Don't Encourage Us

Finding Creative Inspiration in the News of 2023

Episode Summary

In another engaging episode of Don't Encourage Us, our bold hosts, traverse a landscape of real-world oddities and their fictional possibilities. They explore the ecological anomaly of Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia, the ethical quandaries of CRISPR gene-editing, and the implications of genetically modified mosquitoes in disease control. The discussion also covers delivery truck heists and the peculiar intelligence of killer whales, blending each topic with imaginative narratives. TLDR: A journey through strange realities, from roaming hippos and high-tech mosquitoes to unexpected animal behaviors and daring heists.

Episode Notes

In another engaging episode of Don't Encourage Us, our bold hosts, traverse a landscape of real-world oddities and their fictional possibilities. They explore the ecological anomaly of Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia, the ethical quandaries of CRISPR gene-editing, and the implications of genetically modified mosquitoes in disease control. The discussion also covers delivery truck heists and the peculiar intelligence of killer whales, blending each topic with imaginative narratives. TLDR: A journey through strange realities, from roaming hippos and high-tech mosquitoes to unexpected animal behaviors and daring heists.

Learn more about the world you live in:

Orcas are attacking boats, but why?

Genetically modified mosquitos attack...Dengue

Humans begin re-writing billions of years of evolution

Hungry, Hungry Hippos invade Colombia

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: Some documentary or something about Pablo Escobar and his like ranch and that he'd filled it with all these exotic animals. And I remember hearing that hippos were one of the one of his favorites, I guess, and that was really bizarre. And it always stuck in my head, but I didn't know that they're running wild.

And, uh, and eating people. I just added that's part of the screenplay. If you want to take a good

Speaker 2: ad, you want

Speaker 1: it. They're hungry, hungry.

Speaker 2: Welcome to don't encourage us the show where we talk about the big ideas behind fiction projects of all different kinds, books, movies, TV shows, video games. Nothing's off limits. I'm your host, Simon. And I'm here with my cohost, Simon. How are you doing today?

Speaker 1: Doing great. Simon, Simon.

Speaker 2: So today we're looking for creative inspiration in headlines of the year.

But first, what's been on your list this week?

Speaker 1: I've actually, I saw a movie called Fairy, which is from Holland. Okay. It's about a, um, kind of like a petty criminal who's a hitman who ends up looking for these two criminals who shot his boss's son, so he's trying to get revenge on them. You're very, you know, simple kind of revenge driven story, but the actor who plays this guy is just so fascinating to watch because he's very explosive.

I would say he's like. The cross between or cross between Walter White and Tony Soprano. So it's really, it's a really good, um, there's a movie and there's also a series. And I started watching the series too. And the series is really great. It's kind of a, the movie's a prequel to, to the series. And I'm assuming it was a big hit in Holland and Netflix show.

Speaker 2: Oh, interesting. So is it the same, is it like a remake or is it, they just took it and added captions and here you go.

Speaker 1: Yeah. It's, um, no, it's actually just dubbed. Like what I'm watching is dubbed, but the actors who do, who do the

Speaker 2: dub are great. A dubbed import. Yeah.

Speaker 1: A dubbed import. It's, it's really good. I could see them making an, an American version of this show because he starts, he starts getting into like the production of ecstasy and it, you know, it involves like the criminal underworld.

And it's just a really, it's just a really fun show to watch because you really don't know. What he's going to do next. So it just reminds me a lot of like watching the Sopranos and that volatility and that explosiveness underneath everything he does. Yeah. It's

Speaker 2: a good show.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. It's a good show.

And he's trying to, you know, have a normal relationship with a woman he meets, but there's complications there because of the, um, the reasons by which he met her. All having to do with the criminal enterprise and it's, it's getting really good because the actors are really talented. So I don't know, this guy could be like the, you know, Robert De Niro of, of Holland.

I have no idea.

Speaker 2: That's very specific.

Speaker 1: Right. Or, or some, or some, uh, Um, a list actor, you know, they're like, everyone knows who it is. And I'm like, Oh, this guy's pretty good. He should do more stuff. Like, yeah, he's been acting for about 30 years and he's been in like 25 different shows, you know, what do I know?

Just the rabble.

Speaker 2: So it's a pretty, it's a pretty grounded, uh, anti hero crime, drama, revenge story kind of a thing. Is that okay? Yeah.

Speaker 1: It's a, it's a revenge story that kind of, um, transitions over to. Him trying to become a major drug kingpin while trying to keep his personal life together Yeah,

Speaker 2: so would you recommend this to people who like that kind of thing?

Oh for sure

Speaker 1: Yeah, I think you'd enjoy it if you like, you know shows like Breaking Bad if you like The Sopranos if you like kind of like this anti hero and Kind of the criminal underworld those types of novels. I'd say to you like this This show.

Speaker 2: Yeah. That sounds great. I wonder if he'll pop up in the MCU, if he's famous enough, you know, he'll get some possible right superhero character.

Speaker 1: That would be something. I mean, I guess this guy would, uh, would be great at playing a villain. I don't know if you'd be too good at playing a superhero if you saw him.

Speaker 2: Well, yeah, that's the thing. If he's going to be in the MCU and he's a foreign celebrity, then they definitely will not cast him in a role that fits what he's done before.

You know, they'll just slide them into something. He'll be like the head of space command and some sort of other galaxy. And he'll supposed to be like this, uh, nice, reliable leader. And he'll have about a grand total of four minutes of screen time.

Speaker 1: Exactly. Under really heavy

Speaker 2: makeup. Yeah. He'll be purple.

So he's like Jabba the Hutt. Green or something.

Speaker 1: That's exactly what they do

Speaker 2: with him, right? Check him out on Netflix first, I guess, before he shows up in the next MCU project as somebody's dad.

