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A shapeshifting future

When I was doing postgrad AI (artificial intelligence) research in the early 2000’s, AI as a discipline was stalling. Almost nobody could predict it was the calm before the storm. The explosion of data available through the internet has made it the perfect storm for AI and turned into one of the most widely adopted modern technologies.

Check out this clip of Bill Hader doing an impersonation of Tom Cruise:

It is not a product of Houdini-like video editing skills. Such manual efforts would have taken forever. It is actually based on an AI technique known as “deepfake”, which makes Hader’s facial features and expressions look exactly like Tom Cruise. In effect, Hader looks like a Cruise shapeshifter!
Such a technology has deep implications. There are wonderful applications for it, but there is also a steep downside.

Soon “deep fake” will be everywhere, fabricating click-baits, injecting fear, enticing greed, spreading falsity, unleashed upon an unsuspecting population. If you think 70% of web content today is fake, either deliberately fabricated or naively shared, I don’t think it will be long before it becomes 90%.

Sometimes I do get weary of constantly trying to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. As we all can see, modern society would have stopped functioning altogether during this pandemic without the internet. But complete reliance on the internet for content consumption, without constant awareness, does come at a high cost. One of the highest costs is actually hidden and occurs over a long time, and that is due to the ability of this global platform to alter collective human behaviour at a subconscious level. Not that long ago, we were teaching kids at school that dishonesty is not acceptable. Today, hungry wannabes are chanting the new mantra: “Fake it till you make it.”

The day when 90% of internet content is fake will see honest direct sharing of stories and experiences a retreating and uncommon human behaviour! This thought makes me appreciate even more the wonderful tribe that we have here in the running community. We don’t hesitate to pick one another up, yet we remain brutally honest in the process. Let’s keep it that way.

📸 "mona", Hobart, Australia 2020.