“I saw it with my very own eyes, I don’t need any explanations.“
Once you hear this sentence or say it yourself, everything becomes clear. Once you’ve seen something with your own eyes, there’s no dilemma about whether it’s true or not. It’s the most powerful, ultimate proof that something is true. Thereby it eliminates any dilemma whatsoever.
However, it seems that things are changing. On April 17, 2018, a video surfaced on YouTube, which we could all see with our very own eyes, in which former American president Barack Obama, says, among other things, that president Donald Trump is just an “asshole“. Somewhere near the end of this video, we can once again see with our very own eyes how the screen splits into two parts, and that the words are actually being spoken by actor and imitator Jordan Peele. But the shocking thing about this video is not the fact that some actor managed to sound like a celebrity, since imitations, even the best of them, are nothing new, but the fact that we see, with our very own eyes, that Barack Obama is the one doing the talking.
Namely, using AI technology, all the words spoken by Barack Obama’s were literally put into his mouth and spoken by Jordan Peele so precisely that we can’t recognize that this is a montage. Jordan Peele is also the producer of this video that he did in collaboration with the media portal BuzzFeed, and Barack Obama has agreed to use his character to support the project that emerged with the idea of sending a warning about the phenomenon of “fake news” and where the further development of this technology can take us.
Such footage, where a man with a naked eye can’t detect the difference between an authentic and a false video, already has his own special name – “deepfakes”. So we enriched our vocabulary with another new term – after “fake news” we got “deepfakes”. We are eagerly waiting for what is next.
Naturally, the video went viral, but it seems people were more interested in it as a cool prank, instead of actually becoming aware of the dangers against which the authors wanted to warn them. Moreover, some people recognized a business opportunity in it. So there is a FakeApp application where anyone who installs it can rig, for example, their own or someone else’s face into an already existing video, and then they share it, and earn nicely thanks to new views, likes, faves and shares. Oh, let it just be fun.
However, not everyone thought it was all fun and games. One such person is acclaimed actress Scarlett Johansson, who fell prey to the “deepfakes“ phenomenon. Namely, “deepfakes“ are a growing phenomenon in the porn industry, with videos “starring“ in-demand actresses, especially popular. And one of the most sought after actresses is precisely – Scarlett Johansson. In the last week of last year, she wrote a letter, published by the Washington Post, in which she said that she was aware that fake porno videos with her image were being circulated around the internet and that she hoped that the users of these services were aware that it was not actually her, and that her superimposed image was just clickbait from which others profited. She also wrote: “I think it’s a useless pursuit, legally, mostly because the internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself.“
Such a resigned statement comes from the woman who, merely a couple of years back, took the hacker responsible for unauthorized publication of her naked pictures stolen from the internet to court, and got him sentenced to prison for ten years. Today, she feels helpless to protect her rights using legal measures, so she’s given up.
So, the fact that you’ve never sworn at some Tom, Dick or Harry doesn’t mean that there isn’t a video floating around somewhere where you can clearly be seen and heard swearing at the top of your lungs. You know you’ve never called your president an asshole or whatever, but who’s gonna believe you when there’s a video proving the opposite?! If you still claim that all this isn’t true, that must be because you forgot about it, or you don’t remember it at all, or maybe you had a few drinks more. Still, how can it be different when they all saw it with their very own eyes. Here is a piece of friendly advice – don’t try to prove in court that these are all lies. Do not you see that all evidence speaks against you?
It’s not hard to conclude that this creates endless new possibilities for manipulation. Once facts have become a relative category and the subject of persuasion, they are easily replaced by a priori convictions about what is true. In fact, haven’t we all said many times: “I’ll believe it when I see it.“? Now we’ll be able to see with our own eyes what we already believe in or what we’ve been convinced to believe in.
It’ll take time for us to even start thinking that what we’re seeing with our own eyes doesn’t necessarily have to be true, let alone for us to accept it as a realistic possibility. And time is something we don’t have. Because time doesn’t work for us. The speed of technology development on a daily basis that enables us to create false content and pack it credibly “in both images and words” is incomparably faster than the development of our ability to recognize and become aware of the possibility that it is all fiction. This discrepancy will increase so dramatically that it is possible to imagine a situation in which we will soon see ourselves saying things that we know we have never pronounced or would never pronounce, which we’ll eventually accept as truth. Not to believe our very own eyes what awaits us. Literally.