Speaker 1: Yeah. A bit

Speaker 2: roll before the house explodes or something. He's the goofy neighbor.

Speaker 1: Anything's possible.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaking of the MCU, you sent me something interesting that I actually also received from other friends. It's a, uh, by the numbers. Visual, uh, stats of the box office for the MCU. I think you got it from the dig, is that right? Or Yeah, from dig, yeah. Yeah. So, uh, for those of you who have not seen this yet, it basically is a chart that shows the budget, the domestic opening, and the total worldwide box office for all of the MCU films.

And I think the point you can speak for how, you know, what you're interpreted as the point of this, but I think the point is to kind of show the downward slide, like it gradually built and it built to extremely high levels, uh, infinity war, just over 2 billion, uh, in game looks like it's, uh, on its way to 3 billion worldwide.

And then from there, it's, uh, quite a rocky road. So did you have any thoughts or reactions when you took a look at this chart? I

Speaker 1: mean, I, I think overall with the MCU and I'm not a. You know, a huge comic universe fan, but I would say just my take on it is that they're coming out with so many movies. With so many different characters, it doesn't seem like they have like a big through line, except they just stamp that Marvel name on these movies, so you don't get that connection with the character like you would have with, like you would with Iron Man or Batman.

Not that Batman's part of the MCU, but I'm saying that one kind of comic book hero that you kind of follow across a lot of different movies. I think if you just continuously introduce new characters in their own worlds. I think the audiences get completely overwhelmed. Like, it's almost like you're taking a huge gamble on 30 different movies and hoping that one's going to hit.

So you're not really focused in on quality. You're just focused on churning out as many movies as you can as a money grab. And I think the audience feels that way or they notice, you

Speaker 2: know. Some really great points in what you said and I just want to focus on one of them for a second because it's not something that I've heard a lot, which is this idea and I'm just going to expand upon it as a big fan of a lot of these films is that in phases 1, 2 and 3, you could.

Follow one or two characters really closely and they're those characters had arcs and developed over the course of multiple, multiple films, even if they just appeared briefly and in a post credit scene, it still felt relevant. Whereas since then, since Avengers Endgame, that's really not been the case, you know, I think Spider Man has, there's a little bit of connectivity there, but he doesn't appear in a lot of the other projects and we lost Captain America and the Hulk's been a little in and out.

And anyway, the point being, if you. If you're a, um, not a huge MCU fan, you're not watching it just because it's the Marvel comics universe and all the characters in that, then for the first three phases, you could lock into one or two characters like Iron Man that you were interested in. Right. And you could follow that.

And that's really not been the case. And I think you're also right to point out that quality has been an issue. So, yeah. So one thing that really stood out to me when I looked at this graph is how a small number of films out of the whole total of them sort of support the rest, you know, when there's one of these ones that hits over a billion, then the ones after it benefit.

Right. And when there isn't that for a while, or you have a series of bad films and what isn't on this chart, by the way, are the Disney plus shows. So when you have mediocre or, you know, boring, slow, uh, stupid kind of silly, uh, shows as well, I think they negatively impact the films that come after them. So I think if you could correct for that mathematically, a lot of these movies would be at about the same level.

Right. They would earn about the same amount. Now, I know the pandemic played a little bit of a role, but Captain Marvel would have been lower. If it hadn't been after in game, but it got a huge bomb because it came after in game and people thought it's connected. She's in in game. That was her introduction.

And then her solo film comes out. And I think the sequel, which just came out that prompted a lot of people to create stuff like this because it's doing so poorly. I think they're probably roughly equal films in terms of quality, but they're going to end up earning radically different amounts of money.

Because of the films that preceded them and the other MCU projects. So I think that's really the, the biggest problem right now is for whatever reason, after end game Marvel or Kevin Feige decided to make a shift and stop utilizing resources in the same way, you know, choosing very different kinds of directors, different kinds of actors, in some cases, emphasizing younger characters in some cases, or younger actors to play characters and things like that.

And to your point, the through line, the ability to follow one character through multiple films, or at least one or two films a year, right? That's gone. The quality went way, way down because the directors were no longer like super fans of the, of the Marvel comic universe. They were instead like small budget.

Breakthrough independent film directors and their take resulted in a series of films. And to some extent, Disney plus projects that just didn't grab an audience that just weren't that good. And so subsequent films then have to be better to dig out of that hole. And I think that's the place for in superhero fatigue.

I don't think it's a thing. I'm just going to go on record saying I do not think it's a real thing that matters. I think what matters is the quality of the projects. And if you have over six or even worse, nine or 12 months of one good project, uh, it's not enough. To raise the tide for the rest of them.

So anyway, I think it's interesting to see it visually released any more thoughts on

Speaker 1: that Yeah, you mentioned Tony Stark. Mm hmm. That was I was gonna mention Tony Stark earlier because of that Incredible arc that he had in the Avengers, you know, and that really really sticks in people's minds I don't know.

Do you think it also has to do with the the casting of the actors if actors seem miscast? Or they're unknown or semi unknown playing characters that people aren't familiar with at all. Yeah. How do you think that affects

Speaker 2: it? So if you're gonna take the character they're playing out of the equation, right?

If you're gonna separate that out as well, then I think it's less the actor, which is weird and interesting and more what they do in interviews and on social media. So I think Brie Larson, had she not said and done some of the really like, um, uh, what's the word, um, not particularly strategic abrasive

Speaker 1: comments.

Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah, a little bit like arrogance and, um, a little bit. She lacks self awareness. Yeah, or a good handler, and I think that triggered a lot of negativity from many of the fans. And then she pushed back, but made it instead about being a woman. And that, that really, I think, hurt a lot of the future films and projects because it created or forwarded this idea that the MCU is not really for the fans.

