Recently, there’s been more talk of “deep fakes.” For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the process of editing video content in real time via AI to create a “fake” representation of someone. Effectively, you take a video of a completely different person, and the AI will reconstruct the image in the likeness of someone else. In its current iteration, it’s “passable,” but not perfect. Though, It is good enough to create an entire porn sub-genre, rule 34 and all that.
Using easily accessible tools, anon takes amateur porn videos of people with similar body types and complexions to various celebrities and they use the tech to switch their faces. Met, as you might imagine, with much controversy, this subgenre has gained a lot of popularity online–despite often being “banned.” As we all know though, you can’t stop anything on the internet. In fact, the more you try to prohibit something, the more likely it is to pop up. While many feign outrage at the use of celebrity likeness to create pornography, another thought has slipped into the back of people’s minds. What about me?
What happens when your tech-savvy ex decides to create revenge porn of you and put your likeness on a porn video then upload it? What happens if your co-workers find it, and given that you’re not a famous celebrity, the porn is taken to be authentic? We all know that many aren’t good at identifying photoshopped images as it is, what happens when the image quality of these deep fake videos improves by an order of magnitude?
In just the past year or two, deepfake tech has improved dramatically. In fact, the apocalyptic terror doesn’t stop there. Recently, a video surfaced, where researchers used AI to recreate Joe Rogan’s voice perfectly (above). Obviously, this feat is possible because there are hundreds of thousands of hours of Joe Rogan’s voice online. He was in multiple syndicated television shows, he runs the most widely viewed podcast, etc. With that said, how much better does AI have to be to use available data recreate your voice? It might not be “exact,” but as long as it’s within a margin of error, it will be more than enough to fool many.
The immediate place most people’s imaginations wanders is towards a rogue actor who puts them in uncompromising situations. As a tweet by Duncan Trussel recently, said:
I am sure there will be an onslaught of hilarious memes to come from this, but what are we to do when people truly can’t tell what is real? The big talk of the 2016 election, was “fake news.” Russian “hackers” infiltrated many facebook groups and sewed the seeds of dissent. They posted “fake” news articles into the groups, which proliferated ideas via memes on people’s timelines. Out of it, we got a relatively benign outcome (depending on who you ask) of Trump getting elected. This result isn’t of much interest to me. Instead, consider when the news isn’t just “misinformation,” but it is genuinely fake. A conspiracy theorists wet dream.
If we travel back down the “deep fake” timeline, we are brought to one of the original conspiracies, the moon landing. Let me start by saying, I wholeheartedly believe we went to the Moon. The mathematics/physics/engineering of the feat makes sense to me. With that said, there was almost certainly some fuckery. Given the magnitude of the statement made by JFK, “we choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…the challenge we refuse to postpone, and that challenge we intend to win.”
These are big words.
The United States at the beginning of the Cold War could not demonstrate weakness. The space mission was a grandiose libidinal demonstration of the technological and military might of the United States. Additionally, this was broadcasted, in color, on live television. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin needed to be documented taking their first steps on the Moon; there was no choice in the matter. So, there needed to be some sort of insurance policy.
I’m the kind of person that thinks there’s a little truth in everything and as a lover and practitioner of science and mathematics, I am intimately aware of what human ingenuity can accomplish. With that said, I am not naive enough to believe we didn’t prepare a contingency plan. I believe the only reason why the Moon Landing conspiracy theory continues to live on, why people come out to this day claiming they participated in “faking the moon landing”, etc. is because the US government likely filmed fake footage on the off chance that we failed. If we were to fail, we certainly couldn’t fail publically. Plus, the radiation present from entering/re-entering the Earth’s protective atmosphere plausibly could have damaged the “real” footage. This isn’t a conspiracy theory conversation–and I dismiss the idea that we didn’t land on the moon, but the reason I bring this is up is that this type of confusion can easily become a common occurrence in life as we move into the post-deepfake era.
You think the potential for your likeness to be used in amateur pornography and not knowing whether the news is real are scary, welp, what happens when people begin to be framed for murder, rape, treason, etc.? Yeah, shit is going to get real.
