Today's 'What Hath God Wrought?' Tech Moment

We all know about photoshopping and the way it has made photographic "evidence" the least rather than the most believable indicator of underlying reality.

 For the next step down this road, consider this project from Kevin Karsch, a PhD student at the University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign. Its official title is "Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs." Once you realize that "legacy photographs" means "real photographs of something that actually existed," and "synthetic objects" covers just about anything you can imagine, you have an idea of the potential. But check it out (and be sure to listen to the narration):

 

Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs from Kevin Karsch on Vimeo.


For more discussion, see Slashdot and Vimeo. Karsch says that the system, designed to be very easy for non-techies to use, "has applications in the movie and gaming industry, as well as home decorating and user content creation, among others." Among others, indeed! I can think of: political advertising and "reality"-creation, blackmail, the ever-evolving "news" media, and the law. That old chestnut about "who do you believe, me or your own eyes" will take on a new twist. Thanks to E. Goldstick.

Update: Jamais Cascio went into some of the possibilities of this alterable video "reality," and its political and cultural ramifications, three years ago.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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