"To Mothman"

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth, not quite Mothmanning but it’s the best visual I can come up with

The new Adventure Zone arc, Amnesty, (minimal spoilers) includes The Mothman, a character most famously from The Mothman Prophecies who can sorta tell the future. Griffin McElroy, the DM, explains his powers like he’s watching a bunch of TV screens that are all possible futures. He can’t tell which of them will happen, but I think he knows that one or more of them will - so if they all converge on one thing happening soon, he knows it will very likely happen. Mostly, I want to focus on the ability to see many future stories.

This seems useful as a conversational meme when you’re designing a thing, making a law, whatever. These stories are all happening, or will all happen, with some probability. For example, if you make US immigration more lax, there will likely be more immigrants committing crimes. There will also be more brilliant geniuses creating amazing things in our country. There will be more people speaking other languages. There will be more people who are willing to work in construction or farming. Some current-Americans will lose jobs, some current-Americans will get jobs, or will be able to create jobs.

This makes it frustrating when people use stories to argue points. “We shouldn’t allow more immigration, because look at this immigrant who committed a crime.” No, that’s just one Mothman screen. How big is it? How likely is it, how important is it?

I guess it’s useful when you haven’t yet decided on the set of all screens. It’s worthwhile to say “we should consider x.” But once it’s been put on a screen, you’re not allowed to use stories to increase (or decrease) the importance of any one screen. You can only do that with data (to show probability or magnitude of an event) or philosophy (to suggest why we should care more/less about an event).

Anyway, I’m not going to change how people argue, forever, in one internet post. The best I can hope for here is that people start using “to Mothman” as “to look holistically at all possible futures.” (perhaps also “to reverse-Mothman” to mean “to look holistically at all possible causes.")


Comments:

Daniel - Oct 1, 2018

I like this! Especially this: “But once it’s been put on a screen, you’re not allowed to use stories to increase (or decrease) the importance of any one screen. You can only do that with data (to show probability or magnitude of an event) or philosophy (to suggest why we should care more/less about an event).”


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