Pedophiles, manticores and virtual realities | babelia

The following article contains spoilers of the movie manticore.

On Wednesday we woke up with the news that the National Police had arrested a man in Valladolid for creating child porn with artificial intelligence.

The headline was surprisingly novel, but perhaps a bit inaccurate. The arrest of the man was not exactly produced by the recreation of him with AI, but in reality he possessed huge amounts of abject, grotesque and above all very real child pornography. That was the thread the officers pulled and the main cause of his arrest, but the idea of ​​computer-made pornography is hanging around as a novel concept that suddenly collides with the law. Many in forums and networks have begun to consider whether recreation is a crime or not.

It is the first time that we hear of news like this and, nevertheless, fate wants a recently released film, manticore, by Carlos Vermut, talk about something very similar. In the film, the protagonist, an out-of-place and sick guy, escapes from a society that would condemn his sexual fantasies with minors through technology: his work as a 3D modeler of monsters for video games opens up a way for him to live virtually. your fantasy. “I have never hurt anyone”, the protagonist, Julián, justifies himself at one point. “That child doesn’t exist”, he justifies himself again. That child is the 3D model that he has created and with which he gets excited through the virtual reality glasses, the model with which he feeds (and appeases) the monster that he carries within him. To the manticore

The issue of sexual representation and its collision with the law is not new. In Diary of a bad year, the Nobel Prize for Literature JM Coetzee spoke about the fuzzy limits of the law and the sexualized representation of childhood. He spoke, for example, of the appearance of the actress in the film lolita; how someone of legal age can look like a teenager and how someone who is a teenager can look so much older. Literature and fiction aside, the closest thing to the dilemma it poses manticore (and also the “creative” part of the arrested pedophile) is the hentai (drawn or animated pornography) Japanese. There are hundreds of series and manga that sexualize, sometimes in a sick way, minors. There is a whole urban subculture, and dozens of series, focused on these helpful and sexualized minors. The problem, of course, is that they are not minor. They are drawings that look like minors.

Four 'people' faces generated in seconds by artificial intelligence.
Four ‘people’ faces generated in seconds by artificial intelligence.

The legislation is not clear and the eyes are on what the judge does with the pedophile from Valladolid. Article 189 of the Penal Code is where the definition of child pornography is made: “any material that visually represents a person who appears to be a minor participating in sexually explicit conduct (…) unless the person who appears to be a minor turns out to be in fact eighteen years of age or older. The Budapest Convention, the only international agreement on cybercrime, penalizes the distribution or possession of material that involves explicit sexual conduct of minors, persons appearing to be minors, or realistic images of minors. It may seem clearer, but again, questions arise: Does someone with bunny ears constitute a “realistic representation”? And someone with wings? The hentai He has been avoiding all kinds of censorship for decades, playing with the monstrous appearance of his characters. Again, the manticore appears. Would the crime then be if the creation is based on a real and recognizable model? There are many web pages that generate random people’s faces that completely hit the jackpot.

Artists (Carlos Vermut is) are like insects whose sharp antennae capture the clues of the world around them. The new technologies favor all sorts of uses of our own image and that of others that collide with the world in which we have lived up to now. The case of the pedophile only heads a list that also includes voice modifiers, video filters, facial reconstructions and deepfakes that can be used to rejuvenate Robert de Niro in the Irishbut also for what the pedophile from Valladolid does.

Circulating on the internet there are thousands of sex videos (some indistinguishable) in which the face of a famous man or woman is inserted on someone else’s body. The legislation on graphic (and pornographic) representation fostered by new technologies is a subject that will have to be discussed sooner or later. And it will have to be discussed taking into account that technology is capable of providing unique experiences and contributing to art. But also taking into account that monsters (manticores) also know how to draw.

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