It’s easy to forget - living as we do in a world where thousands of songs can be carted around on a device the size of a credit card – just how remarkable modern technology is. Advances that would have made heads explode a mere ten to fifteen years ago are now treated as an entirely incidental part of life.
Now … let’s not pretend this is some sort of revolutionary observation. Technology has always progressed this way. But in recent years there’s been an undeniable slant towards entertainment: the production, distribution and consumption of pop culture. Gone are the days when we viewed pesticides or air travel as astonishing – now it’s all about movies, music and multimedia meddling.
Occasionally, however, something comes along which blasts this complacency out of the water. Yesterday, at the much-vaunted Coachella festival, rapper Snoop Dogg performed alongside a holographic recreation of Tupac, a fellow hip-hop artist who was shot dead in Las Vegas in 1996. Take a look:
Incredible, isn’t it? Amazing. Mind-boggling. A true affirmation of the power of a plugged-in planet.
But … is it right?
It’s a rare tech development – especially in an area so politically ‘unimportant’ as music – which brings with it the burden of ethical dilemma. But this … take another look. You’d have to be the hardest of hearts to admit that the whole spectacle is … well … kind of creepy. A dead man on stage, reeling out his hits to the cheering masses.
Needless to say, this is purely an aesthetic observation. Some people may find the masked antics of Slipknot or the deathly drone-rock of Sun O ‘creepy’ – it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. The question we have to ask here is: is this what Tupac would have wanted? Is there any way we can ever know that? And if not, shouldn’t the idea of ‘bringing him back’ be vetoed on principle?
It’s also worth noting that this is purely a performance. It would be easy to argue that of course Tupac would have approved of this – he was a showman, after all, and a showman’s role is to entertain. But what if this technology spread beyond the confines of the stage? How would Tupac fans feel if he was ‘revived’ to sell sneakers or fizzy drinks? The same goes for Elvis, or Michael Jackson, or Whitney Houston, or whoever you like – where does the limit lie with someone’s ‘image’?
Now. Let’s fast-forward a few decades. What would be the ethical ramifications if this technology – resurrecting the dead to make ‘em dance – was applied to something like, say, human cloning or artificial life? Such a statement may inspire a sneering laugh – impossible, surely – but just remember what the man in the street would have said about the iPod thirty years ago.
What do you guys think? Is the Tupac hologram terrific or tasteless?