In the same way it was like the first three phases are for people who love the Marvel comics and enjoy them. And then after that, now it feels like it's not for them anymore. I don't think that's intentional. I don't think that was their goal. But she played a big role in propagating that narrative. It's unfortunate.

Yeah. What do you think?

Speaker 1: Um, I don't know. It's like you're playing Monday morning quarterback in a lot of ways, right? Like you're trying to, it's not fair for sure. You're trying to back into something. The movie doesn't do well. So you automatically might think, Oh, maybe it was miscast. But in terms of the quality of the actors, I don't think they're using poor quality actors or actors who can't, can't act well.

They know how to act. They're delivering. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So then it's probably a lot of other X factors that are really difficult to really pinpoint or a combination of those factors. And I think they're probably not investing as much in story as they should be. And I think I brought this up in an earlier podcast about this idea that I think a lot of movies start looking at the movie as a special effects movie.

And then they put the script on the back burner and audiences notice that I think just intuitively like there's too many plot holes here that I, I mean, I think there's, there's a sweet spot. There's a level of like the, uh, suspension of disbelief that audiences can handle, but once you break it, they don't trust you anymore and they can't get over.

Whatever that thing is that doesn't make any sense whatsoever, and it just ruins their experience with the rest of the movie. At least that's what happens with me. You know, I just keep thinking about it.

Speaker 2: I think you're right. That's, that's probably the bulk of the audience that they lose from film to film.

Yeah, that's a really good insight. Uh, I do think though that this idea that how the actors behave when they are not in front of the camera and how that affects the MCU and ultimately the success of individual films financially is really important. And I think Brie Larson's an example of being problematic in that way.

I think Letitia Wright. Um, I don't know if you saw Wakanda forever, which was the sequel to Black Panther, they had to pivot because they lost Chadwick Boseman to cancer and they moved his little sister in the, um, in the original film to the title role of playing the sort of the leader, the Black Panther, not really the leader, I guess sort of the leader, but the Black Panther.

Right. And the actress was all over social media, posting quite controversial things about vaccines. It's always been surprising to me that as part of the commitment to starring in one of these potentially multi billion dollar films, one of the conditions doesn't seem to be that someone follows you around, and as soon as you log in to, you know, Twitter or threads or whatever, if you start typing something stupid, this person following you just smacks the phone out of your hand.

I'm surprised Disney hasn't created a Fake version of Twitter to install on their lead actors phones. So they can type whatever they want. And then it gets corrected by a marketing firm before it's posted on the actual Twitter, because it's certainly financially significant enough. And I think the success of the first three phases really emboldened some of the actors that they hired in the latter part of, you know, in the sort of halfway through phase three and onto today and emboldened them to.

Think like you're at the top, you're at the top of the mountain and your personality and your personal opinions are super important to everyone because you're at the top now and it's not about you. In fact, it shouldn't be about you, but I don't think they like that. Believe it. You know, or even want to live that way.

So again, that's just my opinion and I do not know these people personally. So it might be that there's some other force at work here, but I do think that plays a big role in the core fan, uh, well, basically showing up or not showing up for maybe even the larger bulk of the audience. I think your points are extremely valid and that's probably even more impactful.

Speaker 1: It goes back to really focusing in on a great story. Because that should always, yeah, and the

Speaker 2: writing, right. That should

Speaker 1: always be at the core of, of any movie, right? Yeah. But if you put that to the side, no amount of special effects is really gonna fix that.

Speaker 2: No, I think Eternals is a great example of you have a, a talented director who really abandoned story, not so much in the sense that it was just a horribly written story, but it doesn't.

bit the structure properly, like it was too slow or drawn out in places. It didn't flow in the way that, uh, you know, a movie of this type needs to flow. And you're right. The audiences noticed that on some level and it pushed them further away from the MCU, made them less likely to show up for the next

Speaker 1: project.

I'm a big believer that you can have a formula for a movie and still make it very original in the way that. You actually execute on it. So in terms of what I mean by that, in terms of hitting specific plot points at certain minutes of the film, certain twists happening, there's a reason why, let's say the hero's journey works so well.

It's a tried and true framework for a film and it has an infinite amount of ways that you can. Execute on it. But I think when you throw all of that out and you're like, we're not going to follow any of those rules doesn't work so well because I think audiences, whether it's, you know, when you're reading a novel, whether you're watching a series or you're watching a movie, there's certain expectations that you have, then questions that need answers at every point in that story.

And if it's not structured in that way, Okay. There's nothing for you to really wonder about, you know, is our hero, is our hero going to make it? What happened to XYZ that we looked at in the beginning of the movie? Foreshadowing all of these things are really really critical. I wish that with these superhero movies.

They really kept that in mind

Speaker 2: Yeah, well, thank you for that controversial opinion. I'm sure we'll get levels

Absolutely, no, I I think both it is I don't want to say obvious Because there's so many hours of film here and so many new attempts to create a universe across platforms, but it is such a fundamental and sometimes when people get into elaborate, complicated endeavors, they forget the fundamentals. And this is truly a fundamental that's been lost.

So excellent. You know, going forward, I would think they'd stick that up. Just some version of what you said, just stick it up on the wall and every writer's room in front of every director, put it in the editor's office and remind them like, above all, this is what you need in these films. I love your creativity, bring your own touch, but you do need to hit these marks in some way.

Speaker 1: Yeah, and you can't just, just go with the, uh, insert special effect here, you know what I mean, a thousand times in the script.

Speaker 2: Very good. All right. Anything else about the MCU? Did we fix their problems? I think that, yeah, we fixed

Speaker 1: everything. It's going to be a great series. All right. Moving forward. You're welcome everyone.

So we're done with the podcast. Great. Seeing it.

Speaker 2: We've fixed it. Kevin can just write us a check and we'll leave everybody alone. Yeah. So this week I thought it would be fun towards the end of the year here to do something interesting, a little bit different and talk about some real world events that.

