The Teleportation Problem

So in the fb comments section of this SMBC comic, I found a thread where people were discussing the teleportation problem, namely, “If you teleport, is the new ‘you’ still ‘you’?” I’d been thinking about this problem for quite some time now, so I decided to pitch in with my solution to the problem. Then I decided that I want this to be read and discussed by more people than just the ones in that thread, so here it is, my comment on that thread, word-for-word. Warning: It is long.

I first encountered this problem in The Prestige, and it took me years to come to a solution that satisfies me.

I’ve seen 2 prominent opinions here, one that says that since a person is basically an arrangement of atoms, you are still the same person after you teleport, and the other that says that a person is a collection of experiences, you are always a different person from the one you were a moment ago, so being a different person after having teleported is nothing to sweat about. I agree with the second one, and here’s the problem with the first one.

Teleporting is like a file cut-paste operation on a computer. Consider the copy-paste version of it, where you stay where you were, and simultaneously teleport. There are 2 bodies, at 2 different locations, with, for the moment, the exact same atomic configuration and the exact same experiences. Immediately afterwards, the different environment ensures that is some way or another, the 2 are now different. How different, one cannot say. One could go on to be Gandhi, the other Hitler. Now if before you do this copy-paste operation, you know for certain that one of these copies is easily going to be able to live a happy life, in a paradise of a place, and the other is doomed for eternal torture till natural death. Would you go ahead with it? Clearly, if ‘you’ are the one with the happiness, then you never have to experience the torture, so it is essentially happening to someone ‘else’. Which means that the 2 people have to be considered as different individuals, so obviously, both of them can’t be ‘you’. And since there is nothing to distinguish them at the beginning, you can’t just pick one of them, which means that neither of them is you. And that brings us to the conclusion that we become a new person every instant. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the different versions of Hermione running around at any instant must be considered as separate individuals who just happen to have a lot of similarities.

But then, why do we care what happens to our future selves? Why is every choice not simply based on instant gratification? Since my claim is that we are literally different people at different times, I use the word empathy. We ourselves know the feeling called regret that arises when a decision made by one of our past selves adversely affects our present self, so we try to make sure our future self doesn’t have to experience that emotion. This empathy is much stronger than what we feel for ‘others’ because we are much more similar to our future selves than to ‘others’. That explains the feeling of connection that identical twins often experience. It also explains why we find imminent sadness much more troubling than sadness that will make itself known decades later (like smoking).

Back to the copy-paste question, we realize that since both the copies are our future selves, we empathize with both of them and thus we are simultaneously tempted by the promise of a happy life and scared of the torture that lies ahead, and when making the decision, we need to keep both the futures in mind, and not just the best or worst one.

Another thing to notice about the copy-paste question is that at the point when we are making the decision, we have exactly one fixed past, and multiple futures ahead of us. That is part of the reason why we defined a person as a set of past experiences, because the future is variable.

So how do we solve the original dilemma, the teleportation problem, using this analysis? We have to realize that the only difference between the cut-paste and copy-paste models is the number of copies at the end. Teleportation is like regular life, one copy in the beginning and one at the end. Our concern for the final version of us, being based off of empathy that stems from similarities, does not depend on whether we moved from place A to place B or teleported. Which means that the fear of teleportation because it is like dying is irrational. Even if someone literally was killing you and then recreating you somewhere else, it wouldn’t matter.

And as far as duplication is concerned, the only difference is that you have to keep multiple fates in mind instead of just one. Also, if you can duplicate yourself in such a way as to ensure that each copy of you immediately dies a painless death except one, you have essentially achieved teleportation. (Painless being the keyword, nudge-nudge-wink-wink)

References: The TV series Dollhouse and the comic Black Science explore these subjects in considerable depth, the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the comic Invincible Iron Man (Matt Fraction) explore them is somewhat less depth, and the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past raises these questions without exploring them (Like, do you realize that in the last scene, where everyone was so happy, Wolverine had actually just died?)

Of course, the best piece of fiction I’ve seen on this idea still remains The Prestige.

Thoughts on the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2015 Results

“They say that the Eisner’s are the Oscars of the comic world. Well, fuck them. I tell ya, the Oscars are the Eisner’s of the film world!”

