New software brings historic Black heroes back to life... and I don't know how I feel about it.

The "My Heritage" app does something that is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. When you upload still images, it creates stunningly realistic videos out of them.

Yesterday I was on Twitter when I saw several videos that can best be described as “deep fakes” of some of the most important icons of Black history. If you aren’t familiar with the term, deep fakes, it’s where new technology is used to make life-like images or videos of people. Until now, I’ve never been interested in it, but what I saw yesterday made my jaw drop. I’ll include them all here, and tell you how I think I feel about it afterwards.

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Here’s the one of our original founder, Frederick Douglass, that I saw first. I’m speechless. No video of Douglass has ever existed.

And another one…

Here are two of Harriet Tubman…

And another one…

And lastly, here’s one of W.E.B. DuBois…

As a student of history, I would jump up and down with excitement if I ever got to see an actual crystal-clear video of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman. For my entire life, I’ve had to know them through a combination of still images, words on paper, and occasional dramatizations. And I have to admit, I can’t stop watching these videos, but something about them is also slightly terrifying, but I can’t quite find the words to explain why.

I think it’s just that I know that Douglass, Tubman, and DuBois are all long gone and something about this feels like they’ve been brought back to life. They haven’t been brought back to life, of course. This is not reanimation. But I think my brain has been hard-wired to think of certain ancestors as unseeable in this way - and now it’s like they’ve got social media accounts and are posting selfie videos of themselves.

In some ways, I think it’s a great blessing to be able to see them in this way, but another part of me wonders if the technology is doing something it shouldn’t - something spiritual. Maybe I’m overthinking it. I didn’t feel that way when I went to the Hall of Presidents at Disney and saw dead presidents come back to life through animatronics, but this is somehow different.

I am unsettled, but can’t look away. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, ok?