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Metadata Constructing a Person

by Jesse MacKinnon

The following collection of clips examine the notion of a personality being recreated using metadata alone.  In all of these clips, a certain pattern emerges: a character creates a facsimile of a real person by assembling the digitized records of that persons life.  Then the resultant character displays an agency unforseen by its creator.  The software required to create such a simulacrum is often imbued with near mythical reverence; it is supernatural, not entirely understood by the characters.

Babylon 5
In this case the scenario was a clever way to work the main characters into the scene.  Nothing about the passage required they be present as themselves; only their bodies were required to create propaganda.  Given that it takes place after 500 years, the immense processing power and deductive leaps required to recreate a person are written off as being extremely futuristic.  Finally, Garibaldi displays agency that is entirely unexpected; he hacks the system, destroying the facility.

The avatar of Zoe goes on to become essentially the main character of the show after her real-world counterpart is killed.  Her father puts her digital image into the first Cylon body, putting the drama for the series in motion.  Her programming involved a program beyond the comprehension of her expert-programmer father: again, ascribing a mythic quality to the action.

Asking for a more realistic facsimile of his dead son, the crew member is surprised by the computer's creation; unbeknownst to him, a hostile entity in the computer system has been manipulating the crew.  Nevertheless, this follows the pattern established in the previous clips: the simulated character displaying a level of agency unanticipated by the programmer.

In each of these scenarios a laundry list of said records is recited by the user, reminding the audience of what a paper each person leaves in this modern, increasingly digitized world.  This is in some part cautionary, a warning against the increasing lack of privacy in a world where everything is recorded and increasingly accessible.

“Provide reverse-correct infospeak.”

An Orwellian attempt to discredit historical memory.

from The Deconstruction of Falling Stars (1997)
Creator: Babylon 5
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Posted by Jesse MacKinnon