Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: 'I'm here to return what Prometheus stole.' would be a good thing to say if you were a fighter pilot in a Michael Bay movie where for some reason the world's militaries had to team up to defeat every god from human mythology, and you'd just broken through the perimeter and gotten a missile lock on Mount Olympus.
This comic is about copyright and patent, which are temporary government-granted monopolies for authors and inventors. It refers to the cultural hero Prometheus in Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. In this case, Prometheus claims that it is more like sharing than stealing because the gods still have the original fire. By analogy, uploading music, movies, and software is more like sharing than stealing because the authors and inventors still have the original files. Fire-sharing is a pun for file-sharing. "Fire wants to be free" is a pun for the slogan "Information wants to be free."
The title text refers both to Michael Bay, the director of the movies Transformers and Armageddon, and to the novel "Salvation War" by Stuart Slade, in which Humanity goes to war just as described. "Returning fire to the Gods with interest" is also the plot of the Terry Pratchett graphic novel The Last Hero.
- [Cueball addresses his Cueball-like friend, who just walked in-panel. Cueball points at Prometheus (who is also Cueball-like). Prometheus is holding his hand to his chin and holding a colorful flaming torch in the other hand.]
- Cueball: Prometheus has stolen fire from the Gods!
- Well, sort of.
- I mean, when you use a fire to make another fire, the first fire doesn't go away.
- So really, it's more like "sharing".
- [Caption below the frame:]
- Fire wants to be free.
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Could this be an analogy for file sharing? 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
As an author of very expensive business software, I love the idea of giving it away and making money through "value added". I truly believe that most people who "steal" software would never have paid for it anyway. Similarly, when I worked for a clothing manufacturer, other companies were always copying our designs but we made more money than them because we were the place to go for the new stuff. Hax (talk) 10:19, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
I'd like to say something like "The title-text gives what might be a typical approach to movie dialogue in a typical (Michael) Baysian movie plot," but am not sure I'm correct and/or pithy enough. 220.127.116.11 12:48, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
- Do we also need to explain that this line is not in reference to an existing movie? DanB (talk) 12:55, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
- No, but it IS a reference to the novel "The Salvation War" by Stuart Slade in which modern day humanity DOES go to war with the gods. ERBOCH (talk) 1:33, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
Does the returning what Prometheus stole explanation need to be that involved? I thought it could be interpreted as a simple play on words referring to "returning fire" since it's also just a phrase that means to return an attack? 18.104.22.168 14:24, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
- Haha.. Vote to edit title text to "I'm here to return fire." However, I'm wondering if we've inverted the meaning through the ages, and if the etymology of the phrase won't reveal pacifist origins: returning the fire as in refusing to fight. Refusing to light a war-signal, or light arrows etc. 22.214.171.124 16:40, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
- I'm all for information freedom, but you CAN steal fire. You could take away the only spark/source of ignition/activation energy provision in the possession of the gods. Secondly, fire needs fuel to burn. Take away all their fuel, and you've stolen their fire. Alright, you have your own fuel? Fine, you're still stealing fire, because once you've discovered how to make a fire - you burn your fuel, release more combustible products, and choke the atmosphere (Though, we'd have snuffed ourselves out before we snuffed out Olympus). In any case, you're accelerating the heat death of the universe, and making all thermodynamic cycles "less efficient" because of the higher sink temperatures. But that's not the marrow of the bone of contention. Even the original Prometheus-v-Gods animosity arose because of information theft, and not 'property' theft. 126.96.36.199 16:40, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
- You CAN steal fire, but looking at the Prometheus myth it doesn't seem gods lost the fire after the "theft". Would be pretty hard, too, considering the gods (Hephaestus specifically) have volcanos (which, technically, are powered by geothermal energy and not by burning fuel ; speaking about them, igniting wood using volcanos can easily be a source of Prometheus myth). And the thermal death of universe? Chemical reactions are insignificant in this regard. Finally, the reason Gods hated Prometheus for stealing fire is generally agreed upon to be them being jerks. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:37, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
- Could it also be a reference to Terry Pratchett's "The Last Hero?" Y'know, where Cohen the Barbarian (et al) decide to return fire to the gods...?(-Aerych) 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- I immediately thought of The Last Hero too. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Actually nothing in comics seems to specifically refer The Last Hero, suggesting that Pratchett and Randall simply had the same idea about how the phrase of "returning fire to gods" can be interpretted. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:37, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
- Just that Pratchett had it in 2001, and published it widely. Surely a geek should be well aware of the Diskworld series? Cohen starts off by saying that 'The Last Hero should return what the First Hero stole...' and, later on provides a typical one-liner "We're going to return fire to the Gods. With interest..." (reveals a barrel of gunpowder) -- 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- To be precise, Agatean Thunder Clay. While Discworld has black powder explosive (see Men At Arms), this is something that "you have to smash a jar of acid in the mixture. The acid soaks into it, and then - kabloouie, I believe the term is." So maybe a sort of 'binary explosive mixture' type of thing, although the clay bit harks back to Alfred Nobel's original breakthrough. But it's very much a mix of memes, as it ends up proving powerful enough (a single barrel of it becoming "an explosion which has reduced a mountain to a valley") that it's very much an atomic-weapon analogue. Sorry, just thought I'd clarify, even if it's not direct inspiration to Randall or overly relevent to this comic. 18.104.22.168 20:03, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
Fire is like information: a very important part of human life here on Earth, spreads easily and quickly, and, if in the wrong hands, can be incredibly dangerous. Just some random derp 23:33, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
I'm missing the negative aspect of the fire metaphor in the explanation. "Fire wants to be free." If you set fire free, it spreads and destroys quite a lot in its wake. Well, I could think of a few negative aspects in file/information-sharing. Whatever. But I'm not fighting sharing. "All your files 'R' belong to everyone!" 22.214.171.124 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)