EPISODE REVIEW: Alphas: "Cause and Effect" (Episode 2)

Jim Stiles
Jim Stiles's picture

This episode involves an escaped mental patient who is both an Alpha and is a paranoid. He is paranoid because he does not quite understand that other people do not also have his ability to set into motion complex chains of cause and effect that have the desired effect.

While a viewer with a casual understanding of Newtonian mechanics may view this special talent as a speculation of science fiction, it is as much fantasy as the boy with the talent to read wi-fi and cell phone signals. In the real world, all physical measurements are subject to random error, systematic error, and mistakes. If, for the purposes of illustration, we assume that observations made by the paranoid Alpha are free of mistakes, then his measurements of physical quantities would still be subject to small, non-zero inaccuracies. Chaos theory says that these inaccuracies in the initial values of a problem's parameters will oftentimes grow uncontrollably when the problem's solution is governed by a non-linear equation. While linear equations are common in Newtonian physics, the Newtonian behavior of something as common as a pendulum is governed by an equation with significant non-linear terms when the magnitude of the swing is large. With complex chains of cause and effect events as what was shown in episode, the inevitable errors will grow to an extent that makes the prediction of the final outcome impossible. It is this effective indeterminacy, that makes this paranoid Alpha's talent fantasy instead of science fiction.

At the end of the episode the paranoid Alpha is either dead or escaped and the other characters do not know which is true. The paranoid Alpha suspects that the existance of Alphas is humanity's "out of box" problem in much the same sense that the Spanish were the Aztec's "out of box" problem. The leader of the Alphas group strong believes that Alpha talent is a gift that can benefit humanity, but the other characters are not as certain.

My personal belief is that a paranoid with the talents he displayed during the episode would be a problem that society cannot tolerate. His delusions as to the true motivations of the people around him run so deep as to make Larry Niven's character Sigmund Ausfaller appear to be a model of mental health.

Yes, especially those who follow the work of Thomas Szasz and other Anti-psychiatry activists.

PLEASE NOTE: Republibot was, is, and evermore shall be a pro-Psychiatry site.