WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The ability of “unethical actors” to create realistic looking video and audio of famous people to generate “Fake news!” is accelerating exponentially and politicians are already way behind the curve.
Over the past couple of years, even before “Fake news!” became the monster topic that it is today I’ve been discussing how new, powerful emerging technologies will transform the media and entertainment industry, where one day the movies and programs you’ll be watching on TV, on the Holodeck, or in old fashioned Virtual Reality (VR), that is of course before it’s just uploaded into your mind using Brain Machine Interfaces, will be nothing more than photo realistic digital reels where everything, from the actors to the scenery, and even the plots are all written and created by AI infused computing platforms.
Let’s face it, it doesn’t take a genius to see that’s where we’re headed, however, in the hands of unethical actors those same technologies will take the creation of “Fake news!” to a whole new level that will be indistinguishable from the real thing.
A couple of days ago I published what I’ll call a “catch up” article, that went into more detail about the new tools that “unethical” actors have at their disposal to create a wealth of fake news content that could easily be used to undermine election campaigns, even more effectively than in the past, and threaten our trust in the media and each other. And hey, no I do not want comments about being able to trust CNN, send those to Fox!
Fundamentally, I’d argue that a society without trust is a society in trouble, and, arguing the point further – feel free to try and shoot me down – I’d also argue that without trust democracy itself is at risk.
In an age of Photoshop, filters and social media, many of us are used to seeing manipulated images – models become slimmer and smoother or, in the case of Snapchat, transformed into puppies and sunflowers. But today there’s a new breed of video and audio manipulation tools, made possible by advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computer graphics that, in the near future, not the distant future, will let everyone create realistic video and audio of anyone saying anything.
Think Trump on the lawn of the White House declaring his unwavering belief in climate change, or Hillary Clinton declaring her unwavering love of bathing in champagne, or President Putin announcing that he’s going to live on the Moon, or President Xi announcing he’s going to donate all of China to Russia.
Today it’s fair to say that if any of these news stories broke, say on CNN, RT or SCMP the majority of you would instantly dismiss them as “Fake news!” but what if it was backed up by high definition YouTube videos? Would you dismiss it out of hand then, or would you think it sounded strange and investigate? Or, worse, would you just take it at face value.
Now, in addition to the tools I wrote about the other day, and thanks to reader Sal Esposito for pointing this one out to me, soon, thanks to a new tool from those crazy cats at Stanford University, unethical actors will soon have another tool in their kit bag, called “Face2Face” which is a combination of AI, Machine Vision, motion capture and Ultra High Definition Rendering.
Face2Face, in many respects goes one step further than some of the tools I discussed the other day and it’s a natural next step. It allows individuals to manipulate video footage of public figures and use a second person to put words in their mouth – in real time.
It works by capturing the second person’s facial expressions as they talk into a webcam and then morphs those movements directly onto the face of the person in the original video.
The research team demonstrated their technology by puppeteering videos of George W Bush, Vladimir Putin and President Trump. Need I say more?
On its own, Face2Face is a fun plaything for creating memes, but with the addition of a synthesised voice, which now, thanks to both Lyrebird and Adobe Voco can be realistically synthesised from just a single minute of listening to someone, say for example, on the radio or TV, and it becomes more convincing – not only does the digital puppet look like the politician, but it can also sound like the politician.
“I hate cheese burgers,” said President Trump, “oh, and I just declared war on North Korea.”
Uh oh – seriously, he hates cheese burgers now?! Oh, the humanity.
Furthermore these new technology platforms could also make great hacking tools, think of a banking system that uses new “impossible to hack” facial recognition and voice biometric system to access your online services, after all, if we can already hack fingerprint and iris recognition systems with nothing more than a printer then this next hack’s crazy simple, and I’d figure it could be done using WhatsApp as an attack vector. Hmmm…
There are other fun implications too, you could leave fake voice mail messages posing as someone’s mum, and use them to tarnish reputations.
Peta representatives caught supporting animal cruelty perhaps? Or Greenpeace protesters kicking a whale, perhaps like the whale that’s flying above the ocean like the one in Magic Leap’s videos? Anyway, back to the crazy reality we call the future, as you can see the potential for mischief, on small and grand scale is insane. Hey, let’s crash the stock market using fake news… ah, that was done the other week…
Technology always moves faster than we think, and let’s face it politicians have only just gotten round to using Facebook as a punching bag for helping “whoever it was” to inadvertently distribute “Fake news!” and I doubt that these latest technological developments are even a blip on their radar.
Catch up guys, and by the way, a big shout out to Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, President Trump and all the other leaders of the world for supporting my message, I’ll be posting the video shortly.