The Real Thing
What can we predict with the introduction of the latest leap of technology? When is a sea change in fact just an iteration that follows previously observed patterns?
That saying about things being crystal clear in the rearview mirror certainly seems to apply to Facebook. Who could have predicted that the social media platform would turn out to be a key front in Russia’s cyberwar to destabilize American democracy? The final report has yet to be filed, but there is plenty of evidence that lots of concerns were recorded about its vulnerabilities, both operationally and technologically. Even if one only noted that Facebook exists as a vehicle for advertising, and that its users and advertisers can readily conceal their identity, the possibilities for massive fraud come into focus. The penetration of the platform makes it the launchpad for a 21st century version of old-school political “dirty tricks” and allows the reach of tactics like smear and whispering campaigns to be dramatically magnified to a national or global level.
I wonder if there is something predicable about the effects of the widening availability of 4K HDR video technology. Apple is the latest to jump on the bandwagon, and it touts that its new Apple TV “gives you a crisper picture using four times more pixels than standard HD. High Dynamic Range (HDR) delivers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail. From the hottest new movie to your favorite TV show, everything is more lifelike than ever.”
Note the terms “realistic” and “lifelike”. Do we expect our TVs to show us life forms or objects that we mistake for the real thing? Does it matter that the content displayed in this format has the weird ability to appear dramatically different than how it was intended to look when it was originally created, say by a cinematographer working with film? Can we infer something about the intent of this technology, or what the long term effects of it might be, from the fact that its user interface designers seem not to have considered that one might decline to take advantage of these new visual benefits? Or from the fact that one of these benefits is that the rendering of any content can be modified by the distributor to explicitly direct the viewer’s eye to a specific area of the screen (like a can of Coke)?