– Jonathan Ross (Friday Nights with Jonathan Ross)

Arguably the biggest event of the San Diego Comic Con, the Eisner Awards, were handed out a yesterday (I had even made a post full of predictions and hopes), and I’m here to tell you,

Well, not quite, but it does apply to a few categories.

Anyways, I only care to discuss a select few categories here. Here‘s the complete list of winners.

Starting with some sad news, Ms. Marvel, the most nominated series, with five nominations, didn’t win a single award. I myself believe it didn’t deserve the big ones (New Series, Writer, Penciller/Inker), but it could have won one of the other two. The lettering is really good. On to good news, The Multiversity with four nominations also didn’t win any. I never really saw its appeal.

The awards were more distributed than usual, with no series getting 3 or more wins. The ones with two wins were Lumberjanes (13-17 year old target audience), Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream (8-12 years; has nothing to do with Finding Nemo) and, of course, Saga (adults only). If you look at the whole Little Nemo line of comics as one, though, it was the big winner, with four wins.

On the publisher front, it was, well, weird. Of the four most nominated publishers, DC, and Image each got 2 wins (both the Image wins were for, wouldn’t you know it, Saga), Fantagraphics got 1, and Marvel didn’t get any. IDW and First Second landed 3 each, and Dark Horse won the night with 5. Hooray for Indie Comics!

Among creators, apart from the creators of Saga and Lumberjanes, the only one with 2 wins was Emily Caroll. More on that later. For now, let’s take a look at some of the interesting categories…

Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia: Showa 1939–1944 and Showa 1944–1953: A History of Japan, by Shigeru Mizuki

Basically another way of saying Best Manga Translation, the comic is a semi-autobiographical account of a soldier during some of Japan’s darkest years. I haven’t read it, but the premise sounds a lot like Maus (though the protagonist is a soldier this time around), so I’m definitely interested. The 1926-1939 volume was nominated last year but didn’t win.

Sad part is, at around 3000 rupees, this is just a little too expensive a collection. But I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.

Best Short Story: When the Darkness Presses, by Emily Caroll

I didn’t find the story very interesting, but it’s the innovative use of the webcomic medium that impresses me. The comic has images like the one above, where you click on the door to get to the next page, and even has gifs. Check it out here.

Best Penciller/Inker: Fiona Staples, Saga

Because more Saga art is exactly what this post needs.

I still don’t get why her category would be changed from Painter/Multimedia Artist to Penciller/Inker. She didn’t switch art styles, did she?

Also, fellow Staples fans and those who want to try her comics out, she’s drawing the first few issues of the upcoming Archie reboot. Riverdale is about to get prettier.

Best Writer: Gene Luen Yang, Avatar: The Last Airbender; The Shadow Hero

Let me tell you what the Avatar sequel comics really are; they’re essentially further seasons of the TV Series, and there’s no higher praise I can give them, but let me try.

The first story, the Promise, shows a world that wants to set itself right again, but the people are just too used to a certain way of living to move on. Aang and Zuko take opposing, but equally justifiable stands, and conflict ensues. The Search finally reveals just what happened to Zuko’s mom, and deals with the emotional repercussions of that knowledge for Zuko and Azula, two of the most interesting characters from the show. The Rift (the one which won Yang the award), further developing the ideas introduced in the Promise, shows the ever present conflict between traditions and progressiveness, the conflict this time being between Aang and Toph. Not only do these comics manage to capture the look and feel of the show, they enrich its world with realistic political dimensions that make it more believable.

Our world is full of great tie-ins (try the Incredibles comics, for example), but few are as valuable to the the experience of the source material as these.

Speaking of Avatar comics, another announcement at the SDCC was that Michael Dante Dimartino, one of the creators of the show, is going to write the Korra tie-in comics. I hope the pattern of odd season good, even season bad continues, counting the comics as the fifth season, and that they actually convince me that Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other.

Best Digital/Web Comic: The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin

The Private Eye, set in a futuristic world where a cloud storage ‘burst’, leading to all the information about everyone becoming publicly accessible, leading to a society where privacy is one’s most valued possession, and no one leaves home without a mask and an alias.

It is a great sci-fi series in its first half, and a fun thriller in the second, but the biggest reason I’m glad it won is because it was the first comic published using a new paradigm called, and I quote, “pay whatever the fuck you want”. It getting recognition implies a greater possibility for more comics of this type in the future.

