A Washington Post article discussing the digital altering of the visage of the late actor Peter Cushing in the new Star Wars movie Rogue One got me thinking about the implications of highly advanced digital animation. In the not-too-distant future, we could be treated to a Casablanca sequel in which the Nazis manage to assassinate Victor Lazlo, leaving Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund to reunite. And the really amazing part: the characters of Blaine and Lund could be portrayed by none other than Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman – that is to say, in their 21st century digital guises.
Indeed, in a few more years, a host of long-deceased Hollywood actors could be digitally resurrected to acquire new cinematic careers, not only appearing in sequels to classics but also starring in entirely new productions. I, for one, would love to be treated one more time to the remarkable on-screen alchemy of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara – or William Holden and Grace Kelly, or, for that matter, Lucy and Desi!
I’ll even take this technology a step further. What happens when advanced digital animation is merged with Artificial Intelligence? There are a handful of historical figures who have left enough personal and philosophical writings behind to provide the basis the recreation of new new digital personas.
Americans soon could be created to digitally enhanced Disney Hall of Presidents that puts the present one to shame.
Within the political historical context, some of the of the figures who come to mind: Thomas, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. What if these personas become sophisticated enough to become more than simply talking head avatars of long deceased statesmen? What if their public pronouncements become so well-conceived and compelling that they acquire wide followings and are even granted some form of legal status, perhaps even citizenship?
Ponder for a moment something even more fantastic: What if these digital iterations of Jefferson and Lincoln enter politics, perhaps some day seeking “re-election” to the presidency.
For some this sort of fantasizing may sound delusional. But the more I read about the implications of digital animation and Artificial Intelligence, the less inclined I am to dismiss anything related to them as whimsical fantasy.