The value proposition for cryptocurrency will become apparent the moment that deepfakes are used to frame people for crimes
As it stands, the legal system cannot keep up with the pace of technology. Congress proposes and passes legislation that shows a distinct boomer tone-deafness and haunting lack of awareness of our technological capabilities. Combined with the use of a “jury of your peers” as a method for conviction/absolution, we’re fucked. Nevermind, the proliferation of judges whose pockets are greased by the for-profit prison system in places like the United States. By no means do I think that most people are bad actors, but it doesn’t take many bad actors to sew chaos and destruction.
Divorce settlements, people will be fired from their jobs, and the digital mob will go on the prowl. It will not take long before the first person is convicted on trumped up charges due to “audio” or “video” evidence. Truthfully, I’m shocked it’s not already more prevalent. We’re not talking your standard false conviction due to misidentifying the defendant. We are talking about seeing a video, that is CLEARLY the person in question. It is the defendant’s actual voice. The person in the video is visibly performing a heinous act, the evidence was provided by a reputable and genuine source, and it is by all accounts actually that person–yet they never performed the crime.
The FBI freezes your funds, you’re put on a watchlist, you are “barred” from leaving the state, etc. What do you do? The jury of your “peers” is filled with your normal hodgepodge of technologically illiterate boomers. Even if they did consider that the video may be a deepfake, the criminal justice system and the people of the jury have not really internalized that this technology is not just something you see in movies, it’s not something that is 10-20 years away, it is here.
Your only recourse is to flee the country, move to a country with no extradition and hope to “start over.”
Enter: Bitcoin Use-case.
To this day, I still have to entertain conversations about the lack of use-case for Bitcoin. In the not so distant future (maybe a year), I foresee our first real case of deepfakery will surface. This is where the sovereignty of money becomes so critical. The banks are businesses beheld to the state. The FBI has the ability to freeze and seize your funds. When you give your money to the traditional, centralized banking institutions, you are signing away your “full ownership” of that money. From that point forward, you have to request “permission” for your funds. Were you met with these unfortunate circumstances, having money which is not only incapable of being tampered with but also transcends borders is going to be crucial.
I don’t want this conversation to be all doom and gloom. Technology is morally neutral. Too often, we end up with societal narratives about the adverse effects of technology, then everyone decides to “shoo” technology away in some ascetic vow of technological chastity. They want to “bring things back to the way they used to be,” when “children played outside” and “people talked to one another.” We want to go back to the way things used to be because “things are moving too fast.”
Well, we can’t. Sorry.
Things are not only moving too fast, but they will continue to accelerate. The only way that we are going to thrive is if we lean into the acceleration. As many accelerationists have stated, “the only way out is through.” As in Dante’s Inferno, if you want to escape from Hell you can’t leave out of the sides. The only way out of Hell is to sojourn to the innermost circle of Hell, descend down Satan’s frozen body, and “exit through the gift shop.”
The immutability of the blockchain, as well as other encryption methods, will be our saving grace during this deepfake era. There will need to be a public immutable record that can be used as an alibi. It can’t be me in that video, as shown here plainly on block X of business Y, I was clearly at their location performing a transaction. The blockchain will absolve many and provide sovereignty to escape the potential perils of deepfakery. The crypto revolution is here.
I don’t want to send you off in a paranoid stupor, so here is a pleasant use of deepfakes. Scientists used a single image of historic pictures to make them speak.
Deepfakes will allow widows to speak with their deceased spouses and loved ones will be temporarily resurrected with the power of AI. No replacement for the real thing, but possible just what is needed in a somber moment of loneliness. Artistically, with real-time face mapping, a high school student may be able to create masterful films, utilizing what seems like mind-bending CGI. Maybe this technology is used in tandem with augmented reality to make comic books actually dance on the page instead of only in your mind. There’s no end to what is possible.
Technology has the power for wonderous good and for horrid atrocities. All that we can do is find ways to use technology to the betterment of mankind; hopefully, we develop maturity along the way.