Thursday, 12. May 2005


Before I can adress any counter arguments, I'll have to give some more thought to my fundamentals. Up until now, I have Obstacle # 1 (virtual actors with no talent and no originality), and Obstacle #2 (no language I share with other creators of virtual actors with no talent and no originality - we effectively can't talk about #1).

What we have here is the classic structure of a dramatic problem, or story problem. A problem is suitable as a foundation for a Story (read: "story" as defined for the Robot Soul namespace) if and only if it consists of two component parts: a subjective component, A, (here: the character Scheuring, creator of talentless, unoriginal virtual actors, is shown to be in a miserable situation), and an objective component, B, (here: other characters are shown to be basically in the same situation, but the members of this (open) set of Objective Characters - which includes Scheuring - don't even have a language to talk about their misery).

Next, I raise the level of abstraction one notch, and declare component A, which started out as Scheuring's personal problem, to be the Objective Story Problem, shared by all Objective Characters. Programmatically, Objective Story Problem is a variable, and the value I assign to this variable now is: "AI researches failing to create virtual actors which are percieved as talented and original by their intended audiences."

For every Objective Story Problem, there has to be an Objective Story Solution, which I hereby declare to be another variable, assigning to it the initial value: "AI researchers finding a common language." This proposed Problem/Solution pair lets me declare a rule:

if Creator find(language)
then Creator create(newAndBetterVirtualActor)

This is what is called a Story's Premise: the "ground rule" that is tested by the Story's Argument, for validity and for correctness. The Story encompasses the Argument about whether the Premise is true or not. That's what the Story is about. Later on, I'll have to get much more specific about the about-ness of this about-ness, but first, I'll need to take another look at my characters.

So far, I've created the set of Objective Characters; it consists of all of the characters that are to take part in the story. We call the area of the story that is shared by all those characters the Objective Story Domain, and the "thread" that represents their interactions and conflicts the Objective Story Thoughline.

Now, I will create another set of characters: Subjective Characters. There are exactly two Subjective Characters to each Story, and I select them from the Objective Characters, meaning they'll keep their objective functions in the story, but each of them now has to also fulfil a subjective function, setting them apart from the other Objective Characters. The two subjective characters are the Main Character and the Impact Character. Note that the declaration does not automatically entail that the assignment has to be anything like Main Character = Protagonist and Impact Character = Antagonist; Protagonist and Antagonist are Archetypes for Objective Characters, and while the objective/subjective arrangement resulting in Main Character = Protagonist is fairly often used, Impact Character = Antagonist is in fact quite unpopular, as it is difficult to create an opponent that works the objective and subjective side simultaneously (you get fewer/thinner threads to work with, fewer opportunities for differentiation, forced cooperation and the like, and potentially, conflict in technically unsuitable places).

The purpose of the Subjective Characters is, roughly, to depict conflicting personal stances with reference to the two sides of the Argument about the Objective Story Problem. For that, they'll both get their own Domains, with a Main Character Throughline and an Impact Character Throughline, respectively.

My Main Character is going to be that Scheuring guy, obviously; he's into AI research up to his gills, but he's relatively new to the field, and I have him in mind as some kind of a terminal romantic, who says stuff like: "If only we could find a language, so we could learn from one another - then we could create much better virtual actors <sigh/>!" A bit... soft, you know. But good at heart. All the ladies want to cuddle him, like, protect him and stuff.

The Impact Character is a Real Programmer called Mel, who coded his way out of so many paper bags that his Deli ran out of supplies, and who says "Not!" a lot, and "Troll!", and "Kook!", and "Dullboi!"... get the picture? To give them space and screentime for their quarrels to unfold, the Subjective Characters will get a Subjective Story Domain and Subjective Story Throughline of their own.

OK, let's see - we have Main Character and Impact Character now; Objective Story, Subjective Story, Main Character, and Impact Character Domains; plus Objective Story Problem and Objective Story Solution. We'll still need Problem/Solution pairs for the other three Domains, and Focus/Direction pairs for all four of them, meaning we'll have to discuss the about-ness issue that I hinted at earlier. We'll...

"Now wait a minute... wait!... wait!... that's just sooo kooky, dude! That can never work!"

Huh? What's that? Who's talking?

"It's me, dullboi! Mel! You've just created me, remember?"

Oh, all right. So what is it, Mel?

