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The latest internet gadget-thingy is MyAncestry.com’s Deep Nostalgia tool. It animates old photos. I first encountered it on Twitter, where someone posted the results of applying the AI to a picture of Frederick Douglass. It was remarkable. You know it’s fake. But there is a simulacrum of the spark of life, somehow – your brain both rebels and accepts. Uncanny Valley and all that.
I signed up and started running old pictures through the program. The site warns you that the results may trigger Emotions, and that’s wise. I cannot input my parents, because the thought of seeing the old pictures move and smile is unbearable. I put in my grandmother as a 75-year-old, and I felt my eyes smart. Is it the movement that does it? Or is there something in the program that imbues an ineffable element to the fakery that fires a billion dormant neurons that held her memory?
It’s best to stick to relatives you never knew. I reanimated my great-grandfather, and got a brief hint of the smile my grandmother might have seen as a little girl when dad came home to the farm from a trip to town, and she told him about what the dog did. Funny dog!
There is, of course, an immense problem with this technology, as it will demolish our faith in the veracity of moving images completely, and there is nothing we can do about it.Published in