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Author Topic: PC211 / 592: The Axiom Of Choice  (Read 20944 times)

Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #25 on: June 17, 2012, 06:29:01 AM
The point (I think) was that he chose being lazy over being smart. Sleep in rather than drive.

I still don't get the point I guess.  Hard work isn't always the best choice.  Sometimes hard work will get you nothing but exhausted, and more work.

Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.
Furthermore, this same choice was presented over and over again to the reader, until you finally get it right. The point at which you finally get it right is in the park when you choose to let your fist punch someone for no reason, and you go to section 801 (Aside: notice how each new stage in your life starts at section X01?). That is the point where you finally start to come to grips with your choices in life.
In fact, the literary tools used here are incredible. In the first three choices it is made clear to you that you have no choice. And then for the rest of the story you try and avoid the consequences of that.
That's really what this story is about (IMO): accepting the consequences for you choices. You continue a downward spiral, hitting rock bottom (or whatever the bench is made out of) for the whole story while avoiding looking at, using, thinking about your hand and what brought you there. This is driven home by that choice in the hospital: if you realize that she hasn't said anything about Paul or that other guy, and you guess what she means by omission, and you remember that flying was your choice...
You just can't accept the consequences of your choices.
At group you finally realize that you aren't the one making the choices (which you should have figured out in the first three choices) but simply a character in some else's book. Then you just sit back and watch things happen.
But that isn't enough. You have to realize, actually grok, that even though you have no choices that you can make, you still have to face their consequences. And that is when you punch someone for no reason, and begin your upwards climb.
And of course that's when the rehabilitation begins, until the penultimate scene, where the message is really driven home. When you hear the message from (probably) Paul's widow: You make choices in your life, and whether you have free will to make them or not, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you face the consequences of these decisions.

Gosh, I really want to discuss this in a college literature class.

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Unblinking

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Reply #26 on: June 18, 2012, 02:15:17 PM
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality.  But I think the choice here could've been one that more obviously had clearly fatal consequences like "Do you call a cab or do you drive home even though you can't focus on the hand in front of your face?"  Rather than "Do you sleep in even though you oughtn't?" 



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #27 on: June 18, 2012, 04:15:13 PM
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality. 
The whole point of the story is that it isn't real life. You have no real choices because you are a character in a story. If you pick otherwise then "this wouldn't be your story" or "you do not make this choice".
It's meta!

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Unblinking

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Reply #28 on: June 18, 2012, 04:20:40 PM
Yes, but the way the choice was presented: do you want to sleep on some random floor in an apartment or do you want to sleep as late as you want tomorrow? It's obvious what you are supposed to pick.

Yes, it's obvious which one you are supposed to pick, which if I were reading the book I would probably continue picking the "wrong" choice just to be contrary.  In real life there is often a choice that seems like it's the obvious choice you're "supposed to" pick, and often that has some basis in reality. 
The whole point of the story is that it isn't real life. You have no real choices because you are a character in a story. If you pick otherwise then "this wouldn't be your story" or "you do not make this choice".
It's meta!

Okay.  But the more I am convinced of that, the less I like the story, as I said before:

Quote
This was an interesting gimmick for a story, and I think the author did as well with it as could be done with this particular gimmick.  Unfortunately, I just had trouble getting into it.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure story, minus the Choose Your Own Adventure part.  It kept the stilted 2nd-person style necessary for a Choose Your Own Adventure, but took away my ability to affect the path.  And then it went on and on and on.  If it were half the length I think I could've enjoyed the idea in a nice compact exploration, but it just kept going and going.



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Reply #29 on: June 22, 2012, 01:09:29 PM
So...the moral of the story is, if your jerkass Philosophy professor punches you for no reason, don't get upset with him?

 ???

Man I hated philosophy class...

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #30 on: June 22, 2012, 02:44:25 PM
So...the moral of the story is, if your jerkass Philosophy professor punches you for no reason, don't get upset with him?
If you're going to look at it like that, then the moral of the story is: do what it takes to impress the girl.

Where "girl" can be whatever type of person you are interested in.

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Reply #31 on: June 29, 2012, 01:51:42 AM
This was an interesting story that I admit is kind of hard to pull off in audio. I imagine it would be possible to put in cue points if all MP3 players used the same software... but they don't. Ah well.

