Does Avatar have underlying plausibility?

I may not understand all of the plot elements in Avatar having only seen it once and it being very complex, but this is my thinking as to how this movie could have underlying plausibility. I haven’t read any online info about this movie (yet)…

In the beginning of the movie we see a crippled marine who, on the surface of it, appears to be in the same world as you and I. He is put into a scanning chamber with some advanced neural technology. This technology appears to be neurally bidirectional; that is, it can not only read the state of his mind but also stimulate his neurons, giving him the fully visceral experience of using his actual body while being in a rich virtual world.

As his avatar and in the virtual world this marine then interacts with natives. It is tempting to think of these natives as purely digital artificial intelligences (and yet no less people than you and I…). But at least one plot element confuses this thinking. In what appears to be the real world it is mentioned that the digital world is owned by a publicly traded company. Therefore it could be the case that each one of the “natives” is actually a human in the real world that is also using the neural tech to enjoy a virtual life. However, I am inclined to think of them as artificial intelligences because of the fact that the natives believe that they have been their for their entire lives. Nonetheless, it could be the case that they have been their for their entire human lives via the neural tech. I don’t believe a clear resolution to this particular question can be had - do the natives have brains in the real world or are they AI?

Moving along, any plausible account of this movie must explain the blending of reality and virtual reality. That is, how is it possible that people and equipment from the real world end up in the virtual world? This is easily explained using a Matrixesque plot element. That this neural technology does exist, but the technology we see in Avatar is not the actual technology being used.

That is, the reality and virtual realities we are presented with in the movie are all virtual. When you use the virtual neural tech you are simply planted into a new simulation which is relayed to your physical brain via the physical instantiation of the tech we see in the movie. Of course, as far as your mind is concerned there is no difference between physical reality, or any level of nesting of virtual realities, so long as you cannot tell the difference. You are a brain in a vat.

Lastly, I must also entertain the possibility that every person, both apparently human and apparently native, are simulations implemented on digital computers.

Both explanations seem to explain the movie and are possible if not plausible. However, I could be missing something… What is your take on this theory, and do you have anything to add, evidence against these theories or an alternate account?

[edit] I have just realized a third possible explanation, which is that all action occurs in the real world that you and I live in. The neural tech simply puts your mind into another body. Does this work??

The world of the Na’Vi is not a virtual world. It is a very real world which just happens to be very hostile to humans. Think of the avatars as remote controlled robots (albeit organic ones) which are controlled by a neural interface. All the Na’Vi (with the exceptions of the ones that are explicitly shown to be avatars) are real aliens, living in their natural habitat.


You totally misunderstood the movie. It’s a real planet. There is no virtual reality, only reality reality. He’s piloting a body that was grown–a test-tube baby of one of the alien people.

Wow, yet another Avatar thread. I guess the number of threads reflect the box office take. :wink:

I actually thought that this thread was going to be about the biology of Pandera and the Na’Vi. Particularly the evolution of their USB pony-tails. Maybe I missed that thread.

this. it was not as complicated as you made it.

The movie has multiple compatible interpretations, all of which are outlined in my post.


I wish I’d thought of that. That explains a lot of the movie. It would explain why the “aliens” play into so many Hollywood Indian tropes–because they’re just people living out an Indian fantasy. It explains the more fantastic elements (the flying islands, for instance, or the fact that while everything on the planet can conveniently interconnect–suggesting a shared lineage–the bipedal “aliens” only have four limbs while everything else has six).

It also dovetails with the end of Poul Anderson’s “Call Me Joe” (where a paraplegic man is able to psychically project himself into an avatar until eventually leaving his old human shell behind entirely to become a blue somewhat cat-like creature), where the scientists realise that this projection could potentially be used to give many physically-disabled people use of limbs.

Well. There are several possibilities:

  1. Everybody is just playing a role, like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft (“Pandora changelog 2.1.116: epic red dragon mount now only accessible to level 99 warriors. Increased arrow armor penetration ability by 50%; bow-users should now be effective against human marines”), and we see Jake going through a tutorial for his class. The people who are no longer corporeal are spectators, waiting for the match to end (this is how I spent most of my time “playing” Counterstrike for instance)
  2. Either people “go native” and blend completely into the simulation after a lengthy period of time, or there’s some sort of optional “check here to forget your human background” when you first join
  3. They’re just AI. Presumably, at least some of the entities are NPCs–the children, for instance.

