Friday, 29 June 2018

The limits of the narrative mind

There is an old joke about having one million monkeys punching keys on typewriters for a hundred years.

They wouldn't be able to create the works of Shakespeare.

It is used by critics of the evolution theory to showcase what they see as the folly of it: how could something so perfect (... sorry, I lost some minutes laughing my ass out) and beautiful (I agree, as far as some specimen goes like, say, Natalie Portman, Constance Wu and Tyra Banks or Ajang Majok, as for the rest - I need some more minutes) as humanity have been created by randomness.

The joke is, of course, more than a bit inaccurate...

A more accurate depiction of evolution in action, would be something like this:

Imagine having a hundred billion thrillion monkeys, punching keys on typewriters for seven hundred million years.

Every monkey has an implacable editor that revise his work, throw away the lines that makes no sense or are unfit for the gig at hand (without this, without a selection function of some kind we'd be back to the one million monkey joke - but Darwin' theory has precisely that, an implacable, inflexible editor prone to kill the monkey that fails to perform: it's called nature).

Any line that is good is conserved and assigned a key or a macro in the monkey typewriter... over time the monkeys will stop "reinventing the wheels", and will simply play combinations with already edited and accepted blocks (beyond the little required by the code used to synthesize proteins - the edited and tested blocks - much of  evolved species DNA is regulating and designs hints that operate on a "higher logical level"...)

The lines written by "good" monkeys  are dispersed among the writers, the monkeys that consistently fail to deliver are eliminated and the libraries of their phrases is destroyed.

One hundred billion trillion monkeys, for seven hundred million years - represents well the initial stages of life's evolution, when the biochemical basic tricks have been evolved; at the level of complex organisms, the "game" changes and a better metaphor would be "imagine a billion programmers stitching together randomly functions and libraries, with project managers ruthlessly firing all hose that do not deliver - ah, that sounds like a scaled-up Microsoft?... I see.

The question is: would they create a set of stories comparable to those written by Shakespeare?

The real answer is no.

They would end up writing something so good that Shakespeare himself could hardly understand how it "works" or what it really means, beyond seeing that it makes people weep, laugh and get passionate about it, or whatever was inside the selection parameters that were assigned to the editors.

Shakespeare would read them, and conclude that they are the creation of a God(*). 

Which brings me to the point for which I titled this piece.

The rational mind as we typically identify it - the mind that sees the universe as a set of processes that can be analysed, i.e. described in a more or less linear tale - is a severely limited instrument.

In the real world, almost everything happens at the same time (by definition) and almost everything influences anything else.

When we analyse natural processes, we divide them into steps in a sequence and we deal with their close interactions by devising feedback loops.

It is a remarkably successful strategy, a "Divide et Impera" even more powerful than the one devised by the ancient Romans to keep under control the conquered barbarians at the borders of their empire.

It has helped us understanding a great deal of the physical world that we inhabit (maybe - we can only suspect what we do not know, and yet we suspect there is much, much, much more to know... just the fact that the Standard Model and General Relativity tries to snuff each other is a nice clue about us knowing "jack"), to the point that many laymen feel ill at ease with the ever growing power of science.

However, the strategy cannot hide the fact that we are using a tool that works at most in three dimensions - more likely, just in two.

Consider how our minds handle plots in a story... there is one thread, a second thread, they intertwine.... how many dimensions are required to represent them?

Two? That's right... narrative plots need at most two dimensions to be represented, and I suspect not just because often writers simply draw them on a sheet to navigate them.

When a scientific theory is explained, it is usually written down in a short piece of narrative.

So, our descriptions of an extremely interconnected, multi-dimensional reality is always bound to be, in ultimate analysis, a bi-dimensional representation of some kind.

It is inevitable that these will ultimately lack precision and only approximate somewhat the real thing.

It is also inevitable that at some point this fundamental inability of the rational mind to see the universe as it is  - a free for all multidimensional chasm, ordered beyond its apparent chaos - but only as a collection of separated aspects of it, will present limits to our ability to understand our reality.

It seems only inevitable that this inability will resurface even when facing those artificial systems that we create mimicking the way nature works, like many AI projects or even just a simple tone detector created through "evolutionary algorithms".