Can inspire creative ideas, maybe fictional ideas, right? So I like to call this stranger than fiction, very original. I know it's very clever, but these are all true events that I pulled from different news sources that I follow. And I, I'm sure you did the same and I just thought it'd be interesting to talk a little bit about the details, maybe educate some people who hadn't heard these stories and then see if that inspires you in whatever mediums mediums are your creative mediums.

Yeah, that's, that makes sense. Uh, maybe you can,

Speaker 1: uh,

Speaker 2: maybe you can take this and run with it in some way. You can crochet something beautiful about this idea. Uh, you can make your little short film or your TV series or write your novel or whatever it is. So, uh, do you want to go first? You want me to go first?

How should we do this? I think it

Speaker 1: makes sense for you to go first and then we can talk about the, the one headline that I've, I noticed that is so ridiculous in terms of a crime wave that's happening across the U. S.

Speaker 2: Oh, okay. That does sound good. Well, now I want to do yours, but all right, I'll go first.

You sure? I can do mine. So the, damn it. Now I don't know. Let's do yours. All right.

Speaker 1: Great. Um, there's, uh, there's been a series of crimes that have been taking place. I keep seeing this in major metropolitan areas in the U S where FedEx trucks. Are being blocked in, have you heard of this? They're being blocked in by big swarms of, of people and cars, and they just block in these FedEx trucks and break in and start stealing items from, from the trucks.

Oh, wow. Yeah, and I've seen it several times now and I, and it seems like the police can't get there in time. Um, people just run away from the scene. Nothing seems to happen to the perpetrators whatsoever. Causes all kinds of, you know, danger for the other cars around them. It's just like complete chaos.

Kind of like this idea where people will run into a luxury store, grab a ton of items and run out, smash and grab. But now they're Doing that with actual trucks, FedEx or DHL or UPS and it's becoming a thing and I thought, you know, that would probably be a fun premise for some type of crime movie. And I just kept thinking about like a Fast and the Furious, like what if an accident happens because of that or, you know, a package is stolen from some crime boss or some someone like something really critical, which is in one of these trucks.

And it's the whole, like, this crime syndicate or whatever tries to track down whoever stole it, and they have to go on the run somehow. So, or a competing group is after the same thing, but it would be like, just directly ripped from the headlines. Or they cause an accident, which kills a family member of one of these criminal Syndicate people, you know, so you take this really kind of like, Oh, it'll be fun to rob a truck.

No, one's going to get hurt. And then it just spirals out of control. So I thought that would be kind of, kind of fun as a movie. It's like an, an action thriller type of movie with a really simple setup and a lot of ways to move. And maybe we could do a mashup with your, uh, One of your ideas.

Speaker 2: That is laughable, uh, as the audience will learn when they hear the stories

Speaker 1: that I pulled out. I'm glad I started this off. Hey, we'll,

Speaker 2: we'll take a swing at it. I love that. Uh, are you're thinking, I guess, like kind of a gritty, realistic, uh, tone here, you know, like, uh, grounded, real

Speaker 1: crime. Something like heat.

I was thinking like that type of, that type of tone. And I think it's something that you could make. I mean, you could go as layered as you want. You know, and kind of like unravel the people who are kind of involved with, with this, or you can make it just really straightforward. Someone steals something that's super valuable, some type of jewel or something that's being transported in one of these trucks and it becomes your typical, like, stole

Speaker 2: the wrong thing from


Speaker 1: wrong person.

They want it. Yeah. You've got, you know, your villains and then maybe that person, you know. Pairs up with some type of spy or special forces person that's protecting them, you know, something like that as like a 90 minute kind of thriller.

Speaker 2: Is there a way to do this with a little bit more of a light comedic take where this group, this mob that, uh, you know, robs FedEx trucks are assembled?

Like their porch pirates basically, so there are a bunch of disconnected, disjointed people who, yeah, well, they're just, you know, like regular, not particularly smart thieves, um, and they're stealing boxes, you know, amazon boxes from people's porches and tripping and running, you know, like just that whole like thing you see on youtube all the time and getting away.

And then someone who's a little bit like a pirate captain comes and like assembles them into this like, you know, Pirate force that for sure now mobs. Definitely. And then the people who try to stop them, it's like a metaphor for the British fleet, like they organize,

Speaker 1: Oh, I got it.

Speaker 2: And you do. Okay. Funny scenes that sort of play off of that stuff, like pirates of the Caribbean, but it's like pirates of this, of suburban life or something.

Oh my God. That's great.

Speaker 1: And I just thought of something you could add another comic twist. Like they hijacked the truck and there's like a baby in the back. And the baby talks and then it's like all kinds of hijinks ensue after that.

Speaker 2: Oh man. Yeah. So like they steal the FedEx truck at one point and they're all crammed in it. And then somebody else has like a neighborhood watch group that represents the Royal Navy has like a van or like an SUV and they're all crammed in it. And they're like racing down the road, like throwing stuff at each other.


Speaker 1: becomes like a cross country, like a cross country kind of. Kind of thing.

Speaker 2: Like jumping onto each other's vehicles. Is there a way to do

Speaker 1: that? Yeah, with like a relationship twist thrown in where like the bandits and the ones chasing them There's a, there's a relationship that starts between the two.

They try to keep it hidden. The sky's the limit with this one.

Speaker 2: Little Romeo and Juliet thing there going, yeah, exactly. There's a lot of directions to go. I think your grounded version would probably be more interesting as opposed to what I'm pitching, which just sounds silly. Uh, it's maybe just a sketch.

It's just such a strange

Speaker 1: trend. Like that it's a, it's, I mean, it's really, you know, a pretty serious thing that's going on, but like, how did this even start, you know, like, how did people even think that this was something you could just get away with and they are just getting away with it, you know, this is, yeah, it's, it's kind of a really bizarre thing that's happening.

