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Never Say Die: Holograms bring the dead back to life forever

Copyright: Sebastien Decoret

The 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” had an element of prediction in it that no one saw at the time and few of us see it now. The Wizard, initially, was a huge, formidable and powerful creature on a screen. The intrepid Dorothy and her crew, however, using all of their collective brain cells together. Her group uncovered the deception. He is revealed to be a small man behind a curtain. Unmasking this ruse was a significant point in the film and, looking toward the future, we can see circumstances which are similar today. At least, it may be startlingly identical in the future. One area where we’ll see it is in politics and, like the Wizard, they’ll rule by intimidation.

Politicians are constantly videotaped. Over the years, thousands of hours of their videos exist. Feeding all of this material into an AI program to train it would result in a treasure trove of images. If hooked up to a hologram-producing device, anyone could give immortality to a politician. Voice tracks could be generated by the AI programs, too.

The politicians, similar to the Great Oz, could deceive the populace and rule, seemingly, forever. They wouldn’t need to be displayed in glass cases like Lenin or Mao because they would be “here.” How could we protect ourselves from this travesty of justice? Other questions also will arise in professions as we look at the interface of technology with AI.

Performers pick up the scent

Some actors and movie studios are buckling down and preparing for an inevitable future when using scanning technology to preserve 3-D digital replicas of performers is routine.” If permitting digital scanning of your body is a requirement for a role, will the actors be compensated if their “parts” bare used in the future for other creative works? How will the performers’ unions respond to this new fillip to the task? The SAG-AFTRA union has spoken out on the issue.

SAG-AFTRA is calling on Albany lawmakers to protect performers from zombie holograms and digital recreations in advertisements, movies, sex scenes, nude scenes, virtual reality and deepfakes pornography without our consent. And we want these protections passed on to our families when we are gone.

“SAG-AFTRA believes that you and your beneficiaries should control the use of your image and voice, digital or otherwise. Without strong protections in the law, companies will profit from your image, your work, and your reputation, at your expense.”

As a special effects producer indicated in a recent interview, studios are protecting their investments in a variety of film franchises by scanning all leads in the films. Should a major lead die or have an accident, such as Paul Walker while filming “Furious 7,” the scanned stand-in will oblige and handle the role. If Sean Connery had been scanned, he could have played James Bond in his younger visage many times over.

Not wanting to be left behind, actors have begun to take advantage of the technology to preserve their images and themselves for future projects. Elaborate sets of LED lighting and recording devices store up to 10 terabytes of data at the cost of about $1M. Any actor with the money and the sense of what the future will bring is setting up appointments now. One of the active creators providing the service is Digital Domain, the company that produced the Tupac hologram for Coachella. They admit they’ve scanned about 60 clients to date. The clients shall go nameless by agreement.

Entertainers and actors will need special clauses written into their contracts that will include royalties beyond their death. Typically, the fees would be limited to specified performances while they were alive. The five-lines-or-more rule applies here. But we can see new opportunities for optimizing income without limiting it to creations while they were alive.

Just as Amy Winehouse, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly “tour” together in a holographic presentation after their deaths, actors could be included in future films after they had died. The possibilities will present attorneys and agents many thoughtful hours as they draft new forms of contractual agreements. Who owns the rights to all images of an entertainer in all productions forever? Wills will have to be re-written to provide for royalties paid after the estates’ executors and beneficiaries are gone. How many generations can beneficiary rights exist?

Never saying good-bye to our loved ones

Every living human and our pets, too, can remain available to us in perpetuity via holograms. One TV station in the UK has begun providing a three-part series entitled “Ghost” where terminally ill patients will leave messages for their loved ones.

The producers have stated, “These deeply personal missives will then be delivered post mortem in vivid three-dimensional holographic form, allowing them to appear as if from beyond the grave to comfort the loved ones they have left behind.” The question of “comfort” remains open to speculation and whether or not this is helpful in the grieving process is questionable, as well.

Many people wish they had an opportunity to talk to their dead loved ones to resolve painful issues. A need to pour out regrets and make amends to an all-forgiving hologram might be therapeutic, but would it be possible? Accuracy of facial recognition even cataloging over 30K infrared dots could be of questionable use.

How limited would the holograms be in their renderings? Might it be possible to produce varied environments suited to the departed person and shift as you wish? Could an activity be planned? Going fishing with dad would be a lot more satisfying than sitting and talking about it. Here, AI and VR begin to become mixed in new milieus.

Would the AI program always be so understanding and forgiving? Who would write code that had such flexibility of “intellect” regarding reading the emotional needs of the individual? How about ownership of the hologram? If we bought it would we own it or, as a Kindle book, would we be “renting” it? Of course, it would be unimaginable to “rent” your dearly departed grandma even though you would have paid for her to be created. Not like something from Microsoft or Adobe.

Think tank time approaches with the improvements in AI and holograms. Would the AI be empathic? What about ethics? Would AI report a crime that was committed? Can coders ensure that the programs follow the rule of law?

If deep learning is involved, could the AI suggest revenge or retribution as the dead person might have wanted? What about software upgrades to keep the holograms compatible with the hardware? All scenarios must be considered or the problems mount.

Perpetual pets, too

Regarding pets, how do you take your trusty Fido hologram for a walk? Another area to be developed is tactile AI which could be incorporated is virtual leashes. Natural barks, pulls, and yelps can be a part of the mix, too. No more worries about kitty litter trays, either. Virtual Tabby will never need to go to the pan unless you buy an accessory program that includes that feature.

And no allergies from whatever pet you wish. You could have whatever type of pet you wanted from a Siberian tiger to a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” cartoon. Jimmy Stewart had “Harvey” who was completely invisible to others, but we would want our hologram to be visible to all.

The sticking point is getting all that video into a library to create these pets. But present-day animals’ actions could be digitized onto existing libraries of frameworks for your new pets, couldn’t they? CGI to the rescue.

The new cachet of disposable income would be how expensive your holographic pet might be and what it was able to do. Fantasy will be set free in this new world of possibilities.

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