Computer-generated imagery is supposed to be one of the success stories of computer science. Starting in the 1970s, the algorithms for realistically depicting digital worlds were developed in a monumental joint effort between academic, commercial and federal research labs. Today, we stream the results onto the screens in our homes. Escaping into worlds where computer-generated superheroes right all wrongs, or toys come to life to comfort us, are welcome respites from stories of real-life systemic racism, the ubiquitous dimensions of which are becoming clearer every day.
Alas, this technology has an insidious, racist legacy all its own.
For almost two decades, I have worked on the science and technology behind movies. I was formerly a senior research scientist at Pixar and am currently a professor at Yale. If you have seen a blockbuster movie in the last decade, you have seen my work. I got my start at Rhythm and