You can get the comics here, for any price you want, including the lucrative 0.

Best Graphic Album-New: This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

The one thing everyone seems to agree on when it comes to This One Summer is that the art is gorgeous.

The story, on the other hand, has proven quite divisive. Sure, it has won a lot of awards, and is loved by the critics, but public opinion is split between it being a masterpiece and pretty-to-look-at trash.

 So there are these two teenage girls (don’t turn away yet), who meet at this beach getaway that their families visit every summer, and have thus become close friends. But this one summer, messed up stuff happens in our protagonist’s family, and when she tries to escape into the surroundings, she gets involved with messed up stuff there too, and consequently gets messed up herself.

This isn’t a children’s book, and is aimed at readers much older than the protagonist. The way the coming of age is handled, and the way the conflicts in the adult characters’ relationships are handled both show that it is meant to be looked at as a retrospection of sorts; a look at the complexities of growing up once you’e already grown up. Kind of like Boyhood.

In fact, once we ignore the people who hate the book because they find the content inappropriate and offensive, the remaining two factions can be explained in terms of Boyhood. If you think complex characters and themes can make up for a mostly pointless plot, and consequently enjoyed Boyhood, this is the book for you. If not, you should pass on this one.

Personally, I loved it.

Best Continuing Series: Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

And they did it again. Saga has now won the award thrice in the three years since it started, only the second comic to do so, the first being Sandman.

I’m not going to tell you why you should read Saga, you can see the reason right above. That, in fact, is the reason I chose, for once, to feature not just Staples’ breathtaking artwork, but also Vaughan’s simultaneously touching and hilarious script.

I could be greedy now, and hope for a fourth Eisner next year, but let’s be realistic here, just how long can a series stay the best on the shelves? If it does, though, it’ll become the Breaking Bad of comics. (Jonathan Ross would take my case for saying that)

I recommend: Reserving further Saga recommendations for the future, for now, I’ll go with the Avatar: The Last Airbender tie-in comics by Gene Luen Yang. If you like the show, you’ll definitely like them. If you haven’t seen the show, watch it. It is as good a showcase of how good animated TV can be as Saga is for how good comics can be. (Had to slip that in there, didn’t I?)

Keep reading comics, send me any recommendations you might have based on my professed likes and dislikes, and goodbye.

Thoughts on the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2015 Nominations

[The results are now out, and you can find my thoughts here]

Well, that was unexpected.

Before getting into that, though, let me introduce the Eisner awards to the uninitiated among you. Started in 1988, the annual function held during the San Diego Comic Con is often considered the comic industry equivalent of the Academy Awards.

For the complete list of nominees, visit http://www.comic-con.org/awards/2015-eisner-award-nominations

The nominations this year were surprising, to say the least, though mostly in a pleasant way. First I’ll talk about my thoughts on the aggregates, then I’ll move on to the categories.

Aggregates

So DC has the highest number of nominees, followed by Marvel. Wait, what? So is this the Eisners finally accepting that mainstream comics can be awesome too, or is it just Marvel and DC publishing so many comics that they come out on top by sheer probability? I suggest a mixture of both. Either way, a nice development.

Among comics, Ms. Marvel leads with 5 nominations, which probably has something to do with the protagonist being a Pakistani-American teenage superhero, especially seeing as it wasn’t even nominated for the main category. The Multiversity follows with 4, and while I don’t like the series all that much, the rave reviews made this fairly predictable. Saga is next with 3 nominations, because it’s Saga. I mean, go to my home page and look at the pic for this article. That’s the art award for Saga right there. More on Saga later, though.

Among creators, Brian K. Vaughan has four nominations, which is something I can completely get behind. Again, Saga.

Now for the categories. I will get to the most interesting at the end.

Best Coloring

The only reason this category is here is because Matt Hollingsworth isn’t here. Look at the Hawkeye image above and lament.

Best Cover Artist

I had a hard time picking the right Phil Noto cover to showcase. An awesome time, though.

Best Penciller/Inker

An excuse to feature more Fiona Staples artwork? Hell, yeah! More importantly, though, Fiona was nominated in, and won, the Best Painter/Multimedia Artist category last year for the same comic series. Now, I know she hasn’t changed her art style, so did they make a mistake or are they rectifying one from last year? Either way, she should, and probably will, win.

Best Writer

Let’s run down the list here.

