The “One Laptop per Child” Foundation released a television commercial on Christmas Day of John Lennon – almost 30 years after his assassination – pitching viewers to buy laptops for poor children.
The Foundation produced the spot using digital technology; creating an ersatz version of Lennon saying “I tried to do it through my music, but now you can do it in a very different way. You can give a child a laptop and more than imagine, you can change the world.”
Variations on the technology have been around for years. Michael Crichton predicted the advent of the technology in “Looker” in 1981. In 1995, I cited Crichton’s work when I wrote about the use of digital technology to reanimate deceased celebrities in new works – and the possible legal complications – here.
Although the ethical and business dilemmas of using digital automatons instead of real actors are still in flux, the legal issues remain the same. The commercial exploitation of dead celebrities requires the consent of the celebrity’s estate. In this case, Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow approved the spot.
When I wrote my article in 1995, the infinite possibility of the internet was largely unknown to the public. Our understanding of its potential now combined with advances in digital reanimation technology will only bring these issues to the forefront.
You can find out more about One Laptop Per Child’s donation program here.