Extrapolating Deepfakes – Rendering the Truth

Schöner Vortrag von Sjef van Gaalen am Impakt Center for Media Culture in Utrecht über eine spekulative Zukunft von Deepfakes und den sich bereits abzeichnenden Kollaps der Realitätswahrnehmung durch digitale Manipulationsmöglichkeiten, hier in Schriftform.

Schönster Satz daraus ist vielleicht dieser: „People are happy to communicate through animated turds, the US even elected one as their president.“ Und das hier dürfte sich wohl leider als der richtigste herausstellen: „the narratives propagated by the algorithmically generated life-like avatars of commerce, crime and conquest will have ripple effects that have consequences for us all.“

You may already be familiar with the Real-Fake quadrants, a 2×2 matrix used by a loose collection of internet weirdos known as the Cross-Quadrant Working Group to think about ways in which products and processes move through the world. The syntax used is the pairing: {presents as} — {actually is}, the canonical example used is a pet dog.

Your actual pet dog is Real-Real, it presents as a real dog, and it actually is one. Say your dog had been Photoshopped into a family photo, and it was done really well, that would be Real-Fake. It presents itself as being your real dog, but it is in fact a fake. The example for Quadrant 3 is somewhat convoluted, but imagine you had a dog that was somehow genetically engineered so that it looked artificial, but it was in fact a dog, you would have yourself a Fake-Real dog. Finally, a cartoon dog is a Fake-Fake dog.

This system provides an interesting framework for thinking about how we create concepts and bring them into reality. Take for example a Design Fiction product demonstration, that’s a Real-Fake. It presents itself as a real product, but it is in fact fake. If you were to kick-start it and it turns into an actual product it becomes Real-Real. Understanding the ways in which concepts and objects (both physical and virtual) can be moved through these quadrants to affect their reality can be a very useful tool in understanding its construction. Shit hits the fan however when you get this:

Ostensibly this a Real person telling you the Real news, but, as you’re now all very well aware, this may now a Real person telling you Fake news. You could even argue that this is a Fake person telling you Fake news, and now with deep-fake technology that person may not even just be metaphorically fake but an actual Fake person, which could also just as easily be telling you Real news.

So what do we do? We could add a Z axis? Genuine — Disingenuous? Authenticity? Credibility? Verifiability? All depend on the point of view of the viewer and the narrator, and quickly your nice 2×2 matrix becomes an unusable kaleidoscopic tesseract of mess.

Take all of the above, roll it into universally-deployable avatars and shove them in your pockets. Now at any time you can get a notification and all of a sudden have a real-life realistic rendered entity pop up anywhere telling you anything at all, at any time, with you not having any means of distinguishing what is real from what isn’t.

Der Vortrag belässt es dann nicht einfach nur bei FakeNews, Realitätsverlust und Goldenboy-Jokes, sondern geht auch explizit auf militärische Anwendung von digitaler Rezeptionstäuschung ein und hat dafür ein ziemlich interessantes Slide aus den Snowden-Docs am Start:

In order to come up with ways in which real-time video manipulation could be (ab)used you don’t need to look any further than the documents published in the Snowden leaks. This one in particular comes courtesy of GHCQ (Britsh intelligence services), from the presentation The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations.

This slide often gets ridiculed for its poor design, and while it is visually heinous, please take a moment to carefully inspect the middle column, “Influence & Info Ops”. What you will find is a laundry list of abuse. “Building Relationships”, “Mirroring / Mimicry”, “Social Penetration”, these are all things deep-fake video manipulation systems are perfectly suited for. Not to mention “Self Presentation in Cyber context”, NARRATIVE, and then funnily enough all on the same pile, PROPAGANDA, BRANDING, MARKETING and ADVERTISING.

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