It's like the smash and grab thing we were, we were talking about too. No, it's kind of like this like, um, super high speed crime in a way, not like robbing a bank, but just like going in and knowing that no one's going to stop you.

Speaker 2: Mm. So you're saying sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Speaker 1: That's exactly

Speaker 2: what I'm saying.

Ah, I knew it. Yes.

All right, good. Anything else about our, uh, our

Speaker 1: pirate force? I'm sure it'll come up again once we start mashing it up with your, uh, We'll,

Speaker 2: we'll weave it in. Well, I don't know how we'll do that with the first one that I came up with, but this is a story that I've been following for quite some time, actually more than a year, but it kind of blew up this year.

It's absolutely fascinating to me. And what really tipped it over from interesting to fascinating are recent scientific. Theories on why it's happening. So I don't know how many of you get your news from science journals or anything like that, but I actually get a lot of my news from there, which I know is weird, but a big story that a lot of people have been following are the killer whales who have been attacking yachts and sailboats in the Mediterranean off the coast.

And FedEx trucks.

Speaker 1: See, it was easy.

Speaker 2: There it is. Done.

Speaker 1: Perfect. We will weave it all

Speaker 2: together. I'm chased by dolphins. So this has been,

this has been happening off the coast of Spain and Portugal for For several years now, uh, right at this point, we're averaging about 200 attacks per year and the numbers are increasing. So we're talking about a group of orcas, a pack, you know, they travel in packs a little bit like wolves and other animals and they're attacking, they're banging into the side of the boat.

They're hitting the rudder. Enough that they have successfully sunk four boats. They've severely damaged quite a few boats that I think were probably totaled, but actually sunk four of them. So, uh, had you heard about this story? Had this come up in any of your news? No. That's kind of fascinating.

Interesting. Yes. That's what I thought. It's fascinating. Right? So, um, here's the scientific theory that for me bumps it up a level. All right. So this is according to research published in the journal of marine mammal science. The theory is that one female orca, which they named White Gladys, was injured in a collision with a boat or trapped in illegal fishing nets, and that traumatized her, and now she attacks boats when her trauma symptoms are triggered.

Now, orcas are known to copy behaviors from each other. That's something that's been observed many, many times and is part of how they hunt different, uh, prey in different parts of the world, which they do very differently. They, they eat different stuff and they have different tactics, but they can copy.

Behaviors that they observe and now there are bunches of different orcas and I think they're in different packs who have all adopted this behavior. So typically they only copy behaviors that are advantageous, but in this case, I don't know why attacking boats would be advantageous, but they're doing it anyway.

So what do you think about that? Such

Speaker 1: a strange theory. Right? That there would be like this virality around their non native behavior. Like is, is that even, I mean are there other examples in the animal kingdom where this type of thing happens? Because what I've always understood about biology is that we're really the only only species that does things that affect ourselves in a very, very negative way in terms of our like chosen behavior, like smoking or drinking or doing drugs or self destructive type behavior.

That it's not natural for the animal kingdom for you to do something that isn't advantageous to your survival or the, your future offspring survival. So that's, that's really strange. I guess I'm having a hard time believing it. Yeah, right? Like, it's an interesting theory, but it doesn't make too much sense that it would spread in that way because there's no reward mechanism.

At the end of it, right? Like, what are they getting out of it? One is getting revenge or the appeasement, right? The lowered anxiety or the trauma or trying to deal with trauma symptoms, but none of these other whales or orcas would have. Any of these trauma symptoms to deal with. So all they would end up with is a headache.

I guess, you know,

Speaker 2: yeah, you're making excellent points. But what I think is most interesting about this for me is that it really brings animal intelligence into the spotlight. It's The intelligence is complex. It's multifactorial. A lot of people think of it as like an IQ score, like, you know, 25, whatever your IQ might be.

That makes you smarter, dumber, relatively this out of the other than other people. But in reality, it's a lot of very Different factors that in other species, theoretically, at least could develop in different ways, different relations, those, those abilities would have different relationships to each other and might be more or less developed depending on how they use their brains and what kind of evolutionary pressure they've been under.

So in this particular case. You could say, and I think this is maybe something you were suggesting that the scientists are using, uh, measures, judgments, theories that apply to humans. And they're trying to force them on a killer whale, right? And that doesn't really make sense, but another way to flip it around is to sort of pick up from your point of saying, and I'll just sort of expand or, or alter it a little bit.

So feel free to tell me if you disagree with, that's not what you're trying to say or not compatible disagree, but a lot

Speaker 1: of. Sorry. Go ahead. Stranger

Speaker 2: than fiction. Um, a lot of living things on earth have innate mechanisms that respond to reward and punishment, right? So if a behavior is rewarded, they do it more.

If it's punished, they do it less. However, humans are often an exception to that. And I think one way to make sense of that is that they have higher, higher order thinking abilities. They have other cognitive abilities that are adequately developed to override that. So a human can somewhat fanatically repeat behaviors.

And by the way, behaviors can include thoughts and thought patterns and things like that. But they can repeat that, those reactions, even though those reactions are being punished because they decide, often incorrectly, that it's still a good idea. Right. It's kind of the definition of a fanatic. So it suggests, or at least introduces the hypothesis that orcas are adequately cognitively developed in specific ways to override the innate mechanisms around reward and punishment.

To sustain behavior that is a dysfunctional product of trauma. Again, the idea that they can be traumatized suggests that they have developed cognitive capacities that exceed what we would have imagined. Does that make sense? Yeah,

Speaker 1: I agree. I mean, I think in terms of that being a fascinating. Part of the story or like the the kind of like the key takeaway from the story But the reason I would argue could be something completely different like what's to say that they don't see these yachts as imposing on their territory So they're trying to kind of bat them away as best they can.

