My wife and I were watching "3:10 to Yuma" (violent and predictable, but far from the worse we've watched recently) and when we noticed Peter Fonda in the credits, my wife couldn't recognize who he had played. Well, of course he's gotten a bit older over the years, and his role barely mattered anyway, so that wasn't surprising. After we dug back and figured out which character was his, I commented that in a few years we'll probably start seeing computer generated actors resurrect stars of the past.
I didn't realize how close we are to that. So close that there is already a name for it - "synthespians" - and that people doing this kind of work say they are "getting real close".
With all the film stock to draw from, absolute accuracy shouldn't be a problem, even down to the smallest gesture or facial expression. So what happens to the real stars? Maybe they will get paid for the use of their name and likeness, but that won't last: totally artificial actors will replace them and, over time, no one will care. The era of the highly paid Hollywood actor is about to end. Hollywood stars aren't the only ones affected; "extras" have already been pushed out of some films and of course many other small parts will also be replaced by synthespians.
Funny, isn't it: in the science fiction of the past, computers were going to liberate us, relieve us from drudge work, make us all wealthy. While some of that has come true, computers have also widened income disparity, pushing some people out of good paying jobs.
What's next? Music? Some say that's farther away, but I'm not so sure. Combining computer created music with generated pop/rock star idols is a tougher sell, but it could come to pass. Maybe the only safe celebrities are sports stars?
It's a brave new world, isn't it?
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