Monday, March 23, 2009

The savant view.

It's hard to think how to start on this subject. I don't want to overload you with huge incomprehensible texts and I also need to be easily clear with these sets of thoughts currently in my mind and not drive you away. I will start with some examples that have something to do with the primary subject.

Have you ever heard of autistic savants? People who are able to do calculations instantly as if they were computers or solving hard mathematical problems in a very short time that you would think it's impossible. Many times we think of their abilities as magic or intuition (or for some few of you like an accession to quantum parallel universes or a psychic gift and such mambo-jambo but forget it, this is another story :P). We would never imagine ourselves being able to dwell so deep into learning such an ability in a so enormous level nor can we imagine how such an alien state of mind is processing data right this moment. Yet I assure you, all of us are owners of some savant abilities that we have mastered really really well but it never surprises us.

I have heard of another impressive example of two autistic savant who could instantly count a large amount of matches spilled randomly onto the floor. That might sound very impossible to you but pause your regular thought for a little and try to envision two of the most common savant abilities almost all of us hold. The visual recognition of our environment and our verbal fluency. I walk into the city while looking around in a big area full of people, cars, trees and other minor details. My brain filters excessive data and allows me to distinguish all sorts of shapes, colors, objects, connections and even ideas or emotions and even construct an overall view of all these and that for each tiny fraction of a second. I said he "my brain" but the most right thing to say is "my evolved neural nerves that learned to do exactly that". Forget that for the moment and try to imagine the whole immersive process (think of programming a so successful image recognition algorithm on a computer) required to achieve this result but how naturally it comes to us in tiny fractions of time. We never even feel any awe about such an ability because it seems something trivial to us. But if they ask us we can hardly explain how we do it in detail. Think language. Such a complex structure that comes so naturally out of our mind and mouths yet we don't usually see the inner process while we are doing it. It's not easy to imagine but try to, think of someone who lacks these natrual to us abilities. Try to perceive how startled would you look at him while he is trying to construct some words or bump onto objects in his environment. How would our common visual and linguistic abilities would look like to him? Exactly similar (if not even more impossible) to how we look at those twins instantly counting the spilled matches or the human calculator machines.

It's not just about our two most common abilities, but the talents many of us might have acquired but never gave much attention. Do you remember in your math classes some of those math quiz's or tricky exercises where you have to think of a method to follow but most of the methods lead to a dead end and you have to start all again? I mean, not regular math exercises (like regular calculations or follow the same rules stuff) but the ones where you have to think out of the box or else you loose. And you try, you try, you try and the genious of the class instantly comes with the right answer. And you wonder, how the fuck did he thought about it? (Unless if he had read the answer before :). I'll tell you one thing. I have been studying math and could never reach that level, in fact I am still very bad at finding the hard solutions (those who need out of the box thinking) in such a sort time as they do. And recently I discover that the talent of a math wiz that I can't explain is similar to the one I have with computer programming. I perceived this fact that I couldn't see (even if it was always in front of my eyes, maybe I just never gave it much attention) after some private programming lessons to a fellow student. He wondered, several times that we have looked at exercises, how the fuck did I instantly thought about using that method instead of this or how I can construct the correct algorithm so fast. Of course you would agree that he is just an ignorant student who can't understand much about programming and that it's natural that I can get the solutions to these stuff. But that's how me and you (if you are also into programming) perceive it because it feels natural to us. But under a deeper examination it is possible to perceive that there is a special ability (and that student could possibly look at us as we were true savants) that is evolved in such a great degree because we wake up and think of coding every day :)

And that's the point where another question is raised. Ok, so all of us are savants concerning an ability if this is what we concentrate on every day we wake up. Remember our visual recognition ability. We have mastered it so perfectly because opening our eyes and receiving tons of visual information is all we do every day from the beginning of our lives till today. Thinking about our surroundings is also another think we are doing and so we have very well learned to attribute definitions and ideas to all those objects we visual differentiate and using language to describe them and assign a meaning to them. It's all logical that we are so good at it and we even find it trivial and never think about it. The greater question is what creates the tendency to prefer one special ability than the other. I mean, why someone would be so absorbed into counting matches at a very early age to develop such a weird skill? Not going very far, this is a question for me, what drove my interest towards computers, science or philosophy but away from social interaction or casual human activities?

