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07/17/2009

Day Break as Social Experiment, by Bryan Caplan

I highly recommend the one-season wonder Day Break to fans of social science.  It starts as a standard crime conspiracy: A cop framed for murder tries to clear his name.  Then we get the twist: He's in a time loop.  The day after the murder keeps repeating.  The protagonist wakes up every day at 6:17 AM, and only he remembers how the day played out before. 

As a result, his knowledge of the conspiracy keeps growing.  More importantly, though, his effective social intelligence keeps rising.  Through trial and error, he discovers the right way to deal with every other character in the story to repair a seemingly impossible situation.  It's experimental social science on a scale undreamed of even before Human Subjects Review Boards came along and spoiled all the fun.

Some will say that the premise of Day Break is a gimmick.  I say it shines a powerful spotlight on one of the greatest tools of social intelligence: The hypothetical conversation.  How will X react if I put it this way?  How about that way?  Maybe I'd just be better-off talking to Y - wouldn't he respond differently?  In real life, you only live each day once.  But you can make those days better for yourself - and other people too - if you subject the crucial choices of your day to a few thought experiments before you pull the trigger.
 

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