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Tom Avitabile: The Deep Fakery Bakery

Way, way, back in 1981 B.C. (before cellphones), Michael Crichton, who brought us Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, dabbled in a slice of cake from the deep fakery bakery. It was a little-known movie called Looker. As was his theme, it was a cautionary sci-fi tale ala, “don’t f*ck with Mother Nature or the dinosaurs will come back and eat you.”

Only this time, the evildoers in the movie were trying to out engineer Mother Nature. Notably by creating the perfect advertising spokesmodel. Today we call that a (say it with me) Av-a-tar. It was all blamed on those evil men who sell you what you don’t want by fear and intimidation or, as they were known then, Advertising Execs. (Full disclosure I was a Creative Director Ad Exec at an NYC ad shop for years.)

In the search for the perfect human form with which to lull viewers into buying whatever comes out of her perfect lips or whatever she was holding in her perfect hands, they made the perfect female spokesperson. Of course, they did this by first finding the most nearly perfect, most stunning woman on the planet. Then in a bit of 1980’s sci-fi wizardry, they did something they called ‘scanning them’ into a massive computer and then fixed Mother Nature’s mistakes. You know, the nose is 1 millimeter longer than the prescribed perfect one, the chin – a centimeter back, the eyes a fraction of an inch wider apart. You know, “perfection.” Of course, the one thorny little issue this created was: who needed this multimillion-dollar deep fake when the real one was available at $1000 per hour? Their Hi-tech solution? Kill the real flesh and blood lookers so that only their avatars “lived.”

This is why today, I have sleepless nights worrying about Tom Cruise. I wonder if he can hear the clock ticking? Tik Tok, Tik Tok.

Just like practically every war movie ever made, except the studio blockbusters and those actually made during World War Two, they were all subtextually anti-war films. I didn’t realize it then when I was a kid, but the messaging was ingrained.

In that same manner, my high-tech thrillers deliver anti-tech underpinnings. My motto and question for all these cutting-edge programmers and digital innovators, and for technology in general, is, Just because we can, should we? Noooobody ever asks this. The people with the power to make Tom Cruise perform Macbeth in Swahili in a Sherman tank wearing a tutu on the planet Mars with 100% believability and acceptance by the masses, never say… “Hey, wait a minute, do we actually need this?” In the hallowed halls of the Technosphere, there isn’t an anthropologist or a humanist. There’s no one to speak for the soon-to-be enslaved billions. Slaves to the freedom of relegating what you do and who you are to a device, all in the name of “cool.” My other adage is that “The Devil always comes to you with candy – never Listerine.”

President Barack Obama once said something to the effect of, “the ATM was the harbinger of bad things to come.” The friggin’ ATM! Because he knew that thousands of bank tellers and employees would be displaced, fired, and struggle to find a new career to feed their families. Today you don’t need an ATM at all. The boys who make the toys make it possible to do everything on your phone. (Hmmm? ATM = Atrophy To the Max)

In 1998, in one of my first novels (as far as I can tell), I coined the phrase TECHNOSAPIAN. The next evolutionary group of hominids. That would be us adapting to a world without banks, driving your own car, working in a factory, and everything else the technology will do for us. Then like everything else that evolution adapts to, we will become something else. Possibly amorphous, corpulent blobs. See the other movie, WALL·E.

Okay, so now you are saying, Geez, this guy sounds like the old man yelling, “Get off my lawn!” Maybe, but my life was better. I had more time to live before technology made the work I used to travel to (and only did for 40 hours a week), a never-ending 24/7 obligation within reach of my cellphone, er… smart (?) phone.

Okay, one last proof of concept, as they like to say in Silicon Valley. The ultimate indication of our collective future is that everything you are, all that identified you in the world, the basis of social media, was your face. (see Looker) But 3000 milliseconds ago, Facebook is now Meta. You know, as in Meta-Data. That is who you are now. Not a collection of cells, bones, muscle, and tissue, that if you are lucky, comes wrapped in a form looking like Susan Dey (the perfect female in Looker). But scanned to a series of data points by which those evil Ad Execs can now serve you up advertisements of things you don’t need with greater accuracy and less waste.

Everybody now, in mindless unison: Meta is Betta! Meta is Betta! Metta is Betta. – Candy, anyone?


About the Author...

Author Tom Avitabile is a writer, director, and producer with numerous film and television credits. His extensive background in computers and engineering led him to work with the House Committee on Science Space and Technology. Tom’s powerful imagination, fed from his experiences in Washington, allowed him to conjure up not only possible security threats, but also real life scenarios relating to how the government and individuals would respond to the high-tech assaults that are featured prominently in his three book “thrillogy.” These novels chronicle the exploits of Science Advisor to the President, “Wild” Bill Hiccock. The first techno-thriller of this series, The Eighth Day, became a Barnes and Noble #1 bestseller. In his next thriller, The Devil’s Quota, Avitabile departs from the high-tech genre and sheds daylight on an evil international syndicate, a story of sexual deviation, greed, human trafficking and corruption.

1 comment

1 Comment

Sep 14, 2022

True this: "My other adage is that “The Devil always comes to you with candy – never Listerine.”" And great timely post!

I'm guessing we're going to see a weird test over the rest of this decade. Our generation, and the two coming up behind us will be "adults" with real lives having to make a decision about deep fakes, Meta, and whatever Tik Tok devolves into. But the two next one, those now just teens and those learning to read, walk and crawl won't really be making decisions so much as absorbing and rejecting as all youngster will.

I'm sharing this on my Twitter right now.

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