I can't answer this one perfectly. It's left to me as an exercise for the future. At the moment I stay at the recent valuable for me understanding that this is what has happened to me. I was always unhappy or furious (and reacted to it) with my feeling of being not normal or not social enough. Well, some people who have seen me at demoparties might say that I look social enough to them. And I wouldn't disagree with that because I just don't differ in an extreme rate. But there are some very characteristic situations where I am wondering about it. A girl came to me and said something (just to open the conversation) and I said "yeah, yeah, ok, ok". Where I was supposed to say something clever or at least something. I was stuck (not because of anxiety, not because she was a girl) for once again. Nothing clever or relevant could come up to those which she said. And this is just an example. I observe the people around me at social situations, how fluent they are in such kinds of conversations as if they always know how to reply after every taunt or joke they receive. And they can do it endlessly. Another great example to me is my inability to give directions when someone asks me in the city where he can find some road or place. I am actually getting quite overwhelmed when they stop and ask me and I usually answer that I don't know. You might say that because I am stressed I cannot think but it's not just that. I have observed that most people when asked, they instantly describe a way plan in such detail that makes me dazzle. When I try myself, it takes me 3 seconds to start even thinking where the hell am I right now and where the directions are. And it's impossible to visualize and make a perfect plan in an instant just like most. I just don't get it! For me, most people look like social savants.

The last one puzzled me a bit more than usual. Because it didn't make sense even with the savant theory at first. The question is how did they develop the ability to describe a direction plan so blindly and fast? I mean, did they fuckin walked the city all day and said to themselves "This is road A, this is road B, to go from road A to B, to go from road A to C you do this, there is a store, there is a, blablabla"? I mean, even if I have visited several places in the city with my friends, I never managed to keep such a record (except if I would stupidly do it in the parrot fashion with a map in my hand for a month). And what about if they change cities? I remember some of the new students at my Erasmus trip were good at that after a month in Karlsruhe. I never did in Thessaloniki where I live for more than ten or fifteen years.

The easy answer is that I never cared enough to remember all these data. A great clue might be given if I'll just describe to you what goes on through my mind for over ten years and what (as I speculated today) might goes for those people who are so good socially and also capable of telling you your path way in the city in nanoseconds. This might be particularly funny or curious for some :)

  • Me, every day I wake up and till I sleep: Mmm,. what can I do today that will be important? What do I like? A demo? I thought of a demo. Ahh, that demo idea, with the blobs, the polar plasmas, the spherical mapping, ahh.. the spherical mapping. I thought about normal calculations, I will use R as gradient of height and G,B,A as normal vector. Maybe I can do it easily with a pixel shader. I also remembered I have to also use those ARB extensions to make my demo work on older hardware, that would be cool. I'd like to see the performance. Fuck, one great idea for an effect has just come to my mind. How about blobby materials with normal shading and bump. Hahaha! Kinda funny name like my eggballs effect. I remember, eggballs, lompas used to joke about this. I like funny names. Now I remember funny names, I remembered an old effect on CPC. Oh, how I would like to make a wolfenstein engine on CPC. I can scale the vertical spans fast enough but how about the raycaster intersections? Too much math for the 8bit and too much work for assembly... [thinking of methods for half an hour]... I have to go to Breakpoint, it will be great, I'd love to see the scene again and drink my ass off, oh shit.. I have to go to the job seminars and then french lessons, I am bored, I have to stop thinking of my shaders now unfortunately....[when not thinking of coding, I am thinking of various philosophical thoughts like these, scientific or paranormal things, arguing with myself or any other thing that what the second group below would think most of the time]

  • Those people who socially outperform me: Hey, it's a nice day. What to do? I'll go to the bath. I feel nice with the bath. I feel fresh now. Let's wash my teeth. I have just washed my teeth. It makes me feel nicer. I look more beautiful. I like that girl. That girl I went out yesterday. We went to the cafeteria. She asked me that thing and I told her that because my friend have told that to his own and so when she joked about that I told her this and it went so good as I have been seen that on tv. The cafeteria was named La'Mer which means the sea in french and it was on that street,. oh wait, the sea, I remember the sea, we had nice holidays with george and philip, so great, there was a place, a great cafeteria with good coffee, wait.. where was I? Yes, the la'mer was at tsimiski street against the sea, there is another road there named blabla street, in an allay there is another cafeteria, I remember we went with Maria there, what a nice time and the coffee was hot and with Maria we went to the club which is at street tatata and she made a joke about this where I replied that which I have heard from Nick as a reference to what he told to his own girlfriend, and there is a pharmacy store in the other side and a gas station two squares to the right where we have walked and found a liquir store near the plaza. Wait, where I was? I have to get dressed and go to the job now, there is Peter there and Jim and we will go later to the bar at menemeni street where last time he went to the kiosk to buy some beer and we had some fun when he spilled it and hahaha, there was another guy who wanted to go to the hospital at lalalalala street, and there was another street in another alley where someone asked me where that street is and I gave him the wrong directions because he was smelly but the right ones were at the place where I first meet with Joane where near that there is a pattiserie and if you go far away there is a parking where I first met John who drove me to the restaurant at the alucard plaza where he order some gyros from the corner in castlevania street, etc, etc....blablabla lalalalalala.

