As if we don’t have enough challenges of keeping it together in 2020, I just learned about “deepfake,” which is AI technology that creates remarkably, and nearly undetectable fake images, videos, and voices.
A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs).
Several deepfake videos have gone viral recently, giving millions around the world their first taste of this new technology: President Obama using an expletive to describe President Trump, Mark Zuckerberg admitting that Facebook’s true goal is to manipulate and exploit its users, Bill Hader morphing into Al Pacino on a late-night talk show.
The amount of deepfake content online is growing at a rapid rate. At the beginning of 2019 there were 7,964 deepfake videos online, according to a report from startup Deeptrace; just nine months later, that figure had jumped to 14,678. It has no doubt continued to balloon since then.
While impressive, today’s deepfake technology is still not quite to parity with authentic video footage—by looking closely, it is typically possible to tell that a video is a deepfake. But the technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. Experts predict that deepfakes will be indistinguishable from real images before long.
I became aware of these a year ago myself, and yes, it is a major concern. Having the ability to pass off a fake video as the real thing in order to misinform or foment sentiment cannot be understated. And it won’t be enough to issue a “real” video to correct the “fake” one, as that too may be fake. “Regular” selective editing of videos for political purposes has certainly been used, to great effect. Deepfaking will simply be an extension of that. It’s a nightmarish situation in which no source can be trusted, confusion reigns, and reality itself is called into question. And frankly, it looks unavoidable. There’s too much at stake in political elections for it not to be used. It’s the political media version of armageddon. MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) will become Mutual Assured Deepfaking. I can’t help but take a cynical outlook, given our current divided status and the lengths that those in power are willing to go to. Anyway, my gut tells me that we’re only 5 years away from this new world. Scary!
When the internet was invented, it was hoped that it would bring a new age of erudition and education to the masses. Mostly it’s used for spam, bot-vehicles, and porn. When Twitter was released, it was hoped that people would be able to engage in thoughtful, concise communication with each other. Much of twitter traffic is used to burn-down others, and sling insults or political burns back and forth. When media companies and political wannabes discovered the strength of social media to amplify or move poeple in certain directions - politically, educationally, motivationally - it be became a sea of ‘personality test games’ disguising political research firms bent on nefarious motivations. No one, other than these data collection companies, cares about your great grandmother’s birthday, or your cat’s favourite colour.
We are our own worst enemies. Always someone out there is looking for an exploit or an edge or some kind of advantage - for politics, or monetary gain at the expense of others. To all of our detriments. Deep fakes is just the next means of manipulating the masses.