Simulacra as Crime

In my book “see my book” and this blog I have explored the simulacrum as a vivid replica of reality rather than reality itself and the confusion that causes and all the consequences that entails. Recently, we have seen instances where this confusion has turned upside down and has become criminal.

Earlier blogs explored “the selfie” and its ramifications, particularly for the young. Newer apps have expanded the purview of the Selfie. Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat allow users to live stream their videos. In at least two cases recently, crimes such as rape and corruption of minors have been recorded by someone who allowed the fore-mentioned crimes to proceed while they recorded and streamed them live. Two such cases have been brought before the courts and the accused face possible prison time if convicted.

Reporters have historically faced the moral dilemma when photographing or filming war, riots, etc. Do they continue filming or do they intervene? Today, almost everyone is equipped with a camera that takes both stills and videos. The moral dilemma is now upon us all.

The young believe everything must be photographed. “Something only becomes real if it is recorded in some way.”, is often quoted as the reason for such excess of recording. Thus the simulacrum (the photo or the video) becomes the real when looked upon, as opposed to the real event which lacks veracity when simply lived. Taking pictures on vacation is a bit like this, keeping the real alive in pictures to be viewed later. But in this long tradition, the picture is known as simply a prompt, a reminder. (I explore in my book and earlier blogs the issue of travel brochures being taken as the reality of travel destinations, and when the traveler goes to said destinations they want to visit the pictures. If the real vacation is not the brochure, the vacation is often deemed a disappointment.)

The picture, the video, the simulacrum as a truer reality is now pervasive among us all, particularly the young who have grown up with social media and everyone having a camera. The pocket phone is now almost more universally used as a camera and message sender than as its original purpose, making or receiving a phone call. The powerful need to record a moment so that one can re-live it even more powerfully as a picture or video is seductive, dangerous and almost psychologically perverse. This transmutation deserves deeper analysis than this short blog can avail. That one girl would video and live stream the rape of her friend rather than being outraged and intervening is a mind-boggling change of behavior created by technology. Our machines are warping us. This is but one compelling example.

That simulacra (which all photos and videos are) should evolve from accepted replication to more scintillating alter reality is a distress call. When pictures and phantasies are taken as more real, madness is upon us. Social media has become dangerous. When crimes are recorded without compunction, simulacra have become criminal.

Add the next revolution of VR where simulated reality surrounds you….add the ever improving CGI in movies that makes anything imaginable seem totally real….and the ever finer line between reality and imitation is shrinking if not gone. You now have the makings of a sensory shift that is both technical and existential….and dangerous.

THE SIMULACRUM RULES !!

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CGI and the simulacrum

CGI, which stands for computer generated images, is, in its recent and most sophisticated renderings, the very creation of the dreaded simulacrum so much discussed in this blog and my book “see my book“. Jean Baudrillard, the modern French philosopher, who deeply explored the concept of the simulacrum, felt it was the definitive danger of our time. He made the case that we live in a time of media in which it is possible to create a “reality” that is, in fact, not. When something seems real, but it is not, it is a simulation, i.e., a simulacrum. A simulacrum is not a picture or an image of a real thing or place but rather a wholly created pseudo-reality that is so persuasive that once in it, you take it to be real.

The previous blog post made the case, that cinema today (and CGI) has reached the level of scary real. It is nearly impossible to tell that what your are seeing isn’t or wasn’t (as it was filmed) real. But if we accept the fact that though it seems real, it isn’t…(and by that, immunized against it deleterious effects) …then this next thought is logical and the point of this blog-post.

One of the themes of my book, is authenticity. It presumes that authenticity is good….that living an inauthentic life is not good. So it follows that if you are living a moment inside a simulacrum, which by definition is false, your experience therefore cannot be authentic, and therefore not desirable. But what if, as the previous post suggests, that CGI and simulacra become commonplace, and we live within them more often than not, then, an ever larger portion of our existence will become in-authentic. But here’s the rub….what if the ever larger growing crowd of young people love to live in the simulacra because it becomes an “enhanced” reality that has more drama and intensity? Does their life continue to be in-authentic, or by embracing the simulacrum, false as it is, become, in fact, authentic? For hundreds of years, society has sought out the authentic life….one sans artifice and pretense. But are we on the cusp of a fundamental revision of that search? Is technology changing not just the external, but internal values as well?

In the not too distant future, what is reality and thus what is authentic may have truly newer definitions.  Stay tuned.

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