God and Ghosts

The last Iron Man story arc before Fear Itself was Fix Me, wherein Doctor Octopus forced Tony by threat of violence to new York City with a nuclear device to figure out what was killing him.  The writer introduced the concept of the god number, a mathematical concept which applies to a puzzle or complex system, in that everything has a base solution, and everything else in addition to this is an unnecessary step in the process.  Tony references a Rubik’s cube in that it requires at most 20 moves to solve any scrambled puzzle.  Although not a doctor Tony (which he makes quite clear numerous times) sets to work to try to help Otto.   The end result was an interesting enough solution, as it superseded a technical solution.   The concept that there is some kind of God number though is a common one in comics.  It shows up in at least two areas.   The first is languages.  Other than some alien or digital intelligence, or being granted intelligence by the gods, learning a language takes an immense amount of time, but the smart heroes of comics have their resumes padded with the languages they speak.  This is occasionally used for a good dramatic moment, but mostly knowledge of a number of languages adds nothing to the character.  Furthermore the amount of time required to master a language is so high, that failing a God number (as in that language can be conceived as a complex puzzle) that the knowledge of numerous languages would essentially be a superpower in itself.

Another aspect of comic book god number use is in computer hacking.  Of course some logical and artistic allowances have to be made for the portrayal of computer hacking but generally speaking, this too is regarded as something which is overly simplified.  Computer networks are regarded as all hooked to the internet and all networks are almost instantly accessible, which failing some sort of super cipher hack (which could also be regarded as a god number) would be impossible.   Making this aspect of the concept even more complex is the concept of the ghost in the machine.  Although this would eventually come to be known as something different under Descartes, the original concept applied to machines in the early industrial era.   Despite seemingly perfect design and engineering, machine would act independently and do strange things.  People explained that this was the “ghost in the machine” of that the complexities of the device made it do things that were beyond anticipation.  In a sense computers perpetuate this.   Sometimes things happen on computers which are even beyond the understanding of the best computer scientists, and even faced with a god number solution for some computers, even then some things would till go wrong.  

 Of course the concept behind comics removes much of these constraints, but still in terms of hacking and knowledge of languages, although they are real world activities, they get portrayed in an unrealistic way due to the ease of mastery.  


Posted by SC

I wonder if you would like Casanova now that I reflect... (its an indie book written by Fraction)  
Oh, anyway, nice blog, very fascinating. How to reply though? So much packed into so little, its great how concise you are. Talk about Turing or Gödel or quantum mechanics or dualism. I am glad you use the term correctly though (ghost in the machine), since so many movies and fiction can get it off *smile*

Posted by MrUnknown

I think other things like cooking might also qualify but that might just be a personal challenge XD
Awesome blog! Quite possibly my favorite!

Posted by RazzaTazz
@MrUnknown: I dont recall many super heroes that actually are shown cooking.  I guess in sense cooking also has a god number though, seeing as it is pretty much an equation.  I have to go post on www.cookingsuperheroes.com about this.  
Posted by dondasch

The only person I can think of in a comics fashion who would be able to at least have the languages part mastered in a logical way would be Diana.  After all, having spent thousands of years on an island, where she was learning Philosophy, Martial Combat, Logic, and other myriad skills, it isn't a stretch to believe she would be tutored in multiple languages and have the time and ability to master them.  I believe that time and ability are critical components in any endeavor.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@dondasch: Well Diana's god given wisdom allows her to master languages fairly easily.  
Posted by ShirEPanjshir

It really depends on how many languages you're talking about. I know a lot of people who know how to write and speak at least 5 different languages fluently. I myself am pretty fluent in Dutch, English and French. I also can understand German and Spanish, but my writing and speaking is a bit shady with these two. But I have a friend who's fluent in Dutch, French, German, English, Spanish, Italian and a bit of Russian. And he's only 23 years old. 
So say for someone like Wolverine, who's traveled the world quite a bit and has been around for quite some time it wouldn't be so weird that he'd know several languages. Though of course I do understand your reasoning as to why you'd include the knowledge of multiple languages in this blog post, especially if it's a large amount of languages. I'm just saying that it is pretty believable that several superheroes would know quite a few languages.