So maybe they're, they're not perceiving, it's not a function of, you know, one of our own was traumatized. So we, they learned that behavior from that one orca, or they're getting revenge for that one orca, at least the ones in their immediate vicinity. But in fact, the yachts now, there's so many of them.

When before, maybe there weren't so many. I don't know if this is the case. It's just theory. Maybe there's more now than ever. So now they've hit that tipping point where they're like, this is encroaching on our territory. We need to do something about it, which would also be very high ordered thinking as well.

Speaker 2: Could be right. Or it could be, um, the activation of mechanisms they already possessed around territorial, you know, protecting your territory. So, you know, I think what's really interesting about this is that anyone listening can generate lots and lots of hypotheses and ideas. About why this is happening.

And it's multi, you know, uh, how do I put this? There's, there's multiple facets to it, and you can have multiple theories for each facet. So from a creative standpoint. You, whichever combination you like or whatever's popping, if you're listening right now, whatever's popping into your mind could lead you to an incredible idea that you can set literally anywhere using literally anything, uh, and then apply these ideas to that.

And I would love to see where that takes your imagination. Yeah, I mean,

Speaker 1: it, it could be a movie around interrogation of one of the orcas. Finding out what the real story is, you know, bringing them down to the police station, you know, just like a, a two camera setup. Give him cigarettes. So what's really going on in this sliding that, that nature article across the table?

Speaker 2: Is this you? Or it could be a new law passed, mandatory therapy for orchids.

Speaker 1: Or it could be the latest Pixar film.

Speaker 2: Exactly. Right. And you know, I, my brain just runs in so many directions and I'm not going to bore everybody with, you know, the idea of what does this tell us about alien life or what does this tell us about how we make sense of life on our own planet and our place, you know, in that pantheon.

I really want people to think about this for themselves and run in whatever direction they want to go. This is the world we live in, right? Maybe you heard these details and you thought, you know what, the answer is way simpler than that. Or maybe you listened to the way we talked about it and you thought, you know, it's more complicated than that.

Uh, and that's so interesting to me. So this story, I think, I hope there's more information that comes as marine biologists research this. Obviously there's enough money in it. It's a busy area. There's a lot of people in boats that are ships or whatever that aren't that big. Uh, so it is a danger. Uh, my hope, of course, is that nobody comes to view orcas as, you know, a threat to humans.

This is not about being a threat to humans at all. There's some property damage, but Hey, you know, I consider the ocean to be the wilderness. And the second you dip a toe in the wilderness, you know, the rules change. It's not a shopping mall, right? It's not a business complex or what office building. So things happen.

Damage gets done. Animals, damage vehicles all the time. It's not, it's not a reason to go murder a bunch of animals. That's ridiculous. But it does say a lot. About the, their psychology, I think,

Speaker 1: how do you think this would ultimately be resolved? Like what type of technology do you think in the future could kind of solve for this?

Would it be technology understanding the orca brain? Would it be more observational techniques that advance that they start seeing patterns and ultimately find out what the real issue is? Or what would, what would you, what do you think? I think more

Speaker 2: shows at SeaWorld and similar places. I think we're like

Speaker 1: toy boats.

Speaker 2: No, I think we just need to capture more orcas, isolate them in small pools and charge people money to sit and watch them do tricks.

Speaker 1: So you just create a whole generation of traumatized orcas and

Speaker 2: send them out and see what they do. Yeah. You got it. Makes sense. You're way ahead of me. I love it. Yeah. Um, no, I, I think it's, it's first and foremost going to require a pretty dramatic shift in the way we conceptualize intelligence in species.

I just don't think we've found the right way to think about it. Uh, and maybe some of that will require technological advances. Maybe we'll develop ways to, you know, observe activity in animal brains without, uh, you know, creating such an artificial circumstance that it's useless information. Uh, I don't know.

You know, I think it's patience, it's time, and it's a lot of challenging, even. Fundamental assumptions that often we acquired, you know, as scientists, as human beings from civilizations that, that have came and went thousands of years ago, right? They had ideas about the world because in many ways they were more connected to it and, you know, in the animals and species and plants in their area.

And we still think like they do in a lot of ways. And that's not always right.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I mean, it, and the root cause of, of what's, what's. Causing them to act in this way could be something that we can't even imagine it could be something right or that we can imagine, but really wouldn't think would be the case.

Something minor. Maybe it's a reject. The sound of the engine reminds him of something else that we've never picked up on that they encounter all the time and that they just reject. Or never go near and we're bringing it right to them. Yeah,

Speaker 2: or they have a much more complicated social structure and this whale white Gladys somehow has an important position in the hierarchy where such that what she does and the message she spreads is something that they have learned or the society they've developed compels them to follow.

Uh, without question and that's, that would be mind blowing the idea that a bunch of killer whales in a region that covers, you know, hundreds of miles, uh, would have a community, would have a civilization of sorts, I guess, without like minus some key aspects of civilization. Uh, but they have learning and they pass it down and we just had no clue.

Uh, it wouldn't be the first time people have thought similar things about whales. Yeah, it could be like a

Speaker 1: hive mind. We just don't.

Speaker 2: Could be that too. Yeah. We don't know. She could be

Speaker 1: the queen. Yeah. Or they have a sense that we've, you know, another way of, of viewing the world or sensing the world that we just aren't picking up on.

You know, you know how right, how they say dogs, it's first smell and then it's sight. Maybe there's something going on here too. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah. That's a, it's a good one. Maybe they're, uh, they're just teenagers showing off for each other and it's escalating. Right? Pretty soon they're gonna stop FedEx boats,

It's steal all the packages. That's

Speaker 1: a crossover. I wanna see. It's spreading to the whales.

Speaker 2: They're joining the games. Get in the water.

Speaker 1: Oh, where would you take that? Coast Guard is now involved. There's a Sharknado crossover movie.

