This Shabbat:

Friday Candle Lighting: 5:51 PM
 Shabbat Ends: 6:46 PM

Torah Message:

Noach – Human vs. Humanoid

“May G-d extend Yafet, but He will dwell in tents of Shem…” (9:27)

In a recent Hollywood gangster movie charting the life of hitman Frank Sheehan and labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, rather than employ younger actors to portray the two characters as younger men, Hollywood used the latest ‘de-aging’ technology, and two well-known Italian-American films stars — one 76 and the other 79 — shed 40 years electronically. To de-age actors, a visual effects team creates a computer-generated, younger version of an actor’s face and then replaces the actor’s real face with the synthetic, animated version. Moshe Mahler, who worked for Disney Research for many years, writes that audiences are much more sensitive to distortions in computer-generated faces than to even larger, seemingly more obvious distortions that are present on the body. His research showed that viewers often experience an uncomfortable feeling when they see computer-generated faces that “aren’t quite right.”

Robotics professor Masahiro Mori hypothesized that as a humanoid becomes more lifelike, an audience’s “familiarity” toward it increases, until a point where the humanoid is almost lifelike, but not perfectly lifelike. At this point, subtle imperfections lead to responses of repulsion or rejection. The effect is stronger if the humanoid is moving.

If today’s technology allows actors to shed years, we can probably expect that future technology will allow them to win posthumous Oscars for performances constructed on a computer decades after they have returned to the ground.

“May G-d extend Yafet, but he will dwell in tents of Shem…” Yafet is the father of Yavan, and Yavan translates into English as Greece. The Greeks are the inventors of the drama — the father of the film. Interestingly, there are several stories in Greek literature concerning immortality.

Shem is the ancestor of the Jewish People, who have always proclaimed that immortality is not to be found in works of art or works of computers, but in connecting to the Source of all. Because every mitzvah allows a Jew to turn the present into the future — before it becomes the past.