Ok, I don't need to continue. Maybe it's exaggerated, maybe I am wrong, but that's how I think now that some people are so good at social situations (and also at the puzzling "describe pathway in city" to me). Because this is what possibly goes mostly through their minds since their youth. In the same way that coding or philosophical thoughts goes through my mind every fucking day. They never needed to memorize (at least some of them) what to reply in every possible social taunts or jokes or when they are asked for a pathway in the city or any other thing I luck and normally I would need to learn it the hard way. It just came naturally to them because it was all that they were (and still be) thinking every passing day. In that view, the answer is that I have overdeveloped a vast neural network concerning programming and computer graphics and the demoscene and other geeky stuff and was left with underdeveloped social skills. Most people, who would look like social savants compared to my bad skills, have overdeveloped neural networks in those things that I seem to lack.

I wouldn't blame myself. I won't say here that what I should have done earlier in my life should be to show more interest for social activities. It's wrong to do so because I have not chosen to evolve into this. In fact, I sort of like the way I think and the subjects that interest me, regardless that lacking the other skills leaves me overwhelmed in social situations. There is no fault, remember the question of why someone would chose to count matches early in his life? I have never chosen the fact that I will be mostly dragged to geeky stuff and find boring regular activities. I have no answer to this yet, whether it has to do with brain biology or psychology but the point is that I have came to this point because of that and I still can't show much interest about regular stuff. In the list above, when I first speculated of how a social person possibly thinks every day in his life, I doubted, I dazzled, I thought that it can't be, that it seems very very stupid, maybe I am wrong (I still don't know) but imagine those people reading my excerpt of my own example on thinking all day about coding or other stuff (which I didn't wrote here, because it would get huge). It's not that I am not thinking about those regular stuff, it's only that my thoughts goes to 30% code, 50% philosophical thoughts and like 3-5% of their stuff. And the secret word here is 'priority'. Socialization or even thinking about girls goes at 4th or 5th place or more. They are not very interesting (even if the last is kinda desirable) to gain my attention.

You can't just judge someone who is not doing very well socially. We look at you like you are true social savants. Your abilities are magic to us yet they can be explained. We have some hidden abilities too. There is a path that brought me just right here with my set of abilities and those social deficiencies that makes it hard for me to relate. I have followed this path because my brain was fascinated more from the mysteries of this cosmos than casual talk. Eventually I could learn your skills the hard way, although I don't know how it happens especially when I lack the primary interest for. I wrongly thought that the way my brain thinks is similar as the rest of us. You most probably have made the same assumption. I wish people would get more into this savant view and try to understand how different we really are.

p.s. I had all those thoughts and was inspired to write this after reading this article: inside the mind of an autistic savant.

p.p.s. Sorry for the size. I said it would be small, yet it is concerning all the more I would additionally like to write but didn't.

p.p.p.s. Now, what I am supposed to say to that girl again? Ah, fuck it..

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Any clue?

Apparently this will feel a bit useless. You don't need to tell me that it's stupid. I am just going to write some endless texts about my confusion with the demoscene and myself. You are going to read it (or maybe not). Later I disappear a bit from the scenery because I need to think or I want to avoid the scene or pouet for a while. Then I return back. Maybe I think I am cured or something. But it's only temporary. Things are going ok till another outburst at pouet, another disappointment or simple bad mood which brings us to the very first point. Writing another post like this, thinking for a while that I've got a clue of the problem and that things are going to change but they won't. The same cycle will follow again and again as it did so many times in the past.

So, I just wonder if after thinking it a lot, and even after reading the comments at pouet in my last thread (I am saying this just to ensure people that I have read their suggestions because some wondered if I was even reading them) did I got a clue about the situation? Not that it would possibly make a difference (just think, first paragraph, the everlasting cycle) but it would be ok for me to write my thoughts in here.

