If seeing is believing, does It matter what we see? | Don Levy | TEDxAthens

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Translator: Peisha Yee
Reviewer: Chryssa Takahashi I have a question. If seeing is believing, does it matter what we see? And I ask this question
because I see a pattern. I look at the images
that surrounded my own life as I’ve grown up and I look at others in my generation and I look at others
in following generations and wonder if the images
that surrounded their growing up, impacted their later lives. And I ask it especially in the context
of my experience in visual effects, in animation, in entertainment, were we can create just about anything and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference
between fact and fiction. So this is were it began for me. In the Gramercy Theater
down on 23rd street in New York. It was just down the street
from were I lived, and I could walk into a darkened room and be trasported all over the world. And not too far away
was the United Nations building which introduced me
to people from around the world and the 1964 World’s Fair
which celebrated cultures and people from every corner of the globe. And then in that Gramercy Theater
I saw “The Red Balloon,” a movie made without a word of dialogue that won the Academy Award
for Best Original Screenplay. But it introduced me to France, a place where I feel
very comfortable today. And it also introduced me to the impact
and power of movies to move people. I grew up on the wonderful world of Disney which taught me
about wonder and imagination, and “The Ed Sullivan Show” which taught me that there were people
with talent all over the world. The Civil Rights Movement
taught me about justice, and fairness and humanity and I learned that it was OK to speak up, and speak out if we disagreed. I also learned that anything is possible. So, is it any wonder
that at this period of time, that out of this period of time, some of the icons
of the digital revolution, emerged? And this is 1974,
“Close encounters of the third kind”. Shot done by Doug Trumbull, and at the time this was
the state of the art in visual effects. This was a brilliant, rare
and extremely expensive shot. Just a couple of years ago, Neill Blomkamp
directed the lower budget, “District 9”, and achieved this. Visual effects are based
on the principles of illusion. Assumption, presumption
and context in reality. Things are what we think they are, that they behave as we expect them to, and they are operating
within the world we’ve created. Of course, in movies
we can create just about any world. Τhe trick is that illusions
must be maintained. So the line between reality and what we actually believe is now virtually obliterated. So, I actually wonder what this is doing
to our perception of reality. I was researching this talk,
and I came across this news story and you can kind of imagine my surprise. It sure looks real but I didn’t know that historians invented
the ancient Greeks. Well, of course,
that’s satire from The Onion, but that doesn’t negate the need now for Facebook to begin tagging
fake news stories. This is a shot of the United States
Congress in joint session. Lot of people suggest that the difference between Hollywood
and Washington D.C., the U.S. capital is that people in Hollywood look better. What’s really happened is we have gone from iconic statesmen
to an iconic statesman. (Laughter) And this is what people begin
to think politicians are really like. (Video) Frank Underwood:
“Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you hoped I had.
Don’t waste a breath mourning Miss Barnes. Every kitten grows up to be a cat. They seem so harmless at first. small, quiet, lapping up
their saucer of milk, but once their claws get long enough,
they draw blood. Sometimes from the hand that feeds them. For those of us climbing to the top
of the food chain, there can be no mercy,
there is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted. Welcome back.” (Music) Don Levy: Now, one of the reasons
that we believe that performance is that Kevin Spacey and the entire team
behind that, carefully researched the ambiance, the atmosphere, the details, and there is enough reality
within the context of the fiction to make it plausible. And what we’ve seen in the news suggests that maybe there is some truth to it. And that is something that often
is missing from political advertising, because, in the United States where there are truth in advertising laws
for consumer products, no such guidelines exist. There is a group trying to take care
of some of that, which if we can hear the audio… (Audio) Nothing we’ll have to worry about,
there is so much information out there, is doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You know you are just
trying to sell the candidate. DL: So, this is what the nightly news
looked like in 1964. Three networks, that took great pride in their international
news gathering organizations. They presented the news each night, gave some context and perspective to it. So much so, that Walter Kronkite,
the CBS anchor was often referred to as the most trusted man in America, signing off each night with the signature,
“And that’s the way it is.” Today, we have a 24/7 news cycle, characterized by MSNBC,
presenting a left leaning liberal view, CNN taking a moderate
middle-of-the-road position, and FOX News representing the right. And apparently,
with the State of the Union address, it depends on which network you watch,
as to how the news is reported. And part of that is because
it is the news business. If you look at ratings, the number
of viewers watching news is going down but the economics are very high for FOX
which continues to go, because they have their viewers
enjoy the way they deliver the news. Now, 64… – oops. 64, that’s the average age
of a television news viewer, and over at FOX it’s 68. So, we are in the midst of a cycle,
but it looks like it won’t last forever. Motion pictures
really are emotion pictures. Back in that theater I recognized that movies had this extraordinary power to actually generate
