My Favorite Movies and Why

This list is a work in progress.  In no particular order (at this time):

George Malley (John Travolta) mysteriously finds himself with new mental energy for Type 2 cognitive processes.  He realizes many of his previous cognitive errors, invents many things, comes up with loads of questions, and has an insatiable curiosity.  The community in which he lives find all this to be freakish.

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) admits that his team is in a rut and becomes willing to think outside the box.  He hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an analyst, who helps him to realize how selecting players based upon statistical analysis is superior to the traditional system of selecting them based on the intuition of professional recruiters.  You can figure out what I like about this from this older article of mine.  Also, it is wholly relevant to my recent study in cognitive science.  In particular, Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, demonstrates that humans are not good with intuition when it comes to statistics.   In the movie, Billy Beane (Pitt) exercises great courage in opposing the traditionalists.  Oh, and did I mention that as a result, he took his team all the way to the World Series, and did it on the smallest budget in all of professional baseball?

Harry Potter (1-8)
I love the friendships shared between Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  I love that there is a Dumbledore who looks out for Harry, and who often trumps those who wish ill for Harry.  I love it that Harry and the others are in an all-out quest against evil, and I find it quite typical of society that so many others were wishing to pretend that no such evil was really in play—or that it was not really as bad as it was.  I like how Hermione knows that others find her cognitive activity irritating or unsettling, and that she chooses not to care.  I like Luna Lovegood’s honesty and her willingness to see things not commonly seen.  I like Hagrid’s loyalty to Harry.  Neville’s willingness to dance even though it was not “cool”, and his eventual growth into a courageous hero make an excellent story.

Men in Black III
OK, first of all, Josh Brolin absolutely nails the role of the younger Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).  Secondly, I like how the story gives us background on K and J.  Mostly, however, I’m fond of this movie because of the new character, Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg).  Griffin is an alien with what seems like an endless capacity for cognitive “decoupling” and “simulation”.  Like a supercomputer, he processes all the possible futures from a given point in time forward.  For humans, this sort of thinking (“Type 2” or “System 2” or “Algorithmic”) is extremely inefficient–burning loads of cognitive energy—but we can do it to a much greater expense than we think we can.  We don’t need to crank up the brain like this to run a load of laundry, but we probably need to do it much more often than we do on important matters, such as determining our beliefs in religion and politics, or deciding who to marry or what to eat in our diets.  Griffin serves as a great metaphor for Type 2 thinking.



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