flawed films we particularly like.

Inter_stellar_posterInterstellar is an ambitious and soaring film, and it deals with important subjects, often very well. Nolan and his team, especially the brilliant composer Hans Zimmer, seem to get better with nearly every film. On its face, I’d give it a 7 out of 10 on Amazon’s IMDB. Anything above 6.8 is usually worth watching, in my book. But by mentally rewriting some of its critical scenes, I was able to give it a much higher score.

Mental rewrites are great imagination exercises, and incredibly satisfying when you can pull them off, either on your own or in conversation with friends. Successful rewrites route around the damaged parts in a story by reimagining them in a better way. I’ve done hundreds in my life, both for films and books, and I bet you have too. One of the neatest things about the mental rewrite habit is that the more you do it, the more you start forgetting the director’s version of everything and remembering yours. You become the director of the construct that matters most, your simulation of the essence of the movie or story, in your own mind. You must be a self-appointed critic to do this, making a judgment that the creatives made some bad choices, taking a DIY attitude, and seeking to do better. Maybe that, and the validation from others on your better rewrites, is what makes it so fun.

Rewriters tend to be both critical and creative folks, connoisseurs of both plot and possibilities, and risers to the challenge of fixing things they don’t like. Rewrites seem particularly worth doing for stories with plots, writers, directors, actors, or characters that you mostly love and don’t want to forget. Some books and movies only need a few minutes or pages to be mentally fixed to be great. Others may need whole sections fixed, and many don’t seem fixable. I find if any movie needs 10% or less of its running time to be mentally rewritten to be both believable and epic, and the rewrite is findable without too much mental effort, I usually am generous and give it my rewrite rating on IMDB, rather than its lower original director’s rating. I’ll also make exceptions beyond 10% for particularly good movies. Nolan’s latest film is in the latter category. I had to rewrite more than a tenth of it my head, but I still give it a rewrite score of 9 out of 10, as it was a fun and not-too-difficult exercise, as the rewrite truly makes it epic for me, and as the director and his body of work, including Memento, Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Man of Steel are truly special.

If you haven’t seen Interstellar yet, please do! It is inspiring and mind-opening, as our best sci-fi should be. My proposed rewrites are below.

For predictions on the future of mental rewriting and remix culture, see For the Future… after the rewrites.

SPOILERS follow…

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Brain Preservation: Why Bother? Getting to the Zen of Life

Chemical Brain Preservation: You, turned into a Perfect Plastic Fossil. Yep, the Universe is Strange alright.

Chemical Brain Preservation: You, Turned into a Perfect Plastic Fossil, Waiting Patiently to Be Released From It in the Future. Yep, the Universe is Strange alright.

I’ve given a new talk at BIL2014, about Brain Preservation (video at bottom of this article), and written an essay on it for Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon‘s forthcoming book, World Transformed: The Abridged Edition, a spinoff of their excellent World Transformed podcast and blog. An excerpt from the essay is below.

This talk explores the “Why Bother?” or Zen of Mortality perspective, which I think is the main reason that most folks, and even most secular-agnostic folks (who are at most 20% of the world’s population at present), don’t yet find brain preservation a desirable idea for themselves or their loved ones. While I acknowledge the validity and great value of the Zen of Mortality perspective, and I used to hold it myself, I think there’s an even more exciting and valuable perspective, the Zen of Life, waiting patiently for all of us who are ready to embrace it. Read on, or watch the talk, and let me know if you agree or disagree.

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Investing as Foresight Practice

Do you invest? I hope you do, as investing, and teaching your children and friends to invest, is one of the classic ways people can and do put their futuring skills to the test. The great investors are all futurists to some degree, and a good study of their habits will help you improve your business and personal foresight skills as well. There are two types of investing, Conservative/Long-term and Speculative/Short-term (six months or less). Once you have enough saved and enough personal insurance to cover catastrophes, I hope you will choose to be involved in both. An asset mix that is commonly recommended is 80% conservative and 20% speculative.

9781118288252.pdfFor conservative investing, I have two main books to suggest for your edification. The first is Andrew Tobias’s brilliant The Only Investment Guide You Will Ever Need, 2011, which explores how saving, and cultivating a great understanding of the value of money, is by far the most important skill for any investor. For passive strategies, I highly recommend the The Permanent Portfolio, a modified version of which I’ve been following for several years now. A smartly asset-class-diversified approach like the permanent portfolio seems to me to be the best way to easily capture the growing financial value of our planet’s accelerating technical productivity, without being an active investor or trader. The Permanent Portfolio’s four asset classes are Index Stocks, Long-Term Treasury Bonds, Gold, and Cash. For some data on its performance, see Crawling Road’s 40-year retrospective study on its returns, which average 6 to 9% a year, depending on assumptions in calculations. This is nearly unbeatable for a passive investment strategy.

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