CGI, Movies and Truth…

After watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which I liked, though not nearly as much as the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI), it got me thinking more about something I hadn’t thought about since the most recent presidential election.  As I watched Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, both characters made possible in large part thanks to CGI (as well as the help of actors Ingvild Deila and Guy Henry), I realized that although this is still a long way away, it is inevitable that (barring a nuclear world war or some other catastrophe that kills us all or sets us back to a pre-industrialized age) the pace of this technology will eventually lead to CGI products that are completely indistinguishable from reality.

This means that eventually, the “fake news” issue that many have been making a lot of noise about as of late, will one day take a new and ugly turn for the worse.  Not only is video and graphic technology accelerating at a fairly rapid pace to exacerbate this problem, but similar concerns are also arising as a result of voice editing software.  By simply gathering several seconds of sample audio from a person of interest, various forms of software are getting better and better at synthesizing their speech in order to mimic them — putting whatever words into “their” mouths that one so desires.

The irony here is that this means that despite the fact that we are going to continue becoming more and more globally interconnected, technologically advanced, and gain more global knowledge, it seems that we will eventually reach a point where each individual becomes less and less able to know what is true and what isn’t in all the places that you are electronically connected to.  One reason for this is that, as per the opening reference to Rogue One, it will become increasingly difficult to judge the veracity of videos that go viral on the internet and/or through news outlets.  We can imagine seeing a video (or many series of videos) released on the news and throughout the internet containing shocking events with real world leaders or other famous people, places, and so forth, events that could possibly start a civil or world war, alter one’s vote, or otherwise — but with the caveat that these events are entirely manufactured by some Machiavellian warmonger or power seeking elite.

Pragmatically speaking, we must still live our lives trusting what we see in proportion to the evidence we have, thus believing ordinary claims with a higher degree of confidence than extraordinary ones.  We will still need to hold to the general rule of extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence in order to meet their burden of proof.  But it will become more difficult to trust certain forms of evidence (including in a court of law), so we’ll have to take that into consideration so that actions that result in more catastrophic consequences (if your assumptions/information turn out to be based on false evidence) require a higher burden of proof — once we are able to successfully pass some kind of graphics Touring Test.

This is by no means an endorsement for conspiracy theories generally nor any other anti-intellectual or dogmatic non-sense. We don’t want people to start doubting everything they see nor to start doubting everything they don’t WANT to see (which would be a proverbial buffet for our cognitive biases and the conspiracy theorists that make use of these epistemological flaws regularly), we still need to take this dynamic technological factor into account to maintain a world view based on proper Bayesian reasoning.

On the brighter side of things, we are going to get to enjoy much of what the new CGI capabilities will bring to us, because movies and all visual entertainment are going to be revolutionarily changed forever in many ways that will be worth celebrating, including our use of virtual reality generally (many various forms that we do and will continue to consciously and rationally desire). We just need to pay attention and exercise some careful moral deliberation as we develop these technologies. Our brains simply didn’t evolve to easily avoid being duped by artificial realities like the ones we’re developing (we already get duped far too often within our actual reality), so we need to engineer our path forward in a way that will better safeguard us from our own cognitive biases so we can maximize our well being once this genie is out of the bottle.


3 thoughts on “CGI, Movies and Truth…

    • While I don’t claim that these technologies will inevitably lead us into a dystopic future, I do think that they have the potential to. But as per my post, I also think that many of these technologies (virtual reality in particular) has a lot of promise to help us in a number of ways by augmenting reality for therapeutic purposes, as a possible means to live more sustainably, and as a means of potentially solving the social handicaps that are precipitating from the way our electronic social networking and related interfaces are being used.

      But as always, the direction we head is likely to be a mixture of good and bad and our best hope (since the genie is out of the bottle so to speak) is to be more cautious and aware of where the technology is taking us as a society and as a species so we can do our best to guide it in as beneficial a direction as is possible. The future holds a lot of promise for us given the evolutionary cusp we are on, but if we’re not careful and if we’re too oblivious of or too complacent with some of these long term consequences, we could wind up destroying everything that we value most. In any case, it’s important to talk about and think about these concepts and our ongoing “teleology”. While our goals as a species may change, we’ll always be trying to maximize our personal satisfaction and life-fulfillment in some way and we want to make sure that our technologies as they are implemented aren’t detracting from that underlying fundamental goal.

      • Hi Lage,

        Thank you for your very reasoned reply, with which I largely agree. I would be grateful if you could kindly leave your feedback at the comment section of my post that I mentioned earlier, as I value your thoughts and insights.

        Whilst many would argue that technologies are “neutral” as they are merely “tools” whose impacts depend on their users, we cannot ignore that technologies are like “words” reflecting our narratives, needs, desires, pursuits and worldviews. Yet, they are also like “swords” with double edges capable of cutting both ways.

        Please be informed that I am currently preparing the culminating post for a special trilogy. It will definitely be the very next post to be published in the last month of 2017, and deals with the major contributing factors and fundamental issues that are increasingly solidifying a really dystopian future for all humanity, even when technologies are clearly abundant and not out of control.

        The Quotation Fallacy “💬” is the second post of the special trilogy. The title is also a brand-new term that I recently coined to encapsulate a whole suite of matters, including the cognitive and social influences on forming judgements and making decisions. The first post of the trilogy is a lengthy and multifaceted showcase of 👁‍ Optical Illusions 👁‍🗨❇️😵✳️👀 in their various forms and manifestations.

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