Computer-Generated News

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I’m old enough to vaguely remember Walter Cronkite forty years ago showing us hand painted “NASA Simulation” video of the Apollo spacecraft maneuvering in space. There simply was no way to position a news camera outside the Lunar and Command Modules to get the shot.

Now we have computer generated movies and commercials. I’ve seen computer simulations of plane crashes and of presidential candidates. But yesterday morning was the first time I’d seen computer-generated pictures of human participants in breaking news. I’m not sure I approve of the concept altogether, but given it’s existence I do like the editorial decision to render the named humans in untextured solid red.

Computer-generated graphics aren’t the only way to generate an imagined world. For example, statues have been one of the mostly used ways to put an event on humanity’s “Permanent Record,” and these, too can be created, labeled, and altered to suit the message of the presenters. But when statues are big and expensive enough to require a committee to act together, there has to be at least some agreement about the context in which the message is to be understood. When computer generated graphics are cheap, fast, and easy enough for a lone specialist to create, the opportunity for convincing fraud might be transformative. I wonder how few people were involved in yesterday’s false news service release of Steve Job’s obituary.

When I post a picture that I would not be considered to own the copyright for, I generally try to make that picture be a link to the context in which I found the picture. In this case, that would be a link to the ABC News story. But the video is horrible: it takes forever to load and is full of advertisements. Furthermore, it’s so buried below abuses of W3C technology that I can’t even find the actual direct link. Fuck ’em.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. I think you would be absolutely shocked to see what gets used in a court room these days. There is CGI that utlizes physics to simulate the scene of the crime, before, during and after. Its impact on a jury is amazing.

  2. Wow. I understand that an advocate needs to tell a story – just as does a politician, salesman, or teacher. But I am horrified by the idea of a jury essentially voting for whichever side makes the better movie.

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