I wasn't really a huge fan of the story. It went on for WAY too long, was way too maudlin, and by the time I finished listening to it I'd almost forgotten the story about the "sometimes they don't come back" note at the beginning. I think it's the kind of surrealistic piece that CAN be run on PC (much like "Zombie Contingency Plan"), but it unfortunately wasn't my thing.

I really would like to see someone write a contemporary CYOA book. Erotica author Shon Richards did one, and he said that it was a bitch and a half to plot out all the different choices, but I imagine someone could write a SF, F, or H one aimed at a slightly older audience than the ones I used to read as a kid. I read the absolute HELL out of my one Star Trek one that I had, where you (the reader) play a cadet just starting out on the Enterprise. Lots of ways to die, for a book targeted at kids.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #32 on: June 29, 2012, 01:14:54 PM
Lots of ways to die, for a book targeted at kids.
They were all like that.
And yes, I think I read all the ones that had been published by the time I was 12. My library had a good selection :)

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Reply #33 on: July 03, 2012, 05:35:53 PM
I thought this was an excellent story. It maintained my interest throughout and was rather thought provoking. I can sympathize with some of the criticism raised by unblinking, but for me the point was more the meditation about the nature of choices than the actual biographical choices in the story. One thing this story did was deconstruct the notion of a "right choice" versus a "wrong choice". In a sense, all the choices that the character made before the group therapy session were the wrong choices, in that they had bad consequences. Then, in the alternate history he imagined, every choice he made was the right choice, at least if the goal was to continue with his relationship. Then, he gives up, and refuses to make any choice for himself - but of course, that is in itself a choice. I interpreted the ending as a rejection of all the models previously presented in the story - the fact that you can't always tell if the choice you make is right or wrong, and the fact that making a choice doesn't give you full control of the consequences - coupled with the fact that freedom to make choices isn't the same as being able to choose whatever we want - all combined mean that the way to proceed is to take one choice at a time and try to do the best you can.

It's not a perfect story - I thought the philosophy class was a bit too explicit in raising the themes of the story - but it was an excellent story indeed, and one I was very glad to hear.



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Reply #34 on: July 04, 2012, 09:11:08 PM
It took a minute or three for me to get the hang of this one. It crept up on me and I was drawn in.

At each of the choices I made my own decision (I'm guessing everyone did this) and was in line with the story more often than not.

It's weird, but I felt more a part of it than I would for a normal story. Perhaps because of that decision making.

I really felt for the main character; his injuries, his moods, his hopelessness, his improving situation. I liked the open-ended finish.

In some ways my own life could do with some radical changes, so this really struck a chord.

The reading was great, too.   :)



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Reply #35 on: July 09, 2012, 07:34:37 PM
This was a wonderful, wonderful story. Max did a better job than I in explaining the reasons I loved the story, so I'll defer to his post. But this would be a great story to discuss in my Bible study. :-D

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childoftyranny

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Reply #36 on: July 13, 2012, 10:29:04 AM
Unfortunately I didn't much care for this one, its wasn't the choices I don't think those really helped nor hurt the story for me. Like many, I began trying to guess which was going to be the choice, then proceeded to which would be more interesting to hear about and finally to whichever. It was at that last point where I realized I just didn't care about this guy. He wasn't particularly interesting, some bad things happened, he got depressed. People tried to help him but he didn't get over it until he GOT it. Just not that interesting to me.

I admit I'm also not floored with this presentation of choices, I guess I miss out on the "deepness"/cleverness of it. On a sidenote I had a fascinating debate in a chatroom about deepness and how one would have to judge it by gravitational fields if comparing how deep you are between planets and galaxies etc. Anyway back to choices, he/you/they had to make choices and kept making them even if not making them, well that is how life goes. Another digression, I'm fairly certain that a  more traditonal answer to her question is that the {} empty set answers the question without dealing with choice at all. It probably also doesn't hurt how much I've been pondering through the intrinsic value of choice since I've been hearing so much about individual liberty and choice and such these days. When I picture a situation where you are standing in front of three white boxes that look exactly the same, that you know nothing about, is there intrinsic value in being to make a choice without knowledge to understand the choice. I have my doubts.