I think that in the long term, this will prove a fundamental limit to our capacity to improve our understanding, i.e. to improve science.

And I am not completely sure that there is any real way to address the issue, at least none that is meaningful to us humans.


(By the way, if you believe in a God that is not as much as powerful as clever, it may as well be... the hundred billion trillion monkeys being just the tool he decided to use for this specific bit of creation, and yes, He would hide any possible clue of him ever having been around - complaining about scientists refusing to see the necessity of God is, really, wishing Him to be sloppy; Don't worry, we'll be in hell together, me for what I draw, you for having tried to lessen God to a stature you could understand)

"Why do you choose to draw random people?"

She is a random woman, for you.

She is a friend, for me.

Admittedly, one that takes solace in me not
buying a plane ticket to Japan any soon...
But I will, some day, Miyu-chan.

Recently, I stumbled upon this question:

I wanted to ask. why do you choose to draw random people in your pics and not characters from films?

Short answer: 

Because I see no difference between abusing of my power as an author to rape a character or forcing it into acting in a way inconsistent with his psychology, and abusing my physical power as a male to rape a real woman or my eventual economic power/social clout to force one to acquiesce to my desires against her better self. 

I am a sexual sadist of the SSC/RACK BDSM tribe, not a rapist nor a bully.

Even shorter answer: I seldom if ever encountered a movie [female... they tell me there are plenty of guys in those things, too, but I forget them] character that I could imagine as a willing companion in my sex-capades. 

The random people in my drawings are just "actors" engaged in giving life to characters of my own, that do enjoy being part of my shows (or loudly complaining about their part, when their parts require it). Characters from existing material come with their baggage.

Now, to continue in a bit more extended form:

Some of the "random" people I use are actually friends. Some, real-life friends too - not just on-line acquaintances.

Needless to say, with them girls lies a more or less near possibility of some kind of encounter (OK, in a couple of case, the drawing was in effect done to "celebrate" a successful carnal intercourse).

I see these as "imaginary portraits" - << we both know, woman, that you won't be able to play this way [except for Jade, who usually does things like getting nailed to a plank by her nipples via a hammer and long steel nails] without risking a visit to the ER [which should lead to your partner being automatically arrested, given the fact that the local "Ley de violencia de genero" mandates medical personnel to notify the police any woman's lesion that is the likely product of abuse, and the police to stop and hold for at least 24h the suspected abuser], yet we both know that a corner of your soul would feel much better afterwards>>.

"Porn for human progress" - in a way.

And, by the way, one of my drawings did indeed manage to convince the GF of one of my model to do her dommely duty and spank the poor girl to her heart's content (it was just a couple of years that the poor woman asked her black lady to turn her buttocks violet, to no avail).

Not bad for a couple of hours of a middle aged, overweight white male wank.

Now, onto characters from films.

Why should I use them at all?

Because some professionally made comics do use actors as a base for their characters? Because plenty of hobbyist use them in their own wanks?

The main reasons why they are used as reference in professional comics are these:

The amount of material available about actors/actresses and movie characters make very easy to assemble an extensive database of movements and actions, which in turns makes much easier to "keep to the model" while drawing comics.

Secondarily, using a cast of actors may prompt some studio to buy the rights to the story (maybe just to block another studio from making it into a movie... studios routinely buy rights to about 10 times the amount of stories that they produce - it may seem costly, but the rights to the average comics are about the cost of a couple of script rewrites).

Now, the first is moot for me as I do almost exclusively single shot drawings... I do not need 124 iterations of the face of a character/actress to handle a story.

I just need one image that intrigues me.

The second is moot, because nobody wants to see picket holding forks and torches at the front gate of their studio - I see pretty hard that they will ever, ever approach me, even if I was to become famous in the "mainstream world".

As for the reason "hobbyist" often opt for characters out of movies it is simple:

The public has already been primed and educated about the character's psychology and habits by the marketing machinery of the studios, so using their likenesses makes for a narrative short-cut.

You do not have to describe your character to the public, or leave hints - just make it recognizable, and the public will know life, loves and deaths of it. In essence, they are "stealing" the PR work already don from the studios (and yet, somehow contributing).

Now, this is as much a liability as it is an asset.  

