Everybody Lies

The ability of huge numbers of people to create digital content can only be a good thing. But what about mis-content?

These are masterful fakes. On youtube, they’re called “Eric Clapton shreds” and “Carlos Santa shreds.” Clapton. Not Layla. (A song.) Not Blackie. (His guitar.) The very title is shredding Clapton himself.

As more of our identity becomes digital, how susceptible are we to lies on-line? I created my personal Webpage in 2002 after getting canned from Curl. From then on, the information I chose to present was the top hit for me on Google (if you spelled my name right). I used to not hand out business cards, just telling people to Google me. But recently I dropped Charter where the site was ultimately served from, and I’ve lost my Google position. The view the world has of me is no longer under my control. Anyone with editing software could put up a Forrest Gump vid of me playing or saying anything.
Not Real

My favorite TV show these days is “House”, which is centered on a moral truth of, “Everybody lies.” We’ve come to expect and even accept lies from our political leaders. Cops. Judges. Sports heros. Our teachers. Sometimes our parents and kids.

Apple has a new ad that scores points against its Microsoft competition by disingenuously telling folks, “Don’t give up on Vista.” It makes its point by lying. Someone put up a video purporting to show that the ad itself doesn’t run properly on Apple’s latest operating system. This page describes the campaign and includes a small text link further down for the video. But at the time I viewed the page, there was in the middle a large automatically selected video ad for… Vista! I wonder what AdWords will appear to the right of this entry, and whether the payers will be glad of the association.

With digital content, have we reached the point where you can’t trust anything? Is truth just a fuzzy Page Rank probability?

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 don’t have any big insight into your general point, but those youtube hacks are pretty astounding, and the Santana one, in particular, is “Oh my gawd I can’t believe it” funny.

    The Ali/Liston picture above, and which you included in another entry a while ago, is pretty consistently the biggest bandwidth hog on wetmachine.

    This drawing from “Acts of the Apostles” consistently sucks up so much bandwidth that I long ago added the wetmachine advertising to the image itself:


    I’m not restricting people from downloading from us, but if they do they get the advertising message, which is fine by me.

    It would seem bogus to do that (add wetmachine advert) to the Mohamad Ali image, since that would make it triply ripped off. . . And besides, I’m way below my bandwidth limit, so it’s not costing us anything. But it goes to the general point about culture jamming. The doctored picture shows up on wetmachine without attribution, people steal it (& bandwidth) from us without attribution. . .

  2. The picture itself caries creator identification in the lower left corner.

  3. Yup!!!! Everybody lies; people steal; and I love HOUSE on TV.
    For me, the original run of music CDs was an (ear) eye-opener. Why did “Bitches Brew” on CD (on which CBS bragged “digitally re-mastered from the original analog recording”) sound worse than my played-100-times-vinyl-record, e.g.? Because the big company put out a big lie; it was certainly not remastered from an original analogue source but from some “further-down-the-road” copy master… how many generations removed from the original I do not know, 1/4“ tape at a slow speed and not the 1/2” high-speed “master”??? Who knows!!! And don’t get me started on classic rock recordings from the 70’s and even 80’s showing up sounding like they were recorded through a phone booth with a closed door when originally released on CD. see, e.g., http://www.soundandvisionma… for some conversation on this and related topics.
    This was my “losing my digital innocence” moment (probably around 1988). And yes, the 24-bit (or was it 20-bit) re-mastered version (of Bitches Brew) released about 22 years later was snapped up by me at Tower Records in Philly on sale and was a huge improvement.
    But the point is that there is an expectation of authenticity by people as they delve into the digital domain that ends up being lost; sometimes in a fun night out or perhaps in an experience that leaves one feeling jaded, used, humiliated and cheap. One can never regain their digital virginity afterward.
    I am sure I have seen a number of old Sci-fi tv shows and movies that play on the idea of tweeking digital representations and using the result to imprison some hero for a crime s/he never did commit.
    Yeah, I laughed in that cinema in Morristown, NJ, when Arnold’s ‘Running Man’ featured the digital overlay of Arnold’s features on another contestant being impaled… leaving the movie’s game-show audience believing Arnold had been the one who died.. and then “came back from the dead” when Frank Zappa’s son and a member of Fleetwood Mac cut into the transmission of the TV show and broadcasted the “truth.”
    But now I know it is no laughing matter. Where my grandpa told me, “Don’t believe everything you read in the paper” and my father said, “Hmmmm…. OJ sure looks a lot DARKER on this cover” (Time and Newsweek ran the same mug shot and one was altered during his murder trial) I now watch out for audio/video/pitch/speed/picture tweeking and the attendant lie or ommision. Is the face on mars or the figure on mars real? Did Obama leave his hand off his heart during the national anthem? Voting machines with no paper trail… quantizing pitches of singers on tour or pre-recorded vocal tracks in place of live vocals, or just the old world of “Town Hall Meetings” with pre-selected attendees and pre-selected questions for the politician. And here comes the Turing test applied to love making! http://www.philly.com/phill
    I fear I will be living in Descartes’ world of a brain in a glass bottle being fed fake info from a Great Deceiver. It is already a life in Plato’s cave and those with power over the new domains cast the shadows on the wall for me… at least get me good audio and a great robot, and parodies like the two above that show such great humor and sarcasm and wit. If you like them look on YouTube for more by their creator. The one of Iron Maiden is VERY funny!

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