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Reply #37 on: July 18, 2012, 08:53:10 PM
Yea for at least promoing my post, even if there wasn't a way to read it! :)



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Reply #38 on: August 16, 2012, 06:33:02 PM
I found the gimmick went down very smoothly with this one. For two reasons:

1. It had some intrinsic humor. "If you've realized you're not the one making these choices..."

2. The gimmick is what the story is about. A choose-your-own-adventure about being a spy or having a space adventure wouldn't capture me in audio format, as an adult, the way it might have on paper as a kid. But a choose-your-own-adventure about free will is absolutely brilliant. It has a certain conceptual humor to it. The point is, the concept had me amused, and the serious themes made it a story I could take seriously and really appreciate, whereas trying to be primarily humorous would have felt facile and boring. The tint of humor lightens a serious discussion that I like reading about.  I guess if you have no patience for discussion of free will, then maybe it won't. But the point of the story isn't that he made the wrong choices all the time, it is that they often didn't matter. Whatever, I liked it a lot. Like tied with "Urchins While Swimming" for best Podcastle so far in 2012 a lot.



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Reply #39 on: August 26, 2012, 11:05:53 PM
My favorite Podcastle episode in a long time. The last line was absolutely fantastic.



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Reply #40 on: August 28, 2012, 01:18:14 AM
Wow.

Thanks!



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Reply #41 on: January 14, 2013, 07:56:54 PM
I'm glad I chose to heed DKT's call for patience at the beginning. It took a bit to orient properly but then I was locked in. I liked the mechanics of this story. The use of second person is a distancing mechanism, yet the choices made the story seem more actively engaging.

I'm going to stand by calling the frame a good mechanic. I'm not going to call it a gimmick. Purple ketchup is a gimmick. At the end of the day it's still tomato paste and corn syrup. When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, it has transcended gimmick.

His life went down the toilet due to events caused by the plane crash, but it all would've been much clearer if they had been more directly caused by some dumb choice he made, rather than just a random occurrence that happened to happen.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with being a musician, especially if that's what you love to do.  This was just driven home all the further when he went back and chose the other path which involved staying in school and everything turned out splendidly.

Did everything turn out splendidly? Sounded a lot more like escapist fantasizing to me. 

An earlier poster pointed out that this story wasn't fantasy.  I'd like to say a few things about that:

1) Discussions about genre lines are somewhat frowned on in the forum, the thinking being that they're almost never productive conversations.

2) They're right.  This story isn't a fantasy, or any kind of speculative fiction.

3) I applaud Podcastle for running it anyway.  Not only was it a wonderful story with a geeky gimmick well suited to fantasy readers, but having it presented on Podcastle always gives the listener the idea that something magical might happen.  But then again, it might not.  I love that Podcastle sometimes runs stories with no fantasy element, or ones that only have a fantasy element if looked at from a certain perspective.  Please keep bringing us more great not-quite-fantasies, and ambiguous fantasies!

Also, the folks who would understand the frame are largely folks who read fantasy. CYOA is not a format that sold well outside us geeks.


while I love the concept and execution of this story, I got so depressed halfway through I had to switch to pseudopod to cheer me up.

 :D :D :D

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Reply #42 on: May 29, 2014, 04:39:08 PM
This story came to mind in the last couple of days because I was playing a very entertaining game called The Stanley Parable that I picked up from Steam.

http://www.stanleyparable.com/

Quick summary of the idea:
You are Stanley. You work at a desk where you are give instructions to press keys on your keyboard one after another.  One day you notice you haven't received any new instructions for over an hour.  You get up to ask your colleagues if they're experiencing similar interruptions in workflow, only to discover that their desks are empty.  You set out to find someone and find that the whole building is apparently devoid of life apart from you.  Unless, of course, you count the British voiceover that's narrating your every action and telling you what you're going to do next.

You reach a branch in the path early on and the narrator tells you which way you're going to go.  You can choose to obey or disobey him, and from that choice branches other choices.  If you choose to follow the narrator's instructions, he takes you down the "intended" path of the story line and he is little more than a narrator.  But if you deviate from the path at various points, down some paths he tries to steer you back, or tries to explain the deviation in a tangent of the narrative, or just openly criticizes you for wasting all of the hard work he's put into making this game.

Down many of the paths there is interesting dialog about the nature of choice, and put me in mind of The Axiom of Choice.


It's a very funny game, great voice acting for the narrator especially.



