“All of us are already digitally immortal. Anybody who has a public presence can have a hologram. If I give access to my private copyrighted materials and private communications, you could create a really high-resolution avatar with my face, speaking habits and mannerisms. If I pass away, my digital footprint rights will be given to the next-of-kin and wills have to eventually include that generative-AI-replication consent clause. We have to make a decision about whether you consent to generate a level-one, middle, or very high fidelity resolution of your personality and soul.” - Jeremy Au
In this episode of BRAVE, Jeremy Au talks about the "resurrection" of deceased characters in the form of a hologram, the impact of digital avatars on the film industry and the different fidelity resolutions of personal avatars.
Jeremy Au: (00:50)
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about digital avatars. About a year ago, I learned that Teresa Tang, which is one of the most famous singers in China and Hong Kong was quote-unquote resurrected in a virtual hologram 27 years after death. The SCMP, Chinese newspaper video actually showed and demonstrated that. It showed her singing and reacting to the listener, and I was thinking to myself that quite clearly, the family has sold the digital rights to her persona, her looks, her voice even though she's gone. And I think over time, I've discovered that there are many other characters that really have had some form of that digital right to their whole person, their face, that has been sold. So for example, Darth Vader, right? It was played voice-wise by James Earl Jones. That being said, James Earl Jones does not actually own his voice for Darth Vader because technically that voice is owned by Lucasfilm, which has been acquired by Disney.
It was interesting that those rights were not very monetizable in the sense that obviously there were CDs, they were going to be musical recordings so these are rights that were there in terms of presence, but never tried to sell the right of their whole presence, right? Their personality. And isn't that kind of crazy? Like I saw the rights to my voice and my face, and actually without understanding it, I also gave implicit permission, which I'm sure everyone's going to have a big fight over in 10 to 20 years over a law. But it was the soul, the personality, the spirit of that person also sold in those rights. Which is really interesting because it's not just a voice, it's not just a face, but it's really the whole personality and so so forth. And the reason why it's relevant is because I remember someone complained to me that in the second trilogy of the Star War movies, there was never a reunion of the three main characters in the first trilogy, right? Which is Lucas Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo, which makes sense. I mean, they couldn't make the times work. Are they going to make, the script work? And also unfortunately, Leia has passed away. And so there's an Interesting dynamic, obviously, that she has come back actually in some form or fashion. Once she was, she came back, she was a CGI and her rights honestly have been sold to her descendants, right?
My prediction is that there will be a reunion of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Is this going to happen in 10 years? 20 years? But it's going to happen. And you know, one may be real and the other two may just be CGI, right? And it's going to be a mindblowing moment for everybody because they’re going see dead actors act.
And that's going to be great because actually, that's what people want. People want those characters to come back and you know, there's no limit to content that people are willing to buy, especially if you're a super fan, right? And obviously people who are not fans can choose to simply not watch that content.
So with that digital AI content, effectively, the cost production is effectively zero right? Because once you have to advertise that, right? You just said to put scripts, put scenes, put counterparts. And the cost of production really goes down for these famous actors because they used to charge and bill for their time. And time is relevant for a human, but time is not relevant for an artificial intelligence or more importantly, an avatar that you're just, adjusting on screen and that's being done by 20, 30, 50, a hundred animators script writers, et cetera. But they're all relatively commoditized. What that means is that Hollywood is going to have much more nostalgic films over time as they bring back old characters. Can you imagine? There's so many folks that have passed away. You could have Saruman come back, right? You could have, all these great characters. We could even have Charlie Chaplin come back, right?
And he'll just be in 2D color, or it could be in 3D VR. All these characters can come back infinitely, and they can also infinitely interact with you. And so that kind of creates some crazy ideas that got me brainstorming here. But obviously, we talked about it once we have a previous episode with Shiyan, but you know, you could create like a love relationship partner avatar of BTS, right? You know, so many fans of K-Pop would love to have relationship. There's already a game where you pretend to be the manager of BTS, but imagine now you could actually have a companion who is still young. He's still, you know, 17 years old. You are also 17. Then you kind of like have that relationship and then, you become 21 years old. He also becomes 21 years old and he's also learning and adjusting and so, so forth. Like there's a crazy relationship can build BTS. There's this totally independent of the actual human, but you could have that one-on-one relationship that every fan wants, right? Because it's something called the parasocial relationship, which is you believe you have a social relationship with them, but you don't.
But you can actually make it social with the avatar of them. So the rights go to, and the economics go to those who have strong brands around their personal presence and body. The other end is that as a result, these movie actors are going to squeeze out, unfortunately, human actors, right? Human actors who are relatively commoditized, and so commoditized means that for example, they are average actors. They are good actors, they are, blonde, they are an archetype of a person that they want in a film. But you could just generate infinite characters, of them. Right? And we kind of saw that a little bit in Lord the Rings.