Jason Aaron is confusing. Original Sin (as much as I read) sucked, Thor is going pretty decent and Southern Bastards is hands down the best new series of 2014. I wouldn’t pick him, though.

Kelly Sue Deconnick’s work on Pretty Deadly is pretty good, but again, not my pick. Great to see a female nominee, though.

Grant Morrison is easily the most respected writer on the list, but somehow his work never resonates with me. I see him trying to go meta and deeply philosophical, but there’s no subtlety. And most importantly, caught up in the meta of it all, he seems to forget the emotion. And yet I get the feeling he’ll win.

Brian K. Vaughan would be my second choice for this. He’s also the one who has been winning for the last two years. Because Saga. The Private Eye was great, too, but seriously, Saga.

G. Willow Wilson has been doing a great job with Ms. Marvel, but while the Muslim angle was well-handled, the superhero part is your run-of-the-mill origin story. Great to see two female nominees, though.

Gene Luen Yang, who has been continuing the story from Avatar: The Last Airbender, is my favorite in this list. He understands the characters and the world they inhabit well, which we can see as he combines personal conflicts, philosophical questions, and the inherent spiritual nature of that universe to tell moving stories. (He’s about to start writing Superman comics. Pretty much the only thing that could get me excited about Superman comics.)

Best Short Story

Beginning’s End (which you can find here) is a sweet story about the stress that comes with being a new mother, but nothing about the storytelling stood out to me.

Rule Number One is a fun story about a Robin in training, with no depth to it.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping shows Superman and the Joker’s first meeting, with an arrogant and cocky Superman and an inexperienced and stupid Joker, and ends up not adding to either of the two characters. Also, if The Man Who Laughs is to be believed, there never was a stupid Joker.

When the Darkness Presses (which you can find here) is an interesting story, using the medium to its benefit, something I always appreciate, but didn’t make me feel the terror it was going for.

So basically, the one story I didn’t read because I couldn’t find it is the one I hope wins, because that will tell me there are exceptional short stories being told in comics.

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)

The Multiversity issue nominated here is referred to by most reviewers as “not a cheap Watchmen knockoff”, but cheap Watchmen knockoff is all I saw. Every cool idea used in the issue had already been executed better in Watchmen, except for the idea to tell the story in reverse, which had already been done by Memento, except in Memento, it had a point. Though I’m pretty sure it’s going to win.

The Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration one-shot was pretty cool for Marvel fans, though not very special otherwise.

Best Digital/Web Comic

Both Bandette and The Private Eye have been nominated in their respective main categories, and thus probably have a strong chance, but I’ve only read the latter and can vouch for its brilliant handling of futuristic dystopian storytelling.

No Sunstone though. That is sad, indeed.

Best New Series

See that image up there, clearly saying Southern Bastards? You’ll notice how that name is missing from the nominations. It is not so missing, however, from the Best Continuing Series list. How can a series that is clearly the best new series of 2014 (being the only new series among the nominees for BCS) not be one of the five best new series? It’s not like nothing has ever won both the awards before. Oh, don’t ‘because it’s Saga’ me now. Too much use of that phrase will make it Batman.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

Basically their way of saying Best Manga Translation. All You Need is Kill, a manga series based on a novel which inspired the movie Edge of Tomorrow which inspired another graphic novel, has been nominated. I was confused about whether to watch the movie first or read the comic, and now I’m even more confused.

Best Graphic Album—New

Graphic novels rarely get the level of recognition serialized comics do. Even if you don’t read a lot of comics, I recommend you at least read the winner of this category once the results are announced.

I’ve only read two of the nominees, This One Summer and Seconds, though from what I gather they’re the only ones with a real chance. Both are awesome, and while I preferred Seconds’ fun/depressing romp, I see a greater chance of this one going to the other for its deeper story.

Best Limited Series

There’s The Multiversity again. I don’t think too highly of it. See above.

What is Daredevil: Road Warrior doing here?The story had nothing special about it. While the art was a treat, I don’t think that alone should be enough.

I’ve heard The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman’s long awaited return to his classic, is the top contender for this category.

Among the ones I’ve read, though, I go with The Private Eye. Again, see above.

And here we are. At that most coveted of awards. And an excuse for more Saga art.

Best Continuing Series

Never heard of Astro City or Bandette before. But what’s an Eisner without acclaimed yet unheard of comics?