"It's like, maybe you can impress your quiche-eating theatre friends with all that lofty talk about "Main Character Domain", "Subjective Story Problem", "Focus/Direction pairs". To a Real Programmer, that is just bull from here to Jordan!"

Mel?! But... why would you think so?!

"Aaargh! Dumbnuts! You know nothing is why, okay? YOU... KNOW... NOTHING!!!"

But Mel, that's not true at all! There's a lot that I do know! I...

"Shut up already... damn! You think it's enough for you to do the handwave over your top hat, then pull out some words, like friggin' rabbits? Where's all that effin' vocab coming from all of a sudden? You can't use any variables you didn't declare in the header! You call that programming? Let me tell you, you got nothing on that, dude!"

Now come on, Mel... behave, will you? All those words are properly defined, declared, and explained; just look here. I've simply adopted the language, Elements of Structure and all that, from the Dramatica Theory Book. You should just go read it; it'll make you understand me much better.

"Oh. WOW! You got a THEORY BOOK doing your programming?!? Just tell me, did you find me in there, too? Like, in your theory book?!?"

Yes, Mel, in a way, I did find you in there... erm... structurally...






Have you finished now?






You think this is so funny, don't you?

"WORD!!! First of, you want dudez to learn all that Meyerhold stuff, then it's that Stanislawski stuff, and now it's that Dramatica stuff on top of that - and it's all so that I can 'understand' your wack-ass theory?!? Dude! That is funny!"

I see. So it's alright to claim "artists should learn to program", but "programmers should learn to art" seems wrong to you, obviously. That doesn't make sense to me at all.

"But sure, dude - that makes purrfect sense! Just ask ANYBODY!"

But if, as a programmer, you want to create, say, a virtual car - doesn't that mean that you start by figuring out exactly how a real car works? The detailed physics of the combustion engine, the mechanics of the braking system, the aerodynamic resistance and so forth? To be able to simulate that car on a computer, you need to know all that stuff, right?


Sooo... if you wanted to create a virtual actor - don't you think that it would be apt to study how real actors work, so that you can simulate them on a computer?


Why not?!?

"First of, I know actors. Watch them on TV each night. Plus, you think I got time to eat quiche with theatre dudez? I got programs to write, f00l!"

Listen, I spent the last four years learning about how lambda calculus works, and Cornell algebra, and how programming languages are designed, and more definitions than I could shake a stick at. I started out on that at age forty with a high school level of mathematical understanding. Why would you want to wimp out on having to learn a little Method acting, BioMX, and Grand Argument Story theory?

"Because I just don't believe it's worth it, dude."

I'll keep working on that. I'll explain it all to you - big promise!

"You can't make me believe you!"




No, you're right. I can't make you believe me. You can just go now. Good bye.




I notice that you're still here with me.




Wah-hey! You're still here!




Can't I even make you go away?




"Dude! What are you - some kinda kitchen psychologist?"

I prefer to be thought of as a storyteller, but yeah, same thing, basically.


Here are some queries I just googled, with the number of hits I got in parentheses:

"artificial intelligence" (12700000)
"artificial intelligence" actor (144000)
"artificial intelligence" actor -Spielberg -movie (72400)
"artificial intelligence" "method actor" -Spielberg -movie (28)

"narrative intelligence" (3770)
"narrative intelligence" actor (186)
"narrative intelligence" actor -Spielberg -movie (121)
"narrative intelligence" "method actor" -Spielberg -movie (4)

First discovery: Robot Soul scores top position for the last query, on day 6 after launch. This means that there are some other researchers out there, but my page rank is better. Niceness. I'll have a close look at the [pdf] other [pdf] documents [doc] later.

As it seems, there are three of them containing the term combination, all of them dating from 2004. So on first look, it seems that the meme that includes both the concept of "artificial intelligence" and "method actor" is weak, but it is. It's not some "original idea" attributable exclusively to yours truly (= "madness"?), but something that obviously has occured to some people recently, those occurences seemlingly happening independent of one another (I, for one, don't know any of the other people who wrote about what does or doesn't connect "artificial intelligence" and "method actor" - yet!). Is that characteristic for a meme? I would say it is.

Second discovery: Dennis Jerz reads me. This is an honor. Jerz hosts a mad good Eliza. He also was puzzled by a suggestion of mine; I'll post about that later.

Third discovery: now I seem to have it all - no talent, plus no originality. Anatoly, here I come!

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