I don’t think I realized how long it’s been since I last checked in around here. Assuming anybody is still following this blog and still cares, sorry. I hope I didn’t worry you. There’s nothing’s wrong. I haven’t been sick or anything, just busy… and perhaps filled with a touch of fatalistic “what does it matter” ennui. But I don’t want to talk about that right now. Instead, let us observe our silly annual tradition of wishing the one and only William Shatner a very happy birthday. The actor who portrayed my childhood hero, Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, turns an incredible 90 years old today.
That’s difficult to believe, as he remains more engaged with the world than many people half his age. He’s active on Twitter, for one thing, sparring with trolls and fans alike on a daily basis. He’s still working, too. The image above is from his upcoming movie Senior Moment, in which he stars with the equally iconic Christoper Lloyd. (The trekkies among us will no doubt remember that they previously worked together in a little thing called Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, way back in 1984.) Judging from the trailer, Senior Moment will probably be the sort of thing that’s best described as “cute,” a by-the-numbers exercise in life-affirming treacle. I don’t have very high expectations for it at all, but I think it’s admirable that Shatner has found a starring role at this stage of life, and I hope it’s a success for him.
And here’s an interesting project that was just announced today, no doubt to coincide with his birthday: Shatner has become the “brand ambassador” and will be the first subject of a new service called StoryFile that will use recorded interviews and AI technology to create interactive video simulations of people that others can converse with, just as if they were talking to the real person. I’ve had a look at the company’s sizzle reel; it seems entirely plausible, and they have a lot of interesting potential applications in mind. But the one I’m really intrigued by is the idea of creating a legacy, some hint of a person that will remain after that person is gone. Journals, photographs, personal possessions, even film and video can only go so far in giving you the sense of an actual person, but one of these StoryFile simulacrums could capture an inkling of someone’s actual personality. It reminds me of the old Max Headroom concept, where a computer-generated TV personality was created from a scan of someone’s brain. Of course, that was more akin to downloading someone’s mind, which this isn’t. But some of these AI chatbots are getting pretty difficult to distinguish from actual human customer service agents. If we could create that level of realism… well, like I said, I’m intrigued. Where I never got around to having children, the idea of living on in even a video simulation form is… appealing.
I know start-up companies with these grandiose, would-be revolutionary ideas are a dime a dozen. StoryFile could easily be vaporware, this year’s version of that Mars One debacle a few years back. But like I said, I’m intrigued. And I love that William Shatner, 90-year-old William Shatner, is involved with it. He is still a role model to me in so many ways… still curious, still engaged, still grappling with the human adventure. I aspire to that.
Happy birthday, Bill.