Fakereals, Realfakes

Link Parish

“We all know synthespians are coming. Very soon we will reach a point when we switch on a television or a computer, see an actor or newscaster, and not know if they are flesh and blood and what’s more… not care.”

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol
Synthespian Lil Miquela

For the past few years we have been bombarded with news about… news. Fake news, fake facts, real people on social media being fake, and fake people on social media pretending to be real. Influence, good and bad.

In 2018 a major influencer on social media was Lil Miquela. Her 1M+ followers was pretty impressive considering her age. Young Miquela Sousa was just two years old. And a synthespian.

Very real. Just not completely real. In 2019 we know that she’s really a media creation, a fake person marketing very real merchandise. A personage more popular than ever with over 1.6M followers. With real influence.
And she’s not alone.

Link to NYT writer Tiffany Hsu’s tweet on virtual influencers

Andrew Niccol was right – “Reality is grossly overrated.”

Speculative fiction is about people–fictitious people. We get our speculation wrong more than we get it right. And others can point or laugh, but we’re okay with that. It’s part of the job. Besides, as the Great One Foretold in Days of Old, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” So the kids are alright.

One of the kids known for getting it right was author, screenwriter, film director and producer Michael Crichton. His 1981 offering ‘Looker‘ had a fantastic cast and won the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film (BIFFF) award for Best Science Fiction Movie. In 1985.

Poster for movie "Looker"

Probably not his best work ever, but give Crichton credit. Looker’s edge of the 80s peek into an advertising and entertainment future filled digital avatars was eerily prescient. Seriously, the hot new computer hardware back then was the gasp 3 ½-inch floppy disk drive…

Remember, CGI didn’t really break out until 1997. Then, in 2001, after four long years (the nearly 142,000 frames took about 90 minutes each to render), Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within took center stage. It cost nearly $150M and grossed only $85M worldwide. But a photo-realistic Dr. Aki Ross voiced by Ming-Na Wen changed everything.

2002 brought us S1m0ne.

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol brought us The Truman Show. He cleverly kept S1m0ne‘s sometimes satirical focus on you, on me. On people. On what will happen when CGI eclipses live action. On the death of substance and the age of the cult of personality.
Human or AI.

Looker and S1m0ne both asked long before anyone else was asking, decades before fake fatigue: How long before synthespian responses are guided by predictive and sentiment analysis run against advertiser offerings, focus-group filtered by AI and informed by our profiles in the cloud, by the contents of our closets, our fridge? And if they make our lives better, makes us feel better, that’s a good thing.

Right?

What will it take to make you capitulate?
We appreciate power
We appreciate power
When will the state agree to cooperate?
We appreciate power
We appreciate power

Neanderthal to human being
Evolution, kill the gene
Biology is superficial
Intelligence is artificial
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I think we already have, Grimes. I think we already have…