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FlickChart and the Theory of Stochastic Axiological Reflexive Epistemology

FlickChart and the Theory of Stochastic Axiological Reflexive Epistemology

We are our tastes. What is "personality" other than the complete, closed set of our likes and dislikes. They determine our friends, our careers, our lifestyles, and (in a chicken-or-egg way) our political choices.

One might say that just as art is the opportunity for the artist to broadcast a little of who

she

is, so is the audience demonstrating who

they

 are, by choosing this art over some other, or as is the tendency in the 21st century, by choosing to use this particular art as the irritant around which they can form tiny pearls of opinion.

It would be easy to argue that our modern culture has fallen back in love with art because opinion has always been the one true currency of the Information Age, and our current explosion of art (or, less pretentiously, "media") provides us with ample opportunities to mint as much as we want.

But I think that we're just seeing new symptoms of the same struggle for self-knowledge that has defined our species since the beginning. Sure, all of these opinions are ways for our friends to know us, but maybe they can also be ways for

us

to know

ourselves

.

The question becomes, how do we know our own tastes? If you ask someone their favorite movie, or band, or soft drink, they'll have an answer, but one that made sense when they memorized it at some point in the past. At the moment of the question, they are not actually evaluating all of the choices.

Moreover, we all know that certain "favorites" carry social overtones and stigmas. When we try to choose a favorite movie in a vacuum, we are actually (consciously or unconsciously) answering the question,

what would be

the favorite movie of the person I want to be.

Because of the inevitable social baggage, we cannot answer these questions without bias.

This is a problem, because as I said, our tastes define who we are; furthermore, our tastes are one of the few syntaxes with which we can articulate who we are with any fidelity. We 

have

 to go about it at an oblique angle.

Now, the Existentialists would tell you that to truly know someone, learn what they

do

. To Sartre, a human being was an engine for deciding which ideas should become reality. But I am more willing than he to insist that the inner workings of that decision-making process are vital to understanding the "who" that is behind it.

So to talk about a person's decision-making process is to talk about their

will

 and their

intent

. Talking about intent means talking about

preference

 (which is just another word for "taste"). And when you talk about preference, you are, even if you don't know it, talking about

ranking

.

FlickChart

is a website that presents you with a pair of movies and forces you to pick one. Then it presents you with another pair. And then another. And then another. It doesn't care what you think your favorite movie is. It doesn't care how many stars you gave the film on the left. It doesn't care what the Tomatometer says about the movie on the right. It says "Pick one. Right now."

And you do, because you have an opinion; OF COURSE you do. The moment you saw the poster for

Over the Hedge

 on the left and

The Great Dictator

 on the right, you knew IMMEDIATELY which one you would

prefer

 to watch right now. And so that movie gets ranked higher than the other one.

All mitigating context is stripped away. All of the squishy human intellectualizing that we love to do about films is gleefully forbidden. FlickChart doesn't care that you saw

Road Trip

 at a really difficult time in your life but Tom Green is a goddamn treasure; or that

Spider-Man

's CGI was a big disappointment despite the decent script. Sure, it gives you a box to talk about that stuff if you want to. But you can talk about that stuff anywhere. The Internet is full of empty rooms to shout your opinions into. Apply whatever prose justification you need to; the Chart doesn't care. The Chart just says you have to choose one.

Best of all, the Chart doesn't care how "different" the movies are. There is no "no way to compare these two" button. FIND A WAY. Find redeeming features in one. Find resentments hidden inside for the other. Twist your mind to create the one unholy geometry where 

Toy Story 2

 and

Se7en

 exist on comparable planes.

And like I said, the stakes are

high

. Your chart will out you as someone who liked

Green Lantern

 more than

Adaptation,

and what will that

say

 about you? But at the same time, do you dare to try to lie and construct a chart that is flattering to your ego? No, you dare not.

Because you too must know

. Nine hundred thousand years of human evolution is not enough time to let us truly see ourselves from the inside. We must depend on the tools that we have built to help us see. How else can we know ourselves unless we are honest with the Chart?

So why stop at movies? Let me rank EVERYTHING.

"Puppies" vs. "Cabernet Sauvignon".

"Anger" vs "Clouds".

"Asia (the continent)" vs "This one particular oak tree outside my window".

"Asia (the band)" vs "Asia (the continent)".

In the moment, I'm sure I would have a definite preference in every one of those match-ups. Even as I typed them, I knew. And sure, those rankings would change, but I'd bet that for each person, discernable, dependable patterns would emerge that would more accurately reflect who that person is than their religion or their political party or their fucking Twitter bio. It would only take a million or so rankings, rankings that we all do all day every day, except now they couldn't pretend they were one kind of person while secretly being another. They would have to confront it, right there in the left rail of the page.

We could call it 

NounChart

.

The value here is that once these hidden opinions and preferences are laid bare, in front of ourselves and the world, we now have an extremely granular feedback mechanism for self-improvement.

Let's suppose you're clicking through your NounChart and you happen to notice that as a result of all the random match-ups you've completed, "Lynyrd Skynyrd" is somehow ranked one slot higher than "Black people".

This is the kind of dilemma that you could only uncover with a Chart. Black people are fucking amazing. Lynyrd Skynyrd is fucking amazing. On a normal site, they both get five stars. Net insight: zero.

"Hm," you think, "I didn't think I was the kind of person who valued Lynyrd Skynyrd over black people. That's not who I want my neighbors to think I am, and that's not who I want to be. However, the Chart cannot lie, so the problem must be in me.

It must be exposed and reckoned with

."

And so you embark upon course of self-education. You learn new and exciting things about black people (a topic you've had no reason to research since the 5th grade) that make you appreciate them more. You seek out critical opinions of Skynyrd, which you usually shield yourself from, to help you understand the limits of their contributions to American song.

This doesn't take that much work or that much time because your Chart tells you that your opinions are neck-and-neck. In fact, it is precisely

because

 you are only trying to make a tiny little change to your opinions that makes this a light-hearted, doable exercise. If you were trying to straight-up overturn a thirty-year career as a white supremacist, this wouldn't be a fun prospect at all.

Through this process, you are intentionally creating the neural pathways in your own brain of the kind of person you've always wanted to be (and up until now, always thought you were). It's impossible to directly change your own opinions and preferences just by wishing to, but you

can

 expand the limits of your education. Sure, any one example of this will involve intentionally biasing your study materials. But over time, as you push outwards equally at all the boundaries of your ignorance, those biases will all come out in a wash.

After three months (or however long), you rerank each of them, and you find that you have become ever-so-slightly less repulsive to yourself than you used to be. That's really best we can hope for from a website.

The FlickChart approach to film criticism is brutal and unpitying, and as a result helps us reveal more than just our opinions about movies but also how the soft, rounded edges of Western cerebralism allow for massive amounts of self-delusion, which results from the hidden cultural baggage of the Opinion Wars that we fight every day. I urge you to sign up for an account and take the first steps towards seeing who you really are.

The other steps we'll take together

.

Eyeballs

"First Principles", or "6:15am to 6:30am every day"