It annoys me when characters on TV shows, especially sci-fi shows, are portrayed as being super-intelligent by being able to ramble off precise probabilities, as if probabilities of natural occurrences are some precise science. “The chances of succeeding are only 34.56 percent!” No, they are either 0 percent or 100 percent. The mathematics of probabilities are a compromise; probabilities provide a way for us to make decisions based on insufficient knowledge. They are not real-world measurements just because we use the word “percent” when talking about them.

“I am 53.45 percent done reading this book.” That’s a real-world measurement.

“There is one bullet left in this gun, so the chance of me shooting you is 16.6… percent.” That’s a measurement of imagined futures based on not knowing which chamber a bullet is in. The bullet is only in one chamber. There is only one possible future.

Truly intelligent characters do not compute precise probabilities in their heads. It is a completely impractical way to go about thinking or making decisions.

This annoys me as much as the idea that emotions and intelligence are somehow naturally at odds, and the price for higher intelligence is the ability to feel emotions.

Categories: Stupid things

3 Comments

LanthonyS · January 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Yeah, talk about movie tropes that are as close to reflecting reality as a two-year-old’s drawing is to depicting his family…

LanthonyS · January 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM

(I don’t think two-year-olds can draw, but you get the point…)

S P Hannifin · January 12, 2013 at 9:35 PM

It’s the writers’ scribbling of reality!

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