Posted by: B Gourley | April 23, 2009

“Deadliest Warriors” = Dumbest TV

I’ve caught a portion of two different episodes now of Spike TV’s Deadliest Warriors, and, I’ve got to say, it is one of the dumbest concepts for a television show that I’ve ever seen. There are interesting little factoids to be gleaned, but you could just as well get them from a show like the History Channel’s Warriors that has a bit of intelligence about it.

The episodes that have appeared so far include include “Apache versus Gladiator” and “Spartan versus Ninja”, which, interestingly, feature mock contests between groups that are completely unalike in objective and character. I am waiting to see an episode called “Marine Sniper versus Kali Knife Fighter” in which they try to draw general conclusions about who would win divorced from the apparently inconsequential context (such as whether the contest is at 1500 feet or 2 feet away.) Spartans were, of course, battlefield troops that fought as a unit in mass campaigns and ninja were covert operators who, as a general rule, tried to avoid combat unless absolutely necessary.

If there is one take-away from my diatribe, it is that warriors are all optimized to the opponent they face and the environment in which they face them. Periods of war create a greatly sped up condition of natural selection. This is not to imply that only the weak or incompetent die in combat. For on any given battlefield at any given time, nearly any outcome is possible. (I say “nearly any” because, for example, a ninja entering into battle with a Spartan in ancient Greece would require a violation of the laws of physics as expressed in Einsteinian Relativity’s prohibition on backward time travel.)However, because of the large numbers involved, those whose methods, weapons, or strategies grant them slight greater probability of victory are likely to be copied in a way that zeroes in on optimality. Of course, this selection process does not invariably apply. Consider the Gladiators, I assume that they didn’t get to choose their weapons, and, therefore, had little capacity to optimize them.  Instead they were likely provided with weapons by people whose objectives were not necessarily related to creating the most effective fighter.

The whole thing seems like it was probably dreamt up by computer gamers with nothing better to do. They’ve got  Excel spreadsheets to choose their winners.

Don’t get me wrong. Perhaps, we can outsource war to these guys, and they could make determinations without any violence taking place. “Terribly sorry Osama, but you don’t have a chance against American SpecOps.” They report.

“Oh… I see… well then, I’ll just have to give up, but, let me say, I still dream of a day when there will be death to all Americans.” Replies Osama Bin Laden.

Finally, what’s up with the commercial in which a Kung Fu artist of some variant is showing how a ninja would use a certain weapon? Could it be that results just might be confounded by having someone who knows nothing about the fighting style in question making the cuts and thrusts off which you are generating the numbers that go into the spreadsheets?

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