Joe Biden isn’t a hologram. But the relative absence from the public stage of a newly elected U.S. president and leader of the free world is sparking no small amount of speculation and chatter about the brave new world of possibilities offered by technological advancements and the unprecedented control over information on the internet.
So far, under Biden, there have been none of the extended press availabilities to which we got accustomed under President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE. No impromptu sessions with the media where he fields questions and attacks, dealing with dozens of wide-ranging topics. President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE even skipped the traditional live, in-person February address to Congress. We’ve only seen him primarily in the form of various “proof of life”-like video clips distributed on the internet, where he reads scripted remarks from a teleprompter.
Even some officials who work in the Biden administration told me they can’t help but wonder why. And it has them mulling over farfetched speculation that, upon further examination, starts to look almost like it is not completely outside the realm of the possible.
In June 2019 I published a story on “deep fake” technology. It explored how artificial intelligence (AI) computer technology has put special effects, once reserved as expensive and time-consuming accomplishments of Hollywood films, in the hands of most anybody with a computer and the desire to use it.
As I showed in the report, this AI technology can make people who didn’t say or do something look very much like they said or did the thing. I urge everyone to watch the story here and keep in mind two things: First, the technology has advanced further by leaps and bounds since my original report. And, second, our intelligence agencies have capabilities far beyond whatever it is we see in public.
Some years ago, a government source with access to intelligence at the highest levels explained to me — without divulging any classified information — that any technological thing we can imagine is actually being researched or accomplished in the secret channels of our government. And, he told me, things that are beyond our ability to imagine also are being done.
Some of the things we know are already possible: Scientists can build lifelike robots or droids that are getting harder and harder to distinguish from humans. They can even interact and take part in rational-sounding two-way conversations. Hologram-like figures can make campaign appearances (as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi did, as early as 2012) or even be resurrected from the grave (as pop star Michael Jackson was) for “live” performances.
What would be necessary if powerful interests wanted to construct a believable artificial reality surrounding the most powerful political position on the planet? First, of course, the technological capability. Beyond that, it seems to me, they would need to have a pretty tight grip on the information landscape — meaning, primarily, the internet — so that any material exposing the effort or contrary to the goal could be discredited or expunged. And, finally, there obviously would have to be a serious element of secrecy — a willingness and ability among all of those with knowledge and information to keep the whole thing under wraps. Seems pretty unlikely, except in the movies.
Back to Biden.
The White House has announced that he will finally give his first prime-time address to the nation on Thursday. That’s seven weeks and two days after he was inaugurated. The topic will be the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdowns. From what’s been said so far, it appears as if there is no plan for a live audience of reporters. No question-and-answer session after.
Still no word on a date for Biden’s belated address to Congress. But a White House spokesman has said that, because of the coronavirus epidemic, “any joint session speech would look different than the past.”
Joe Biden isn’t a hologram. But if he wanted to be, and if powerful people with access to the latest technology wanted to make him one, it seems as though there might be little they couldn’t accomplish.
Sharyl Attkisson is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.” Follow her on Twitter @SharylAttkisson.