I have to say, I’m pretty stunned… I really didn’t know this was yet possible, but there’s a great piece in The Independent today about the holographic resurrection of Tupac Shakur at the recent Coachella festival – using technology developed by the British firm Musion. The footage above – start around 15 seconds in – is not of him live, but him as a 3D holographic projection on stage, with some new words dubbed in. Extraordinary.
It’s clearly a great day for Star Wars fans, as the scene where R2D2 projects a hologram message from Princess Leah to Obi Wan is now a reality… and the Independent piece talks about where the technology could go from here. The Beatles back on stage? Yep. Mariah Carey performing simultaneously in 5 countries? Already happened. Simon Cowell getting Frank Sinatra to perform for his birthday… yep, been done. Jesus Christ…where could this end?!
This has caused me some serious thought, because one of the elements of the book I am writing on piracy concerns the return of music to its traditional roots whereby acts make their money from performances. Making money from recordings is, or was, a temporary window of opportunity, which media piracy has brought radical change to. What I’ve wanted to argue is that live performance cannot be pirated, and so this remains the domain where musicians will be able to make their living – from the unique live experience.
But it seems now that as 3D holographic projection gets better, which it surely only can, then we could potentially see a situation where a live performance is…pirated. Where people gather to watch someone perform live, but in fact are just watching a virtual person, an avatar. And that may mean I need to rethink my position again on the possible invasion of digital piracy into material reality (as I mooted in this post on 3D printing.)
I’m currently writing a lecture about the Turing Test, which reflects – by which I mean, mirrors back on ourselves – on what computers trying to act like humans can tell us about being human. Given 5 minutes with an interlocutor, how would you convince someone that you were human? With great knowledge? Hmm, internet has that covered. With wit, or a slagging match?
As we see more and more machines become more and more human, it’s going to be more and more important that we have a solid (as opposed to hollow-graphic) understanding of who we are. Because surely it’s a hypothetical lack of that self-reflection that would feature in the fictional pre-histories of dystopian cyborg pieces like Bladerunner. We’re not there yet, but we need to consider the path ahead now.