I think 1) may make the most sense. The two player races are pretty evenly matched, especially when Pandora gets rebalanced near the end, and it looks like it could be a lot of fun (the actual game based on Avatar, ah, notwithstanding).

Mno… They specifically say that they have engineered a body. This body is shown in a tank which the pilot stands in front of. This body later interacts with people who are just people. All of this is in both the trailer and in the first 10 minutes of the movie.

No … you totally misunderstood the movie. There is no virtual world ala The Matrix. The Na’vi are all real creatures living in the same reality as the human characters. However the humans can use a special neural interface to remotely control specially genetically-engineered Na’vi bodies.

It doesn’t make any sense any other way. If the Na’vi world was all a Matrix-like simulation, how can Grace in human form be taken to the magical glowing tree when she’s dying? How can the evil general directly interact with both the human and Na’vi forms of Jake?

No, it doesn’t. It falls apart at “virtual world”. There is no virtual world. Remember when the female Na’Vi picks up the marine’s actual body? Remember when the marine’s actual body was laying right next to his avatar body? Remember at the very beginning when he wheels by his actual avatar body in the giant test tube and the tech guy says, “look - that’s your actual avatar body”? That wasn’t a metaphor, that actually happened. (In the movie.)

Holy crap, GameFaqs just took a dump on our forum.

So what’d you think of the movie on your 19th viewing, mickrussom? :slight_smile:

Someone’s crabby today.

I have no illusions that there are liberties taken, but you have a couple of things wrong. The ships are anti-matter drives, not solar sails. Generating large amounts of anti-matter may be unlikely in the near future, but it would make the trip possible. Also you got the time wrong, it was six years.

As for the creatures, we have no evidence as to what is likely to happen on another world, so your objections aren’t especially valid.

As to the Na’Vi being similar to us, well it would be required for a love story. So if you can’t accept that, I guess the film just isn’t for you.

As for your compalaint about a magnetic field strong enough to lift mountains… they were largely Unobtanium, which is a room temperature superconductor that has exotic properties. Again, it’s part of the film, and if you can’t accept it, you should really stop watching Sci-fi.

As for disrupting the Avatar signals, it would seem that they didn’t. So your assurances that the high magnetic fields would surely disrupt the Avatar transmissions seems to be based on assumptions, since we don’t know how the signals are transmitted.

As for the receiving apparatus for the Avatar, I assume they designed it to be in the Avatar. Since you know, they probably didn’t want to put the scientists through radical brain surgery. And since it appeared to be pretty seamless, I would suppose that latency isn’t an issue. I don’t know why it would be, if the stuff goes at light speed the latency for chemical neural signals doesn’t seem like it would even be noticed.

As for the planetary brain, the latency could be overcome a bit by the plentiful superconductors available throughout the planet, wouldn’t it?

As for the atmosphere, the planet has .8g and 20% higher atmospheric pressure at sea level or something along those lines. Again, we don’t know why it does, maybe vulcanism is out of control and is pumping mad amounts of gasses to make up for what is stripped away by solar and gas giant winds.

If you want hard sci-fi go someplace else. But if you’re gonna be snippy, at least make an effort to get your facts straight.

Since the Avatar linkup beds resembled MRI chambers (with the spinning circle/tube they go into), it’s likely that was intentional. The Avatar link probably requires unobtanium, too.

It’s entirely possible that the Avatar linkup is only possible with the weird magnetic flux of Pandora (or, maybe, the other Polyphemous moons) in the first place. It’s not affected by the magnetic flux because that’s why it works there.

After all, Jake had never had any contact with avatars before. If it worked on Earth, you’d think there’d’ve been applications for people going into hostile environments with high likelihood of bodily harm… like the marines.

Or, you know, it could be that totally convincing argument by some Internet guy who can’t use linebreaks is actually correct.

MODERATOR COMMENT: Apparently, mickrussom has been posting pretty much the exact same post, all over the internet. I have therefore banned him, as being basically a spammer: cut-and-paste is not discussion.

I’ve left the post, since others have commented on it.

My guess is that he won’t be back for discussion. If he turns out to be a real poster, I’ll be happy to reconsider the banning.

Slight correction - the ships do have photon sails for the Sol-system part of the journey, but these are for catching power lasers, not solar wind.

Jump Clones. :wink:

There’d at least have be a response delay in the relay, it can only go at Light Speed. This would make the body react in a funny way.

Pandora being an MMO would be so dissatisfying and yet kind of cool all at once.