an emotion in the audience. The earliest movies we really
focused on people and places, and really, no reading was required. And that was important because newspapers at that time
were all text and fine print. The U.S. President at that time,
Woodrow Wilson, recognized that movies
were a universal language that lends itself importantly to the presentation
of America’s plans and purpose. Some would call that propaganda, and most propaganda films at the time were more directed
at internal populations, really as a motivating force. There is a darkening of propaganda today as we saw it last summer
with the ISIS videos. And what is particularly troubling is that they are building
on characteristics of modern film-making,
multi camera shoots, production, design and scripting, and a very cunning use of social media. So, why does it work? Because it’s a visual shorthand that transcends language and literacy. Now, there’s a reason for that. And that’s that time and understanding
are compacted with imagery. Thirteen milliseconds is what it takes us
to be able to recognize an object but to process a word,
to really understand it, can take a multiple,
an exponential multiple of that. So what we are moving at
is culture at the speed of light. The 20th Century expanded,
especially after World War II and a lot of what we saw,
were romanticized versions of people, used to call movie makers,
tourists with big cameras, and we began to see
other cultures and other styles, and social and political thrillers like Guy Ritchie’s “Z” and “A Separation” which introduced us to a side of Iran
that we have not seen. But in the 21st Century,
we really have a revolution. The Internet changes everything,
said Jeff Cole at the Center for the Digital Future and what’s happening is,
it’s the greatest advance, really surpassing television, but, as it’s value as a source
of entertainment and news increases, our trust in it is going down. Martha Bayles wrote a book
“Through a screen darkly” and what she talks about in there
is that a lot of our images of America are clouded by the images
projected through media. Now, it used to be diplomatic channels and everything else that helped
filter the impression that we made, but with the Internet,
that is not happening. There’s a lot of more open media,
which is a good thing, but the opportunity to manage that image
is becoming increasingly difficult. Blockbusters are made for broad audiences, and because of that they have
a tendency to self regulate themselves. And for the more extreme films, we look at them
as a real fun house mirror, and our knowledge of our culture
allows us to correct that. But if the image is not as well-known
in different countries, the perception of what we are is different
from the people who we really are. What is seen then is vulgarity,
vitriol and violence, and that is an impression
that a lot of people have. The gap between out ability
to separate fact from fiction is widening, as the fact and fiction
itself are almost exchanging places. So it creates this. (Music) [Wine: 2 EUR.
Taxes: 34 EUR] [What Europe thinks
of the United States] (Shooting) DL: There was an official at the U.S.
Department of State back in the late 80’s who suggested that if we are questioning
our morals at home in our media imagine what’s happening overseas
without that corrective filter and certainly we are seeing that. We’ve never been more connected perhaps but yet we are often even more apart. Crowds do have their place,
but a crowd itself is not always wise. Part of that is
that there are some requirements to that, and a lot of it has to do
with the fact that on nuanced ideas, you need a little more refined thinking. The other challenge that we have today
is algorithms do have consequences. When we extract information from people we are not giving them
all of the necessary tools they really need to process
complex issues and ideas. Because it is expertise and diversity that are really the cornerstones
of good decision making. A variety of opinions and points of view
combined with expertise and then, a better decision can be made. Personally, I like my water filtered,
my information, a little less so. So where are we? Well, we are here, and we are at the rise
of a new generation, “Generation Z”. I believe generation Z is just behind and definitely younger
than just about all of us. But there is a tremendous hope
in this generation and we have seen early indication of it in the current generation of Millennials They are much more open
and tolerant cohort. Generation Z is a generation born
of a really chaotic socio-economic time, a very complex time, uncertainty prevailed
and more than our share of volatility. So what that’s done is,
it’s created a rising generation that is much more social
and global in their view, and they are also a group of do gooders. They actually passionately care
about making a difference because what they realize
is that the institutions are not going to do it for them. They need to be active participants. There are few characteristics
of this cohort. This is some data prepared
by a marketing firm, Sparks & Honey. I had a little graphic done by Marketo,
but the reality of this group is that they really are visual
communicators, they like snackable content, and they want it on a diverse range,
multiple screens, they’re curious and entrepreneurial,
and they want control over their media. They want it their way, importantly
they want to rally behind social causes and this may be the most important thing – yhey are eager to learn,
and they desire expertise. Expertise is that essential ingredient along with diversity
for better decision making. 2064. Fifty years from now. What do you want it to look like? Think about it for a second. We are shaped by what we see. We shape the future by what we show, and it is up to us to do this well. I know we can do it, we will do it. Let’s do it! Thank you very much. (Applause)

 

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