A lot of things have come in my mind since then. Do I like the scene? Do I like making demos? Is it maybe that I don't have anything better to do? Are there some things I like and some things I don't enjoy in the demoscene, a mixed bag of motivators and demotivators? Have I accumulated a lot of negativity with the scene from the past? Do I tend to overdramatize? Is there a possibility that there is no problem, just the one we consider it to be? Whether there is or not, couldn't I just stop worrying and do my best even if I feel that my best is not satisfying enough?

I won't probably get into detail concerning all these questions right now. I'll just speak a bit about something I said in the pouet thread. Something to clear up actually.

I said in this thread that fame is one thing I seek from my engagement in the demoscene. I think I used the wrong word to mean something different. From one point, fame sounds a bit arrogant. It's also not exactly the thing that I wanted. Maybe it's also not the best I'd ask for, to be so well known that you get annoyed by one hundred hundred emails per day :). There is good and bad fame. The good one is because you have achieved something. The bad is the one I am unfortunately closer to (being known as a mockery of the scene).

Actually, if I had a magic spell that would make me instantly famous, this would be meaningless for me. I had always being thinking about this. I wouldn't get the satisfaction I need this way. Just to show you that fame is not exactly what I wish for (It can only be an aftereffect of your achievements and a means to easily transmit your ideas as someone very well pointed). A better word for what I was meaning is "significance". I was wishing to be significant, not famous.

There comes that instant fame without an achievement would feel empty to me. I wake every day and I think which actions would possibly give me some importance in my life. Casual activities like going out with friends, watching a movie or even going to a date (although this would be extraordinary in my case) would not be enough for me. People think that I should just grow up, improve my life, find a stable job, get married with a nice girl, make babies and finally reach the point where I can make a good pension. This is enough for most people. To avoid misunderstandings, I do not despise this way of life. It's just that whenever I try to imagine that I am doing all these and nothing more, I can't accept it that this will be my life only. Without achieving anything important, without any higher significance. Before the demoscene, I had great scientists in my mind as an example.

So, looking back to my past I remember when I first had that idea, to feel a little important through programming. Of course, as a person I always lacked that precious self-esteem and in a sense I thought it would be a great way to gain it through something scientific. Like creating something that very few would have the courage to do. This was two years before I learned about the demoscene. I remember the exact moment when this happened. I also remember that the feeling of being important or doing something of great importance was inside me at a much earlier age.

Somehow this grew up on me and became something like a very serious focus. It also met a lot of hard obstacles in it's way (sometimes I blame my parents for their attempts to drive me away from this without my will and I do wonder whether it would make any difference if they had left me entirely free to express my demoscene dreams or would I still be at the same condition even if they left me alone), a lot of disappointments and basically "stole" a lot of years from my life. Although, I would be the last person to say that something is a waste of time or look back at my path and say it was meaningless, this is still a point I would sometimes like to think about.

So, would this mean that: 1) I had a strong focus in my life on something I considered important, 2) I spent a big part of my life into this, regardless the obstacles, the sorrows, the dissapointment, 3) ????????

Did I got bored? Did I felt like the demoscene doesn't give me anymore what I want? Do I still wish for that significance ten years after or is it just a remaining habit to wake up in the morning and think what to do today that is significant and has something to do with the demoscene? Why don't I just shut up and follow what I always wished for? If not, can't I get that "importance" from other casual activities? Is it enough for me that some friends tells me that I am important to them, what I want to hear, not what the truth is? Can I find a new activity outside the demoscene that has the elements of "important" (something like science or arts) or would I fall again in the same pitfalls that brought me in despair? Can I just quit and have a normal life? Will I ever abandon my dreams? Or will they kill me before I do so?

The three is a big one. The big clue to why and what to do next. I'll think a bit more about it and maybe (or maybe not) post my conclusions another day.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I can't be no BITS (double negation :)

Lately, if any of you have noticed, I had been trying to reach the quality of BITS. Or would you prefer to change that last word with CRAP? Why have I chosen to do this? For many reasons but mostly I can say it was just mindless and a choice of moment. Or something I wished to try a long time ago. Well, it wasn't the first time (remember an account on pouet with the name predictable?) but this time it was different. I managed to release three demos(?) in three months. And I tried to keep ok with my conscience about that.