Speaker 2: Oh my God. It just writes itself. This is

Speaker 1: amazing. This is beautiful. And what were we talking about before? You gotta focus on story, right? What better story than this?

Speaker 2: We'll just hit all the usual beats, the hero's journey, and we're done.


Speaker 1: exactly. No problem. Twist. It's the whales.

Speaker 2: Uh, so you know, I'm, I'm thinking about time. So instead of going into the depth that I had planned for some of these other stories or skipping them entirely I'm just gonna give you the short version and then maybe the last one we can talk about a little bit more because I think It's a fun one that you'll like so this is something that's been popping up in the news But in different ways for the better part of a decade and this is the idea of altering Mosquitoes have you encountered this in the news?

Speaker 1: I have I have yeah, it's a fascinating

Speaker 2: Yeah. So, uh, the results are in, right? So we're talking first about genetic alteration, but the more recent story that I wanted to talk about today is this idea of dengue and releasing mosquitoes that have a particular bacteria in their stomach. So the World Mosquito Program, a non profit organization, has been conducting experiments in Colombia, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam, among other countries, where they modify mosquitoes by introducing a lot of this bacteria into their, I guess, digestive systems, although don't quote me on that, and this particular bacterium Thank you.

Consumes breaks down dengue. So, uh, the research recently came in, uh, three cities, three heavily populated cities in Colombia. Dengue incidence dropped by 94 to 97 percent after the introduction of these mosquitoes.

And in 2021, the first genetically modified mosquitoes, which is a different strategy here, but same vector were released in the United States by a biotech firm named Oxitec, right? And it was very controversial. It was in Florida, but it's been fairly well received since. So as a species, we are now using mosquitoes and other things, other you know, creatures to control diseases.

And other problems that we don't like, right? We're using mosquitoes to control mosquitoes and mosquitoes to control dingay. And this is just, and this is my prediction, but this is just the beginning. This is the, these are the early stages. These are the frontier stages of the kind of alterations, the kind of like a new wave of using living things to shape the living things of our world.

So it's not, it's not a new, completely new concept, but we're doing it in new ways and on much larger scales. So if you're a creative person, this may scare you and you may have lots of thoughts about how this could go wrong. Or if you're more in an optimistic mood. You know, you're a little bit more Pollyannish or positive about the future.

If you're a Star Trek fan, perhaps, uh, then you might see how this could become standard practice and could save millions of lives or even protect the environment when one particular species gets out of control for reasons that are probably our fault to begin with. So any reactions to this one? I

Speaker 1: think this is a really good one.

I mean, you can take this one in a lot of different directions, like you said. I mean, I would, I would tend to take it in a more. Negative direction, simply because I feel with this type of like biological engineering that we're playing around with. Yeah, we've been doing it for a really long time.

Obviously, like, we're not eating apples that our ancestors ate. We're eating apples that are much more palatable to us, et cetera. And we've been doing it for Sweeter. Sweeter. We've been doing it with food for a hundred years, hundreds of years. Um,

Speaker 2: Gregor Mendel. Yeah,

Speaker 1: that guy. Damn you. Um, that's your fault.

That's why we're genetically modifying mosquitoes now because of that guy. I started to read a book called the coming wave and it talks about AI technology and this type of biological engineering. And one of the things they talked about was that even now there is equipment that allows people with the basic knowledge of biology.

A relatively basic knowledge of biology, and also, um, how to modify DNA that could create viruses that could be not only undetectable, but super deadly, be able to kill hundreds of thousands of people, be released, and there's no vaccine for them that could be created because they'd be so genetically modified.

So I think with this type of technology, I think, I hope that's not the case, but as it advances more and more for the good, there's also that dark side of it as

Speaker 2: well. Oh, the potential for danger increases dramatically. Yeah. As the technology advances.

Speaker 1: Aren't in a position to be able to control and once this technology and this is something the author brought up is that, you know, we're thinking about it in terms of all the good it can do, but we're not looking at terrorist states or terrorist groups that look at this as an opportunity to kill, you know, millions of people or, you know, doing the opposite with these mosquitoes, you know, creating some type of malaria strain.

That's unstoppable, and that spreads across the rest of the mosquito world. Like, these are things that we would think that could never happen. That's an impossibility, but for some of these groups, it's something that's just part of their, part of their DNA to do. To cause chaos. Absolutely. That's what's scary about it.

Not that this is being used for dengue, but what else will this technology lead to? And once it gets out of control, there's no putting it back.

Speaker 2: Well, I mean, this is kudzu all over again, right? Kudzu was introduced and we don't, we don't need to go into the detail because I'd like to get close to wrapping this one up before too long.

But there are multiple examples of species that have been introduced to control a problem and have just become, they've just gotten out of control. Right? So the potential is there. This is on a new level. This is a degree of technology that's not cutting some plants and, you know, flying them over to another country and, uh, planting them.

This is on a whole new level and it's a, you know, it potentially could result in, uh, a pandemic level problem, I think. Uh, but anyway, that's, that's the negative view. The positive view is it cures cancer or something like that somehow. So again, I think there's a lot of room for people to be creative. And honestly, the reality is usually somewhere in the middle, right?

It's a continuum. It's it's so far, it's not been enough to wipe us out, but it hasn't solved all our problems, whatever the technology is, you know, I think

Speaker 1: in, in a nutshell, we're a very, very. bad at predicting the future. We've always been as humans, right? In 1950s, what was the year 2000 going to be like, you know, flying cars, et cetera, you know, who would have predicted the smartphone, right?

Speaker 2: Star Trek

Speaker 1: besides Star Trek. Cause they predict everything besides Star Trek and the Simpsons. But besides those two, I think, uh, we've been wrong

Speaker 2: getting longer. Yeah.

Speaker 1: I need to talk to your point. How do I talk my way out of this one? Um, next topic.

