I don’t know about you, but I am growing a bit weary with all this fake stuff – fake, artificial and virtual – whatever you choose to call it. I’m not really sure when fake came on the scene.
I seem to remember when those of the female persuasion first began to wear fake eyelashes and fingernails. I am familiar with faked field goals and faked extra points in football. I am fully aware of people who tend to be disingenuous called a fake. And when someone falls for deception, it is called getting faked off. And, of course, today we have fake news.
COVID-19 forced the National Football League to come up with fake fans – those of the cardboard variety. Then, the NFL began to pipe in fake crowd noise. I was watching a playoff game a few days back when a game official made a close call. It was followed by a chorus of fake boos. I kid you not.
A professional speaking friend of mine told of an unusual experience he once had. He had just completed a speaking presentation, which had gone extremely well. It was one of those magical times when the atmosphere was electric, and the audience was wonderfully engaged. During the presentation, he said the audience had laughed loudly and long.
As he left the stage, another speaker who was on the same program rushed up to him and asked if he could have a video copy of his just-finished presentation.
“Oh, so you liked my presentation? My friend asked.
“Sure,” the other speaker responded. “But, you see, I‘m making a new promotional video, and what I really want to do is use your audience’s laughter.” Talk about fake.
Of course, recorded laughter was used in television production for years, especially in sitcoms. The psychology is that humans tend to be more accepting of a particular behavior if it is followed by laughter. Of course, the laughter of a live audience tends to ebb and flow. Not in television today. On sitcoms today, especially in children’s programming, the laughter is strong and consistent. And I have noticed about seven out of every 10 lines aren’t even funny. But the piped in laughter rolls on.
And then there’s artificial. We have artificial flowers, artificial coloring and artificial flavoring. I improve the taste of my morning coffee with artificial sweetener. Football, baseball and soccer are played on artificial turf. And you can have your ailing heart repaired with an artificial heart valve.
Farmers and ranchers have used artificial insemination for years. In swine operations in the past 30 years, the percent of sows bred by artificial insemination has gone from 8% to more than 70%.
Today, we have a new artificial intelligence. Some among the think tanks say this AI will result in the end of the human race. I, for one, am not ready to concede. I was working through an issue online with a nationally known retailer the other day and was directed to a virtual assistant. He/she/it was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It could still be a while before those of the artificial variety take over the planet.
Maybe it’s my age, but I have not completely bought into the concepts of virtual learning, virtual classrooms and virtual conferences. It seems to me something is missing in all this virtual stuff. “But it is necessary,” one might say, “in order to make it through this pandemic.” I’m not so sure.
A few short years ago, my wife, Kathy, and I made a trip to Disney World with our children and grandchildren. One of the most popular attractions was called Avatar. It featured a simulated ride in which we climbed on the back of a flying creature and flew above the landscape. We soared over mountains and dropped with breathtaking speed into valleys and accelerated across the lowlands. We flew over rivers and waterfalls and crossed plains and savannahs teaming with wildlife. Then, up, up, up we climbed to incredible heights. Suddenly, we were brought back to earth – literally and virtually. The experience was exhilarating and, yet, a bit unnerving. It all seemed so real.
And so we find ourselves in a world where the lines between fantasy and reality are becoming more blurred by the fake, the artificial and the virtual.
The times certainly demand clearer thinking if we are to live well.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a certified speaking professional.