November 21, 2016
Is there any concept you invented for the movie Arrival that you’re thinking about exploring more?
[One] thing that I did think about for this movie is the following question: Is there an infinite frontier of technology? If we know the fundamental theory of physics, are we done, or is there always more to discover? What you realize is it’s very similar to the problem of axioms in mathematics and how math is hard, and ideas like Gödel’s Theorem—it’s an almost theoretically necessary fact that there is an infinite frontier of technologies to discover. You can always build a more complicated program.
Another question is, is there more interesting stuff to discover? We can write down an infinite number of theorems in some area of mathematics, but we might say we’ve gotten all the interesting ones. All the other ones are ornate, uninteresting things. That’s a really interesting question I don’t really know the answer to.
The question of interestingness is very closely related to these questions about purpose and cultural context, because what counts as interesting [depends on] what are you trying to do. A good example of this, coming from the Pythagoreans: they were really into the fact that 1+2+3+4=10, something that we consider now to be just, who cares. But for them, that was a profound fact. And I think that’s an example of, is it interesting, or is it just some trivial arithmetical fact? It depends a lot on context.
It’s far from obvious that as an alien you are going to be at all into trying to find out as much as possible. That might not be the point.