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Reply #43 on: December 14, 2014, 03:05:25 AM
I was revisiting this episode the other day, and got curious what everyone said about it back in the day, and since no one saw it quite how I did (Eytan probably had the most similar perspective to mine), I thought I might pop in and Lazarus this thing. :)

For me, this was a story about the paradox of being creatures with agency in a world where shitty things happen that are outside our control. I don't think it's a story about taking responsibility for the mistakes of the past. I think it's a story about how when the really bad stuff happens--the stuff that takes something away from us that we can never get back--we'll obsess over everything leading up to it, desperately trying to figure out where we went wrong, what we could have done to make the Bad Thing never occur at all.

I think this relates to survival. We want to find the pattern so it won't happen again. In fact, I've heard it said that *all* storytelling is about survival in this way, that we like stories because they show a cause-and-effect pattern correlated to whether the character had a good or bad outcome. In a good story, it all makes sense at the end and we, the audience, have learned some valuable information for surviving/achieving the good outcome in a similar situation.

The problem is that in real life, our own particular behaviors are not, in fact, always the root cause of the Bad Thing. The best example I can point to is rape culture logic, and how people will point to things like clothing/alcohol as the thing the rape survivor did to bring the Bad Thing on themselves, ignoring the fact that there is no actual cause/effect relationship between drinking alcohol and rape (as evidenced by the fact that guys who drink aren't likely to get raped, generally speaking). It's the rapist who made the choice that caused the Bad Thing, and who could have reasonably chosen otherwise. And yet, survivors of rape experience an immense amount of self-blame and the reflexive, obsessive examination of all their *own* choices, much like the guy in this story, when the truth is there isn't anything the guy in this story (or rape survivors) could have done, *with their own choices*, to avoid the Bad Thing, and trying to find the Survival Lesson is just going to drive you into depression and self-destruction.

(Interestingly, I've noticed that people tend to apply story-logic to people's actual, real life experiences in attempt to reassure themselves it would never happen that way to them, personally. If you've ever made a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan that ends with you in your Fortress of Awesomeness in your hometown, ruling the roost and totally not dying from strep throat, you've engaged in this sort of thinking. "In that situation, I'd just ____" usually ignores how friggin' difficult it actually is to predict what your own response will be in a completely messed-up situation that's so out of the norm and unbelievable that you can't believe it's really happening to you, even as it happens.)

What I love is how the story doesn't stop there, and it then examines the other half of the problem: yes, there are things that happen in our lives that are radically disconnected from our own choices. But we're still creatures with agency, and there are choices we can make between and through the choices that are made for us. I think this story was trying to say that there comes a point where you have to accept the present as the new beginning of the choice-tree, and go from there. Maybe you could call it "accepting the consequences of your choices" if you look at it one way. From another perspective, it's "accepting that your choices don't always mean anything". One way or another, the trick is to stop trying to mentally undo the Bad Thing and just accept it as part of the background of your life, and make new choices without the burden of self-blame. If you don't move on, your brain's own survival impulse will destroy you.

Anyway, yeah. One of my favorite PodCastle stories ever. :) Nice to revisit it.

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Reply #44 on: January 06, 2015, 01:46:32 AM
I was just reading today about a new study that suggested the vast majority (well over 60% and up to 80% in some cases) of cancer is caused primarily by "luck," i.e. chance mutations that hit the wrong spot on the genome and triggered a tumor.  Environmental factors are significant in maybe a third to a fourth of cases, and genetic causes maybe 10-15%.

And people flipped out and just ranted about how we'd eventually find the "real" causes for all of those random cases and how there's "no such thing as luck."  (Which is true, I guess, but random chance certainly exists and might even be fundamental, if certain quantum physics theories are correct.)

So yeah.  People really like narrative explanations, even for things that don't seem like a non-narrative explanation would be controversial.

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Reply #45 on: April 02, 2015, 01:37:16 AM
Now that I have a forum account, I had to find the thread for this episode so I could be down on record saying this is one of my favorite stories of all time. Not just on Podcastle, but anywhere, in any medium.

That is all.


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Reply #46 on: September 17, 2019, 11:26:18 PM
This episode has been re-run as PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS, as hosted by yours truly.



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Reply #47 on: September 18, 2019, 04:09:04 AM
This episode has been re-run as PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS, as hosted by yours truly.

Thanks for reminding (me) us how wonderful this story is. I had forgotten it and enjoyed it all over again. Also while making that SAME long drive home, coincidentally. :)

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Reply #48 on: September 24, 2019, 06:43:05 PM
Rated R!? Oh, I’m all over it.  8)

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