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Rick and Morty Rewatch – S1E4

“M. Night Shaym-Aliens”

In this episode, aliens use a simulated world to try and scam Rick out of his secrets. Jerry is taken by accident, and ends up having the most meaningful day of his life inside the simulation.

“Careful guys, you’re gonna burn out the CPU on this one.”

A clever bit I hadn’t paid attention to before is how, in the opening scene, we see Rick examining the inside of some sort of animal. I think that in previous viewings I just saw this as normal Rick stuff, but now I realize that he’s analyzing the simulation and seeing how detailed it really is.

“If there’s a weiner on that monitor, I swear to God, Stu…”

Making the aliens uncomfortable with nudity was a clever way to characterize them as being sort of dumb and neurotic. The way it was presented was almost childish, a sort of collective “ewww” reaction. It didn’t seem like a religious prohibition or a thought-out belief, it was just pure disgust. The aliens also childishly made fun of each other, implying that the others wanted to see nudity as a sort of stigmatizing joke.

“Why would a Pop Tart want to live in a toaster?”

What I like about this whole visual gag of Pop Tart people living and driving in toasters is the way it actually does kind of make a sort of associative sense when you first see it, and then the show breaks it down one piece at a time to show how it’s total nonsense. Morty points out that a Pop Tart would logically fear a toaster, not live in it. Rick then points out that the really dumb part is that they’re driving around in little toasters. Real cars don’t look like miniature versions of houses, they look like something totally different.

“When do we need food? When we’re hungry!”

This is part of Jerry’s pitch to the minimum capacity simulation executives at his company. I’ve been watching random episodes of Mad Men lately, so I found this part kind of amusing. I can’t honestly say whether or not “Hungry for Apples?” would be a good ad campaign. I mean, it sounds kind of stupid. But I feel like “Got Milk?” sounded pretty stupid too when it was first pitched.

I wonder about it though. When some guy pitched “Got Milk?” did everyone immediately know he was on to something? Or did he get weird looks from everyone? I’m not in advertising, and I don’t really know how they think.

According to Wikipedia, the ad firm that came up with “Got Milk?” almost didn’t go with it, saying it was lazy and wasn’t grammatically correct. That’s all I could find though, really. Did some guy decide to make “Got Milk?” his stand, the thing that he was going to go to bat for? Did someone risk his whole career, his livelihood, to push “Got Milk?” through? My quick Google search didn’t say, so I’ll probably never know.

“I’ve got an erection the size of an East Coast lighthouse.”

This is a strangely specific line. His erection isn’t just the size of a lighthouse – it’s the size of an east coast lighthouse. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Are east coast lighthouses especially large lighthouses?

I decided to answer this question. I pulled a list of lighthouses from wikipedia and wrote a Java app to sort them into east and west coast, then compare them statistically.

It turns out, however, that there are two somewhat different ways of measuring a lighthouse’s height. The first looks at the actual height of the structure, while the other looks at how the the lighthouse’s light sits above the water. The two can differ substantially, particularly if the lighthouse is built atop a high cliff.

If you look at just the size of the structure, it turns out that the east coast wins easily:

East Coast Mean: 106.913795 feet
East Coast Median: 104 feet
West Coast Mean: 51.22222 feet
West Coast Median: 46 feet

The typical east coast lighthouse is a tower built over 100 feet high, while the typical west coast lighthouse is only built up to about 45-50 feet.

A different story emerges, however, when we look at the height of the light itself above the water:

East Coast Mean: 99.31746 feet
East Coast Median: 90 feet
West Coast Mean: 139.86046 feet
West Coast Median: 96 feet

The west coast is actually winning now! Their towers are half as tall as the east coast, but they end up getting the light higher up anyway. They were able to do just as much with a lot less.

What this tells us is that Jerry may have a big lighthouse, but he doesn’t really know what to do with it.

“Everyone whose name begins with an L who isn’t Hispanic, walk in a circle the same number of times as the square root of your age times ten!”

This is Rick’s attempt to overwhelm the CPU by making it perform a bunch of computations. However, I think that Rick could do better than this. This type of calculation may seem hard to a human, but it’s a cakewalk for a computer. The extra computations required to handle this would be insignificant compared to the complexity of simulating a realistic world.

If Rick really wanted to overwhelm the computer, he would want to make it perform non-parallelizable operations on very large data sets. He could also do things to try and generate various overflow errors, or access unauthorized parts of memory. A suitably robust design would be able to handle these problems safely, but that would be Rick’s best chance to try and overwhelm the simulation and freeze it.

“So what if the most meaningful day of your life was a simulation operating at minimum capacity?”

Philosopher Robert Nozick famously proposed the classic thought experiment asking: if you could live a perfect simulated life and never know the difference, would that be good or bad? The question has kept going through a great deal of literature and pop culture.

Jerry’s version of the story raises a related question: what would that perfect simulation be like?

For Jerry, the answer seems to be a universe where everyone is incredibly moronic, is a stereotype, and exists only to interact with him. This is a universe where Jerry ends up experiencing just enough hardship to feel meaning, but then achieves wild levels of success for his efforts. It wasn’t intended to be a perfect universe for Jerry, but it ended up being a world that, in some sense, fulfilled his deepest needs.

I think we all like to think our perfect universe would be something subtle and meaningful. But what if our perfect universes are all like Jerry’s? What if what we really want is to be better than everyone at everything and achieve great success after just enough hardship to make it feel meaningful? What if the perfect universe would be really easy to make, not really hard?

“You little son of a bitch! Are you a simulation? Are you?”

Until this point, we’ve seen Rick be cool as a cucumber about most everything. Even when it looked like he lost, he took it reasonably well. This moment shows us that Rick may have won the mindgames, but the layered simulation did take a toll on him, at least a little bit. He’s not as tough as he usually looks.

Tom Goldthwait (@Authw8)
Tom is a furry woodland creature. At times, he emerges from the enchanted forest to make a new blog post.

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