I wish I knew where I read this, but a long time ago there was a web page which posed to the readers a puzzle, something along the following lines. Imagine that a doctor suddenly received an apparently divine gift of healing, such that simply by touching another person, he would cure him of any illness. The author then pointed out that if this idea were to be picked up for a plot in a movie, there could be dozens of scripts written that incorporated this idea that ended tragically for all concerned. The movie would then “deliver a message” about the sort of evil the writers felt was most artful, etc.

Here are some “dramatic” scenarios:

  1. the doctor feels it is his duty to heal as many people as possible; he works 20 hours a day and dies from exhaustion;
  2. the American Medical Association poisons him in order to keep its customers;
  3. the Catholic Church accuses him of consorting with the devil and urges the mob to tear him apart;
  4. a billionaire kidnaps him to keep him for himself hoping that he could live forever;
  5. the doctor charges enormous amounts of money, catering only to the rich; he gets proud and somehow dooms himself for his “greed.”

You get the point. Then the article challenged the reader to write a story in which everyone ended up happy. The puzzle was to come up with a technological solution for every potential problem. As far as I recall, a part of a proposed solution was to have the doctor sit near a moving conveyor belt which would carry a line of people to him. It would take 5 or so seconds for the doctor to touch each person that the belt or escalator would deliver to him. Then he could work 2 hours per day, seeing 1,440 people. If he charged on average a paltry $100 per person per illness, he would make at least $144,000 per day or over $50 million per year (yes, rationing would remain a problem, but still his productivity would be enormous; no one could accuse him of not using his gift). This would be enough to build a fortified mansion and hire guards to prevent anybody from kidnapping him or what have you. He could offer to cure the Pope of whatever ailed him and say, reasonably: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” and “By my fruit you will recognize me. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Stuff like that.

We see that numerous technical problems admit solutions. Where storytellers give us drama and tragedy, engineers and scientists grant us stuff that works and thus harmony and mutual profit. Avatar is, again, a movie made with utter disregard of the real world. It’s a ridiculous, if beautiful looking, fantasy, and there might have been a bunch of ways in which the war in it could have been avoided under more realistic circumstances.

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