In most cases female characters in movies are not really inclined to voluntarily be in scenes like the ones that I draw, if their canon psychology is any respected  - simply because the masochist, willing slave woman makes the skin of far too many activists crawl - and yet I do not really care about non-consensual scenes - rape the hell out of character X in your stories, if you want, I am not that interested.

As a result, even if I were to use characters from movies, I would end with having some character of my invention that only shares the name, some background elements and the actress face with the movie one...

But I would also have to explicitly explain WHY he/she/it acts in a way that violates the original characterization, to make matters worse to a public that likely knows he/it/her better than me - which is possible but takes some effort and likely more than a few words of text.

At that point, a "clean" character has no notoriety of its own, but it also comes free of ties to an existing continuity or faithfuls to its lore - I don't even need to write "she likes to pin needles in her tits because she has become masochist to the bones after accident [z]" somewhere, it's enough for my lady-of-the-drawing to smile like in the pre-throbs of an orgasm for everybody to see it. I rather show and don't tell.

I feel I can use already existing characters when I think that in some way I would still respect their personality, and yet my creation was not a superfluous addendum to the original opera.

So, while I could draw the protagonist of Secretary - she indeed loves being dominated - it would feel a bit redundant, as the film was very good.

However, when conditions are met, I have no qualms using characters from existing mythologies... in fact, there is somewhere an "homage" of mines with Shadowcat fighting and losing an "ultimate surrender" fight with Mystique, under the eyes of Wolverine and Storm.

I felt no problem in doing it because both Chris Claremont (writer) and John Byrne (artist) were into slipping (well hidden, but not too much) BDSM themes into the stories when she appeared, in the '80s-90s (and they had her land in chains/collars/cuffs every time she did not started a relationship with an older man, old hag of 14 that she was - BDSM was not the only odd thing that got off those two authors, I think).

And I also have done a couple of Calvin, Hobbes and Susy Derkins playing in their adult age - simply because I  felt and  still, to date, feel that Calvin-Susy was a nice  S&M love relationship in the making. And if it is what would keep Calvin from becoming Tyler Durden, so be it! 

I could draw Motoko Kusanagi domming the crap out of a bunch of cyberpunk sex-slaves (something that she more or less does in the Manga - she moonlights in her own porn studio! A shout-out of Masamune Shirow to himself, as he too moonlighted drawing erotic stuff), but I feel ill at ease when I  am asked to make HER into a slave.

It makes no sense with the original characterization.

(For those not into anime or manga, Motoko Kusanagi is the female-shaped cyborg commanding the Squad 9 in the "Ghost in the Shell" franchise, and while prone to existentialist meditations in her low moods, her average mood makes Terminator look meek and tame.)And to me, the more I love the character, the more it is sacred.

So, the next one that asks a Scrooge McDuck / Daisy Duck scene , he or she is going in for some gruesome retaliation... as neither would want to damage Donald that way!

Friday, 22 June 2018

When Internet Was Just For Porn...

Enjoy these, as long as you can - it may be shorter than you fear.

After this year, we can clearly say:

When Internet Was Just For Porn, The World Was Much Better Off For It.

As Facebook sells access to foreign authoritarian countries and Google accumulates massive data on everybody and the AI technology to correlate it - read: your privacy has died some years ago and you didn't even realize it - the web is becoming increasingly hostile to those that used it to legally distribute their porn - porn that they made in a legal way and without selling their souls to evil forces, I might add.

The web is crammed with old, stolen porn, of course... but selling access to new one is becoming more and more of a problem, as it has been added to the list of the activities that finance terrorism around the world and credit card transaction processors tend to cut support to everybody that give space to an ever-growing list of "extreme" fetishes.

In the long term, crypto-currencies may be a solution to it but, of course, the idea of making them illegal is already around (and unless they find a way to collect taxes on the trade done in cryptos, it IS going to happen). 

Of course, the terrorism thing used to be bollocks but, as soon as authorities make hard for legal operators to fill a market, illegal operators - by definition - step in, to create a quite smaller but usually much more lucrative market.

If these trends continue, one day we may have to say:

"I remember the good old days, when Internet was for porn and not just to keep us under control to the point of bowl movement detection"... 

Ite, Missa Finita Est.