I always remember that people were blown away because once, they made that scene with like tens of thousands of humans running across a field fighting. And actually they only had a hundred actors there and they just replicated those a hundred actors. And so it's kind of crazy because if they had to make that movie, and I've seen some Chinese war movies where they literally hired 10,000 extras.
There were 10,000 jobs that were made for that month. Actually this happened in the movie for the Napoleon War as well, where the Russian folks were actually acting in that movie. So now you only have a hundred actors for 10,000, and now you effectively have zero actors, human, for like, 10,000, 100,000, infinite, right? And we see some versions of that right now. There are now companies that have come out and startups that are building, as a lower resolution of that, which is called NPC as a service, right? So basically they can create infinite non-player characters that can be slotted into your story, slotted into your video game.
They have a totally digital likeness, totally unique, not based on any human, totally unique voice and totally unique script, right? That they generate with a backstory based on the seed. And so you have infinite non-player characters that are effectively extras in a video game, but can imagine that it's not that far away from you. Pushing up the resolution and making them background extras. And then you can imagine them pushing up next to be like, this could be the secondary antagonist, right? The secondary protagonist could eventually be photorealistic actors. That's there. And so I think the only humans that retain that value would be those that really have some tremendous star power, which is like legacy characters, which already have that nostalgia as well as maybe obviously some folks who are really fresh and different as a character that people want that authenticity.
Of course, there's going to be an audience demand for a hundred percent human films, films that are artsy and boutique and a hundred percent human. And they're going to be much more expensive, honestly. But I think there'll be a niche for that type of content. And the last thing I did think about, which is weird, is that actually all of us are already digitally immortal, which is bonkers. So what it means is that, you know, all of us have photos on internet of ourselves, like, you know, especially public figures, right? So Martin Luther King, he has his voice, his his speech, and so, so forth. So technically any of us can clone that person now and create a generative AI and avatar of that person, you know, speaking, moving, reacting, discussing. And so anybody who has any kind of public presence on a web, effectively, you can create a hologram of that person. The only question that's really there about your immortal hologram is the resolution of that hologram. So what it means is that Martin Luther King, for example, a lot of his stuff is public domain, right? So all these folks took photos of him. So all that's really an open domain, and nobody can really veto right for someone to generate that AI avatar of him. But, technically the family or Martin Luther King could sue or prevent the usage of his private materials, right?
So for example, I can imagine someone makes a generative AI avatar of me and I can reject and say, you do not have consent to use. You have consent to use my public domain style at some events, but you do not have consent to scrape and use my podcast, my voice and that set of knowledge about my speaking habits and mannerisms, et cetera, that show different situations of it, right?
And so if I don't give your consent, you don't get that second higher fidelity resolution of it, right? But if I do give you consent, then actually it's quite interesting, right? Then you have my public stuff and then you have my private commercial stuff and then you can create an avatar of me. So you can probably create a good simulation of Jeremy. Now, if I give consent of me in a podcast scenario. That being said, there's actually a third layer of resolution that's actually quite interesting, right? Which is that, do you give consent to the private materials? So if I gave you my WhatsApp, my search history, my drive, Google Drive, the stuff I read, right?
You know, all that digital trail that I have that's technically private. Then you could actually create a really high-resolution avatar of Jeremy, not just in the public domain, public speaking, not just in podcasting and speaking about topics and teaching and lecturing, but also of Jeremy's private moments, especially on WhatsApp, and on video calls and things like that. And that's actually a really interesting resolution, where obviously this avatar would be quite compelling to strangers, acquaintances, and probably even, you know, good friends, right? Because, you know, they have a certain view of me in those scenarios.
And only perhaps, you know, the people who are closest to me, maybe my wife, my children, my best friends, be able to notice some areas where they think it's a little bit rough around the edges, it's good enough. And so technically, I'm a very digital model. And I don't know if I pass away, let's say tomorrow, hopefully not. But technically you imagine like my wife or my children giving the rights because my digital portal, right, the digital footprint is actually given right by Facebook, for example, and what's interesting is that, if I was to pass away tomorrow, my digital footprint and all that stuff is actually given to the next person in line, my wife, for example, to decide what to do with those materials. It may not necessarily be even in my will considerations or my personal wish considerations to not generate AI out of me. So you imagine the scenario where you're like, have a will and you're like, okay, please, you know, divide my property in half and half and for my personal documents, but if I was, brain dead, please place a do not resuscitate and if I die, please do not use my electronic communications and give it to somebody else to make a digital, immortal hologram of myself, right? I think that's actually something that, you know, wills will have to do eventually. So I think this digital advertiser result to summarize is really crazy because it's not just the voice, it's not just the face, not just the video, but it's really the spirit, the soul, right?
And that's going to come out more in terms of displacing a lot of folks in the entertainment industry, pushing a lot of power, I think, to brand owners, but also going to trickle into new monetization opportunities, but also I think, trickle into the personal domain where everybody has to make a decision about whether you allow anybody to generate a level one, or middle resolution or very high fidelity resolution of your personality and soul.