The point was actually this. It's similar to when an artist gets frustrated by the art community and decides to release something controversial to the public. It's because I wanted to try to see the other side and not feel bad by releasing the lamest demos ever. To intentionally release some crappy demos in a new joke group and steer the controversy a bit. Especially that one inside my brain, which gets anxious about releasing a good demo. How about doing the opposite, intentionally releasing crap and trying to not care?

I truly envy Solo2 and people like him. He can code enough but somehow there seems to be no evolution. And he doesn't seem to care. He doesn't seem bother as me about making a better demo, he doesn't seem to get sad as me when I feel a demo I just released is mediocre and I didn't managed to do something spectacularly good. He doesn't even seem to react to the massive thumb downs and fuckings from other people there on Pouet. Sometimes I wish I would be like Solo2. To not care. To be creative and do it for myself and not care if it looks and sounds like crap or if it's truly an awesome demo that one I have just finished. At least it seems like he is not caring but what really happens in Solo2's brain? But let's take it as an example that there possibly exist such people. And that this is and cannot be me..

It cannot be me because of evolution. When I have finish the first Otinanum demo I thought I would never do this again. The next demo was a demomaker. I have never done something so lame before, to release a demo with a demomaker and even thumb up myself on pouet. But I said that now I will never create a demo in demomaker again. The third demo was slightly better. I spend two evenings instead of one finish it, more effort, a bit better effects with not so sucky colors and textures. Still it was crapped but I felt like I got better. And then I look back and see. Even as a BITS-lookalike, I felt the need to evolve. Eventually I had seen that the Otinanum joke would come to an end. I was even planning to finish two good/average demos and release them as Otinanum productions to confuse a bit people, who would initially think they would be crap but see they are not bad. But the primary reason was not this, but that even if I tried to mimic BITS, I would eventually need to make something better demo after demo.

And then I wonder. How do people like Solo2 or others not get the same feeling? That frustration, that sadness of your demo not being as good as you planned, the need to evolve and get better, to take more time on your next demo and not release the same crap again and again, is what makes you improve. Maybe that sadness and that frustration is really high on me, more high than others, but that doesn't mean it's so bad for evolution. Just painful. Sometimes I wish I didn't care, but I can't. I have to evolve, I have to stay in the demoscene (although I am seriously thinking of retiring or leaving for a while long) and do my best even if it will be mediocre. Because I can't pretend to do crap. Even as a joke, something burns inside me. I am not talking right now about what other people would think of me, but that me alone couldn't continue with the same crap because it was feeling like a step back in evolution.

A friend told me about an article he read somewhere (and I am still trying to find that), where scientists (neuroscientists? I don't remember) tried to find and categorize the most basic to the core human emotions. And they found that naturally we have something like 1-2 unique possitive emotions and (I don't remember) something like 5-7 unique negative ones! Naturally, we are more prone to depression. Why is that? Because of evolution. If we were constantly happy, we would just sit there and do nothing. It's a lesson for me that maybe my sadness, my frustrations, even my anxiety are means to improve. Then why people mistakenly think I don't improve? Because evolution is slow and they can't clearly see it? Maybe. Although it's as painful as slow for me. Is it relative? Do I think I evolve more slowly than I'd wish because I am more of a perfectionist? Do I get more easily in sorrow with me not be good enough? Wouldn't that have as a result to improve faster? Yet, does it lead to opposite results because of the sorrow and frustration? Or is it just my idea that I evolve slower than I'd like and that other people do? Just look at my life, it's the same pattern and the same sorrow..

At least, what hit me is that I evolve no matter how hard I try to avoid it. BITS can release the same shit (no offense there :) for the hundredth time. Me on the other side, after two-three crappy (even intentionally, without wish for effort) releases, really wished for something better. I couldn't in no way continue the feat Solo2 started years ago. Not because I cared of my image in the scene or something. But because, naturally, after each crappy Otinanum demo I wanted to evolve from crap to not so crap and eventually reach my casual mediocre levels. I wouldn't never be able to release 50 crappy demos in a row without evolving enough. I really can't understand how Solo2 is doing it!

And that's how I decided that I can't continue with this joke. It's not for me. I am for evolving, I am for improving, not staying stationary, not looking at crap I just did and feel ok with that, not stepping back in the ladder of evolution. Even if this evolution will be slow and painful. Although I wonder why does it work like this on me? Other people are living with the same burden of improving and negative yet motivating feelings for the mistakes in their previous works but they don't get in sorrow as me and they even release much better demos. I don't get it..

I will miss Otinanum. The group where I thought I would be able to release every crap I'd wish and stop caring at all. I failed to be BITS.
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