Deepfakes are going to cause a lot of trouble down the line. The use of artificial intelligence deep learning to synthesise video and audio has so far been used mostly for amusing, niche purposes like putting Harrison Ford into Solo, or Donald Trump into Hocus Pocus; or for more nefarious, violating practices like grafting another woman’s (because let’s face it, it’s usually a woman) face onto somebody starring in an explicit adult video. But as the technology spreads and becomes more available, we are going to see its influence seep into the delivery of news, and the barrier between reality and fiction online will erode even more than it has already. Video footage—now one of the main sources of verification for news stories—is going to become suspect, and truth will take another blow, continuing the long, gradual slide into informational dystopia.
Back in the day, newspapers lied to us. They were doing fake news before Trump popularised the term and it became a meme in and of itself. That’s when information was slow, and yet still the speed of a lie was formidable. The erosion of trust between the news givers and the public has had a direct and catastrophic effect on public discourse, and on our ability to exercise our collective agency in the face of an oppressive elite. The public—overworked, ground down by an exploitative capitalist system, and jaded by a ceaseless tide of lies and distortions from the corporate media and a frothing sea of nonsense online—already has trouble gauging the veracity of news. Looking ahead, it’s just going to get worse. The younger generations of digital natives may well be better equipped to handle the challenge of source-checking and verification, but once deepfakes become widespread it’s likely that the public’s adaptation will lag severely behind that of the deleterious effects of the tech. It’ll only be a matter of time before some huge public incident is triggered by a deepfake. It’ll be a handy tool for the AI uprising too. Our incoming AI overlords will surely make good use of it in turning our minds to sludge before their eventual planet-saving eradication of humanity. Don’t say we weren’t warned. If Pete Davidson’s face on Ariana Grande’s body isn’t an omen, I don’t know what is.
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