Speaker 2: Yes. So anyway, there's a lot of meat, I think in stories like that. And again, another story, just a brief, uh, touch on it. CRISPR technology, CRISPR gene editing. Are you familiar with that at all? Okay. So you've read about that. That's been all over the news for years. The Chinese have been using that and a lot of people question.

Some of the ethics and how they've been using that technology, but Hey, you know, I'm sure countries all over the world are running experiments here, but in the public eye, CRISPR gene editing is now being introduced to the FDA for review. So I think this is the first time ever the FDA is considering approving CRISPR gene editing.

And in this case, it's to treat sickle cell. So that means the doors opening for gene editing, right? Did you ever see Gattaca? Right. That's the direction that this could easily go. However, if you're more creative, maybe you can think of some other potential impacts of allowing the medical field to edit human DNA to ostensibly help with terrible, terrible problems, at least initially.

Uh, but then who's to say that being born with sickle cell doesn't end up giving you a major evolutionary advantage or competitive edge in society if the treatment somehow leaves you better off than someone who never had sickle cell, right? I think that's a strong possibility. And once they get in there and they start monkeying around, literally everything's connected.

So the impact is not going to be as simple as just you had this diagnosis and now you don't that's just not how things work Right. So anyway interesting story any Reactions to that

Speaker 1: one. I think again with this type with this type of technology Um, I don't think we're capable of understanding, understanding what else you're going to affect when you're modifying someone's genes at that level, right?

You may be eradicating sickle cell, but maybe there's a side effect that rears its head later that you, you're not aware of. Cause the body is such a complicated machine, but it

Speaker 2: seems like secondary effects can be pretty intense. But we're looking

Speaker 1: at all of this, I think in two binary away. And these are issues I think that we're just not capable of really understanding the full ramifications of until it's too late.

So, and I, you know, would apply that to AI, but I don't want to get into that because we always get into AI, but it's just that, that idea in general that, you know, you have this technology, there'll be oversight, but who, who is this oversight? And this technology develops so quickly by the time these laws are passed to deal with any of this technology.

It's advanced. You know, it's multiplied itself. It's, um, by, you know, tenfold, twentyfold, hundredfold. So who's, who's overseeing this? And is it the government? Is it one government? Is it some, you know, United Nations type of organization? Doubtful. Yeah. Right. It's going to be like a space race. But in advanced technology, that could be potential in space, but not in space right here, or maybe in space, who knows?

Speaker 2: So a regular race, like it's going to be

Speaker 1: like an amazing race. There you

Speaker 2: go. Absolutely. Yeah. So the last story is a fun one. And I think. It's a, I picked it in part because I think you'll enjoy it. And I don't know, I did send this to you in advance and we actually did slightly prepare, I guess, in that sense, but I don't know if you actually clicked on the link and read it.

But first question, did you know that there are hippos in Columbia?

Speaker 1: I had heard this because I think Pablo Escobar bought a hippo. Uh, you knew about this. Okay. As a kingpin. Yes. Yeah. I knew that.

Speaker 2: Yes. So for those of you who didn't know this, first of all, there aren't supposed to be any hippos in Columbia, but there are, there are about 181 to 215 hippos.

That's the estimate. They are the descendants of, I believe. Three hippos, no, four hippos, one male and three females who were purchased by Pablo Escobar and after he died, they escaped and started a mating. And because they had no predators and the conditions were quite comfortable, they have now spread.

Columbia, uh, mostly along the same river, the Magdalena, I believe Magdalena river is the right way to say that. So the story now that's old news. Obviously they've been, um, you know, having fun since the 1980s. Um, I guess the 1993 is when he died. So since then, the hippos have just been going at it. And having a great time.

Um, but the Colombian government is trying to get serious about managing this problem because you know, there's, you know, 200 of them now. So as a lot of controversy around this, people don't want the hippos mistreated. So their plan is to capture and sterilize a lot of them, give some of them away to zoos.

The argument is around killing them. I can't imagine that. Quite a few of them aren't going to meet an untimely end, but they're causing problems. So it's interesting that you had heard this. Do you recall where you heard that there was a invasive hippo population? I

Speaker 1: actually hadn't heard that it was an invasive population, but I'd seen some documentary or something about Pablo Escobar and his like ranch and that he'd filled it with all these exotic animals.

And I remember hearing that hippos. Or one of the, one of his favorites, I guess, and that was really bizarre and it always stuck in my head, but I didn't know that they had, they're running wild and, uh, and eating people. I just added that. That's part of the screenplay. If you want to take

Speaker 2: a good ad, you want it.


Speaker 1: hungry, hungry. The movie.

Speaker 2: Oh, that's great. All right. So to wrap up today, any questions. For the audience, anything you'd like them to answer.

Speaker 1: I would like to know how you'd mash up any one of these, uh, these stories together, because I think there, there are ways to do it. That could be really farfetched. I mean, you could take a more serious angle.

Um, yeah, I just, we just want to know what. What they, what they do with this one or this set of stories or news articles

Speaker 2: and bonus points. If you can wrap them all together in one story,

Speaker 1: that would be,

Speaker 2: that would be something that's, uh, it's our competition. For our podcast. Yeah, excellent. All right. So thank you to the people who research these articles, the journalists, the scientists, everyone involved.

Thank you very much. Thank you to the hippos and the mosquitoes. Thank you to the listeners. Remember as always stay away from those like and subscribe buttons. If you want to reach the show and tell us your thoughts, we'd love to hear it. You can reach us at don't encourage at gmail. com. You can flame us on YouTube.

We also have an Instagram account. You can follow us there. It's all under the same. Don't encourage us banner. Uh, and I'll throw some additional info, maybe some links to these articles in the show notes. So from Simon and Simon, we'll see you next week. Take care, everybody.