*The Invention of Lying*

by on October 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm in Film | Permalink

I didn't think it was possible to make a movie this Hansonian and no they never waver.  The basic premise is "a comedy set in a world where no one has ever lied."  People speak the truth to each other in unbiased fashion and every channel on TV is some version of The History Channel.  You then see, step by step, why this is not a Nash equilibrium and you observe, as the title indicates, "the invention of lying," including under conditions of altruism.  Along the way, you see a theory of the origins of religion, a portrait of how the world would look if no one signaled, a redo of Geoffrey Miller on The Mating Mind, and hints at the idea of ESS.  It's a "remarkably radical comedy" (Ebert) and the gushy parts have hidden venom. 

1 Carl October 4, 2009 at 6:56 pm

You see the problem with this idea is that everyone would have to be infinitely gullible for the inventor of lies to have a real impact. I don’t really know the premise of the movie, but in one scene he says “this building is going to explode if you don’t sleep with me.” Well, the woman could just say, “I believe that he is telling me the truth, i.e. he believes this to be the case. But he is mistaken. This building will not explode.” He is not malicious, just wrong.

Don’t waste your money. Go see Zombieland instead.

2 AADL October 4, 2009 at 7:38 pm

A friend of mine liked it, but then he also recommended “Rachel Getting Married,” the worst movie I ever saw by far. The trailer (viewable online) didn’t impress me. I’m waiting for another “The Lives of Others.”

And while were on the topic of Hollywood, free Roman Polanski already! Yes, a lot of his defenders are moral retrogrades, but he settled the civil suit, the victim forgave him, and criminal law is an antilibertarian ass.

3 IWantCookieNow October 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I wish to cite a Youtube comment:

“Worst movie this year without a doubt. Utterly terrible, MAYBE If you’re 10 and you still laugh at the word poo you’d find this funny but otherwise It’s appaling. Sure there’s the odd cheap laugh but It’s just a horrificly bad story and even worse acting, oh, and Ricky’s love Interest Is a total bitch.”

The Invention of Citing Youtube Comments.

4 Jacob Wintersmith October 4, 2009 at 8:38 pm

ESS = Evolutionarily Stable Strategy ?

…not an acronym I’ve encountered before.

5 Bob Murphy October 4, 2009 at 9:12 pm

I loved Gervais’ standup routine, so I’m considering this movie. Carl pointed out one flaw: people in the movie (from the trailer I saw) seem to attribute not only honesty, but also omniscience, to each other. Like, the bank teller hands him money assuming their computer made a mistake, when Gervais’ character could have simply been mistaken about how much money he had left in his account.

Another thing: Are they really modeling how different the world would be, in the (initial) absence of lying? E.g. I sure hope there are no safes in that bank. (Even if people could steal, they would have to admit they were the robbers if asked.) I’m assuming the writers put in a few differences, but I bet they missed a bunch.

6 babar October 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm

so, can the internet sell hanson to hollywood as a highly paid scriptwriter and use the proceeds for population control?

7 Dylan October 5, 2009 at 12:37 am

You’re almost certainly better off reading James Morrow’s City of Truth, where the government conditions everyone to tell the truth, and a heartbroken father has to learn to lie to his son who develops terminal cancer. Initially very, very funny.

8 MichaelG October 5, 2009 at 2:40 am

There’s a book, The Truth Machine, by James Halperin, where a perfect lie detector is invented. It’s a bit flat, but the idea is interesting. *That* would make a good premise for a movie.

9 Telnar October 5, 2009 at 8:07 am

In a world without lies, the thinner skinned would learn to be more subtle when they want affirmation rather than truth. I would expect new cues to arise signaling that someone is interested in feedback about a topic but afraid to ask a direct question.

10 Marbury October 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

It sounds like the script was written by Byrne and Whiten. Looking forward to it.

11 EI October 5, 2009 at 10:21 am

Fun post. The movie’s world without lying led me to wonder if there could be a world without truth-telling. There’s probably a clear evolutionary reason why that can’t be. But is truth-telling something that could vary by culture?

12 Ken October 6, 2009 at 10:25 am

LoneSnark, many human languages build the signaling of certainty into the grammar. The Spanish subjunctive is one example; it indicates that the speaker has some doubt or uncertainty about whether the action will occur, or has occurred. Japanese has a lot of phrases that are used for the same purpose – English has such phrases, of course, but their use is nearly mandatory in Japanese. There are also languages where the grammar indicates the source of the speaker’s knowledge, that is, a verb or noun is inflected differently if the speaker directly observed the action, versus if they were told of it by another, versus if they are speculating about something.

I also second Dylan’s recommendation of Morrow’s “City of Truth.”

13 MissingLink December 26, 2009 at 2:51 am

Missing Link? Macro-Evolution is utter crap. The only reason to be an atheist is a large ego or a lack of morality but usually both.

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