Eter­nal life is a holo ex­pe­ri­ence

Sunday Herald - - SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY -

GRIP­PING scenes in this week’s episode of The Walk­ing Dead, aka the Tory Party con­fer­ence. A piti­ful crea­ture called Theresa – a sham­bling ar­ti­fice of her for­mer self – was seem­ingly un­able to un­der­stand she was a goner. And in an ad­mirable sub­ver­sion of hor­ror cliche, the dumb blonde char­ac­ter has sur­vived far longer than any­one ex­pected.

How­ever, it may not only be Theresa’s fate to be for­ever con­demned to a liv­ing death – it could be a future await­ing us all. Re­cent break­throughs in holo­graphic tech­nol­ogy have al­ready seen the dead res­ur­rected on stage – rap­per Tu­pac be­ing one ex­am­ple, right – but soon it will be pos­si­ble to trans­form your own home into a per­son­ally cu­rated Heaven.

This may take the form of de­ceased relatives wan­der­ing around your liv­ing room or, if you’re so in­clined, wak­ing up to a per­fectly-bouf­fanted Mar­garet Thatcher ly­ing naked be­side you. A deeply un­palat­able sce­nario, you’ll agree. How­ever, there is con­text be­yond cheap Tory-bait­ing – the in­evitabil­ity that cu­ri­ous de­viants will be soon able to bear wit­ness and live out such un­holy scenes. Look­ing at some of the True Blue odd­i­ties of na­ture lurk­ing around Manch­ester last week, this is one sim­u­la­tion that will not lack pop­u­lar­ity.

Such de­prav­ity is just the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to the po­ten­tial of life-like holo­grams. The only lim­its will be the depths of your own de­gen­er­acy. A dystopian world of iso­la­tion­ist he­do­nism awaits us all. The dead could even be en­hanced in this ghost-like form, be­com­ing new and im­proved ver­sions of those we loved so dearly. What bet­ter Mother’s Day gift than your res­ur­rected dad sit­ting on his favourite chair again – only with­out his dis­in­ter­ested grunts or flicked snot­balls. You could give him Ge­orge Clooney’s twinkly eyes too. Mum would like that. Or even Clooney’s en­tire head, loaded with dad’s mem­ory. It’s what he would have wanted.

So how far away is this seis­mic tech? Digi­tis­ing the con­tents of brains may still be few decades off, but life-like holo­grams them­selves are not far away at all. In many ways, they’re al­ready here – sim­ply re­quir­ing re­fine­ment for com­mer­cial use.

Ap­ple – with its ridicu­lous war chest of $800 bil­lion – has splashed out on patents for a de­vice which projects re­al­is­tic holo­grams that can be ma­nip­u­lated by hu­man hands, re­spond­ing to swipes and squeezes. In Korea, a re­search team at the Ad­vanced In­sti­tute of Science and Tech­nol­ogy has de­vel­oped holo­grams of such high res­o­lu­tion that they make the fa­mous Tu­pac pro­jec­tion look like the 1970s video game Pong. Swedish pop leg­ends Abba are cer­tainly tak­ing their cue from the re­vived rap­per, with all four mem­bers giv­ing their per­mis­sion for a forth­com­ing holo­graphic world tour. It’s likely Prince will play the Hy­dro with Bowie and Hen­drix soon.

There are, of course, more sober ap­pli­ca­tions of the tech cur­rently be­ing ap­plied. In this year’s French elec­tions, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date JeanLuc Mé­len­chon ap­peared as a holo­gram to speak si­mul­ta­ne­ously at seven ral­lies.

So, how do they work? Toronto-based tech com­pany Rose and Thistle call the process Holo­graphic Paramo­tion. It uses a box filled with the lat­est op­ti­cal tech to beam holo­grams us­ing count­less in­di­vid­ual lasers to an­i­mate each sinew of move­ment. These are not the greentinged, static, flick­er­ing phan­toms of du­bi­ous qual­ity you might be fa­mil­iar with. The lat­est holo­grams are in­creas­ingly in­dis­tin­guish­able from re­al­ity and un­set­tling in their mo­tion and so­lid­ity.

The dan­ger is we be­come non-ex­is­tent our­selves – re­treat­ing from re­al­ity to live out our phys­i­cal lives as de­sen­si­tised, pas­sive pris­on­ers haunt­ing our own fan­tasy worlds. Our phys­i­cal deaths may be just a blip in an our ev­er­last­ing pres­ence on Earth. Ghosts and zom­bies may prove to be real af­ter all – man­i­fested in ways far more dis­turb­ing than any­one could have en­vi­sioned. And I don’t just mean the po­ten­tial res­ur­rec­tion of The Iron Lady as a per­sonal sex-o-gram.

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