Logic is never kind to a story about time travel. It seems that no matter what idea or aspect of so-called fourth dimensional travel a storyteller wishes to pursue, something does not work right — contradictions abound. The biggest plot holes in the history of fiction are to be found therein. For my money, this is the first and best reason to suppose that time travel is not possible. Reality is nothing if not possible and plausible — at least from the perspective of one in possession of the relevant facts — and if a story cannot be made to work right when time travel is involved, reality probably cannot either.

There is, however, a lot of potential in such tales. If a viewer will but suspend his disbelief and allow an author or filmmaker to explore one possibility while forgetting its necessary and contradictory corollaries, then some interesting possibilities may be realized. Rian Johnson has done a first-rate job of spinning a time-traveling yarn with the new movie Looper, if the audience will afford it such consideration.

The year is 2044, and time travel, as we are told by the narrator and protagonist (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is not yet invented. Thirty years in the future, it is/will be (it occurs to me that we need another tense or two in the English language when we discuss these things). It is illegal, though, and only mobsters make use of it, to send back their targets to be eliminated and their bodies disposed of. The men who do the eliminating and disposing are called loopers, and they earn that appellation when they close their own loop by, at the end of their contract, killing their 30-years-older selves.

Our protagonist, called simply Joe, is a drug abusing, well-dressed looper with a manner perhaps a bit too refined, and a face perhaps too smooth and handsome, for someone in his station. Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Departed, managed to overcome his golden beauty and give a convincing portrayal of a hoodlum. I would have preferred something rougher like that in Looper. Gordon-Levitt has all the makings of a leading man, but I thought the role he portrayed in this film was not quite the right one.

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NEWS | Interviews David Brin Thumbnail

David Brin is the author of science fiction novels The Postman, the Uplift series beginning with Sundiver, and others as well as the ever-popular nonfiction work, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?. He recently sat down with’s Tim Cavanaugh to discuss his recent criticisms of “dogmatic libertarians,” his hobbyhorse of government transparency, and the subject of uplifting dolphins.

I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1

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  1. It’s heartening to see that the video on YouTube has more dislikes than likes at the moment. 


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So announces the cover of the July 2nd – 8th issue of the Economist.

The Economist, July 2–8, The End of the Space Age

I’m not privy to what angle the article or articles will take, but I presume the cover is referring to the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program without a government replacement. But why need that mean the end of the space age?

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EDITORIAL | The Perils and Importance of Futurism and Science-Fictional Speculation Thumbnail

When you make predictions about the future, there is a good chance that you’ll be wrong. People have a tendency to grow attached to certain visions of the future and become so jaded by its failure to materialize that they are blind to the technological wonders that actually are materializing around them. Some even take this attitude to an extreme that resembles making the perfect the enemy of the good.”  They become so obsessed with their ideal vision of the future that they lose all other perspective; they look back and can evaluate what they already have only in light of this perfect vision, compared to which everything else is shit: worthless and unenjoyable. They can’t be happy with what they have now.

A recent xkcd comic illustrates these points well:

The flying car and the personal jetpack were popular dreamed-of products in the last century. I remember That 70’s Show episodes in which the father, Red Foreman, complained about lacking the flying cars that his generation had been promised and daydreamed about having a robot servant and a personal jetpack. There’s even a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks. Gizmodo has a list of 10 technologies we were promised and never got. As if to underscore my point and the xkcd comic, the title of the post is 100 Years of Failure.

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Another political-bureaucratic boondoggle at NASA. Just abolish the agency already and get out of the way of private space enterprises.

The future of computing is near:

  • 1,000-Core Chip Could Make PCs 20 Times Faster: The fastest consumer processors such as Intel’s Core i7 are limited to 6 cores, but “Scottish scientists have built a 1,000-core processor, claiming it will run 20 times faster than today’s chips while using less power. Dr. Wim Vanderbauwhede led a research team at the University of Glasgow to create the futuristic processor using a programmable chip called a field programmable gate array (FPGA).”
  • Super Memory Breakthrough: Store Every Movie Made This Year on Your Phone (With Room to Spare): “IBM says they have made a significant leap forward in the viability of “Racetrack memory,” a new technology design which has the potential to exponentially increase computing power. This new tech could give devices the ability to store as much as 100 times more information than they do now, which would be accessed at far greater speeds while utilizing “much less” energy than today’s designs. In the future, a single portable device might be able to hold as much memory as today’s business-class servers and run on a single battery charge for weeks at a time.”


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The Perils of Centralized Innovation Thumbnail

Gizmodo has an interesting post about How Ma Bell Shelved the Future for 60 Years. It is an excerpt from The Master Switch by Tim Wu.

Here is the money quote:

This is the essential weakness of a centralized approach to innovation: the notion that it can be a planned and systematic process, best directed by a kind of central intelligence; that it is simply of matter of assembling all the best minds and putting them to work in unison. Were it so, the future could be planned and executed in a scientific manner.

Yes, Bell Labs was great. But AT&T, as an innovator, bore a serious genetic flaw: it could not originate technologies that might, by the remotest possibility, threaten the Bell system. In the language of innovation theory, the output of the Bell Labs was practically restricted to sustaining inventions; disruptive technologies, those that might even cast a shadow of uncertainty over the business model, were simply out of the question.


Cross-posted at The Libertarian Standard.


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