I was thinking about Close

I was thinking about Close Encounters of the Third Kind the other day. I was pretty young, so take this with a grain of salt, but here’s what I was thinking. At the beginning, a mood of chaos is set when as-yet-unintroduced high-ranking officials meet in a remote location where a World War II plane (boat?) has been found. They arrive in a helicopter, and part of the fun and tension of the scene is the landing of this loud helicopter. It really is exciting, because, you know, you don’t see helicopters land every day. These guys must really be important, and there must be quite a bit of urgency!

Nowadays, having helicopters land in movies is totally cliche. I will never again feel like it is significant for characters to use helicopters, so the device is useless. I just say to myself, “Okay, here these guys are. They’re army dudes, there are three of them…” whatever. This is a very general problem with imitation, really.

I’m against imitation.

I suppose it’s crucial for there to be certain kinds of imitation in certain cases, but I would like to strive not to use it. I would rather be the innovator who creates Close Encounters than the joker who just creates knock-offs. Plus, the really significant experiences of my life were never repeats, they were new! It is hard and elusive to communicate something in a truly new way, but very worthwile and satisfying to both parties. So, please, could we all try to innovate a little more?

Greg Langmead
Machine Learning Engineer

I am a software engineer and mathematician. I work on NLP algorithms for Apple News, and research homotopy type theory in CMU’s philosophy department.