Technology and State of the Art Deception | Opinion

Given the news over the last two weeks I believe nearly everybody can agree that life is precious, that we need to make sure that innocent people are not senselessly killed, and that the world can be a dangerous place for the vulnerable. What we probably can not agree on is whether or not we are talking about abortion or gun violence.

I’m not hear to change anyone’s minds on either of these subjects. I wish to give you some food for thought when it comes to what you believe when dishonest brokers get hold of your attention.

It is true that the world is harsh, not just on the unborn, or the unarmed but also for the uneducated.

Anyone who follows technology even remotely closely has heard of Deep Fakes. For those uninitiated Deep Fakes are video clips used to make a person, usually a famous person, do or say something they did not actually do or say. To the surprise of no one this technology got its biggest early boost in pornography using a computer to put a photo-realistic face of an mainstream actress on the body of a porn actress. This wasn’t a still photo, it was fabricated video. The more pictures or video there is of a subject the better the fidelity in creating a convincing Deep Fake.

It did not take long for this technology to work its way to other areas. Query “Obama Deep Fakes” on YouTube and you can see a host of examples of Barack Obama announcing the beginning of World War III, etc. For a brief period a website that focused on audio Deep Fakes allowed users to type in text that would then be read by a computer generated version of Jordan Peterson, former college professor and YouTube personality. Peterson’s lawyers, rightly, put a stop to that shortly thereafter.

We are edging closer and closer to creating real time Deep Fakes. In the near future a baseline video of an actor, to be replaced by the target fake replacement, might not even be necessary.

There is also a piece of software called Dall•e, currently in its second iteration (Dall•e 2). Dall•e 2 is a text to photo synthesizer. In short you can type in text and within a few seconds the computer will generate an image that it thinks best represents your description. The images aren’t shabby. Check out a YouTube channel called Cold Fusion if you want to see this work.

Of course I say “you” type in the descriptive text, but in reality “you” most likely can’t get your hands on it. Dall•e 2 is still experimental software and its developers restrict who can have access to this tool. Even for those that do have access, images with proper names are restricted. So even if I had access to Dall•e 2 I could not type in “Abraham Lincoln assassinates John F. Kennedy” or “Donald Trump wins the 2020 election” and get any results.

When I was little my mother told me that I should question what people tell me. “Use your brain and do your own thinking. Just because someone tells you something doesn’t make it true; no matter who tells you. Even if they are an adult.” Which, much to my mother’s horror, meant even if it is something she said, I should evaluate whether or not I thought it to be true. She may have rued the day she ever told me that, but it was a valuable lesson for me.

In an era where some “pro-life” people are just fine with the death penalty or where some “pro-choice” people are all for vaccine mandates, it is important to remember that people’s natural hypocrisy means we are easily manipulated by things that make us feel good.

Deep Fakes and Dall•e 2 are marvels of technology but like any tool or procedure can do immense harm to us if we do not arm ourselves with rational inquiry. Use your brain.

Anita Shire

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