Hawkeye is one of the best Marvel comic series ever. It is a blend of great characters, a hilarious yet sometimes depressing script and art that is not only beautiful, but makes excellent use of comics as a storytelling medium. I’ll be glad if it wins.

Saga is one of the best comic series ever. It is also a blend of great characters, a hilarious yet sometimes depressing script and beautiful art, but also has an engaging plot with deep stuff to say about our world. Also, if it wins, it will become only the second series to win three consecutive BCS Eisners, the first being Sandman. I’ll be glad if it wins.

Southern Bastards is a series with an unexpected premise, unexpected twists, unexpected art style and an unexpected Best New Series snub. I don’t expect it to, but I’ll be glad if it wins.

The Walking Dead, well, if you’ve watched the TV series, you know how great it can be. And it’s been particularly great lately, with the story that’s probably going to appear in season 9 or 10. I’ll be glad if it wins.

I recommend: This post was basically a bunch of recommendations. If you still want one, if you really didn’t see it in the post, just read Saga already. Let Hazel break your heart.

May the best comic win. May comics, as a medium, win. Comics are awesome. This was an extremely long post. Bye.

Awesome 2014 #2: Comics and Related Stuff Goes BOOM!

2014 was a big year for comic book enthusiasts and pop culture fans, as the two worlds came closer to merging into one. With Marvel announcing Star Wars comics and Disney making an animated feature adaptation of a Marvel property, I think it’s high time to put these developments in perspective.

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier

Superhero movies rule: Two movies came out this year from Marvel Studios, one about the Guardians of the Galaxy, who we didn’t care about because we hadn’t even heard of them before, and Captain America, who we didn’t care all that much for because we had seen him before, once in a fairly average movie and once in a movie where RDJ stole the show. And both the movies ended up being awesome. So now we’re going to watch anything Marvel makes. As for the X-Men franchise, a movie series riddled with continuity errors, we got X-Men: Days of Future Past, the movie which, using some time travel tropes, deleted every other X-Men movie from continuity except X-Men: First Class, which was awesome. More importantly, X-Men: Days of Future Past itself was awesome, so there’s that. Notice that the three movies fall into genres of their own, one a political thriller, another a space opera, and another a sci-fi adventure. Superhero movies clearly have no limits.

Agents_of_SHIELD_logo

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. … uh… changes…? Season 1 did not get off to a great start in 2013. Sure, there was Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, which was fun, but we could only watch the team take on another case every episode for so long. Then, Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened, and everything fell into place, everything started making sense, the stakes rose, and the series found a direction. Though if you thought that was it, Season 2 happened, and I started wondering if I was even watching the same series anymore. They dropped the case-of-the-week format, fleshed out, and developed, every character, and that’s saying something once you see the size of the cast, and the stakes are so high I’d sell my soul to get the next episode NOW. (Not my PlayStation, though, still need that.)

The_Promise_Hardcover_Collection

Avatar: The Last Airbender follow up comic series concludes (hopefully not): The most essential thing to note here is that the series isn’t just additional tales of Team Avatar, it completes the story of the show. Questions left by the series, crucial ones like the nature of the new world order and the identity of Zuko’s mom are answered, and beautifully so.

Kamala_Khan

Marvel and DC diversify: Marvel comics introduced us to a black Captain America, a female Thor (just a woman holding Thor’s hammer), and a morally shady Iron Man, but the biggest achievement in my opinion was Ms. Marvel, a series focusing on a teenage Muslim Pakistani girl growing up in the US, not just because of the idea of diversification, but spectacular execution. DC Comics, on the other hand realized the importance of having fun once in a while and started a bunch of new series with a relatively lighthearted tone. It has payed off well so far.

Avengers_Age_of_Ultron

ALL THOSE ANNOUNCEMENTS! With Marvel and DC’s competition heating up, the two went into a frenzy of trailers and announcements, each trying to one-up the other until it escalated to the point that we already know what movies they’re going to make for who even cares how many years. Batman vs Superman! Civil War between Iron Man and Captain America! Of course, then Marvel dropped the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron and now I don’t really care about anything else.

Now all we have to wonder is how long it will be before Christopher Nolan collaborates with Joss Whedon on a Justice League meets The Avengers movie. I doubt much else will qualify as news anymore.