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These A.I. tools could lead to the next generation of fake news
At the very least such fake news could further divide us. At worst, a violent incident occurs, perhaps even on a large-scale.
We have the phrase “Seeing is believing.” It makes sense. The rash of “fake news” that infested the 2016 presidential election, surrounded mostly false articles. Fabricated news stories have existed since the birth of the printing press. But what if, with the help of A.I., spin doctors and hackers could make fictitious videos in a way that’s so visceral and realistic that skepticism is much harder to achieve?
A.I. can now change a horse into a zebra, capture the audio of a person’s voice and use it to make them say whatever a programmer wants, and more. Soon, whole videos can be conjured out of thin air, as if they really happened. The time is coming and little is being done to stop it. The next wave of misinformation, propaganda, and misdirection schemes will have platforms with capabilities untold of in human history. All of it will come through our social media echo chamber, as clickable and sharable as any reality-based content.
Left unchecked, this has the potential to at the very least, divide and factionalize the US and other countries even further, making for a more disharmonious world. At worst, incidents of violence could occur, even on the large-scale. It’s happened in the past. Consider that inflammatory radio broadcasts have helped ramp up the tensions behind many of history's worst genocides, such as in Rwanda. And just last year, a man with a rifle marched into a D.C. pizzeria, to uncover what he thought was a Clinton-backed, child sex ring.
Humans are visual creatures. Over 90% of the data processed in the brain is visual, and a wide swath of the population are visual learners. As such, this onrush in A.I.-manipulated media, has the potential to motivate humans to a degree never seen before.
Pretty soon, A.I. will create seamless visual experiences. We won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s fabricated. Credit: Getty Images.
It’s already happening in porn. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot’s face was recently pasted onto a porn actress’s body. Although it’s a pretty flimsy job and easy to see through, “deepfakes,” as one Reddit user called them, are getting more brazen and their works, more sophisticated, with the help of machine learning algorithms and open source code. How do they do it? The algorithms take existing content and reshape it into new material. Not only are people pulling more shenanigans, the quality is improving all the time.
This year, researchers at UC Berkeley developed a unique method, enhancing what’s known as image-to-image translation. In a video, they turned an ordinary horse into a zebra. Again, not a perfect execution but a significant step forward. It won’t be long before the rough spots are smoothed out, and fabrications appear authentic. So the video aspect is almost there, but what about audio? Lyrebird is a ground-breaking startup that can make someone deliver a believable speech after sampling just one minute of their voice.
Along these same lines, Adobe has been working on a series of new A.I. technologies, which taken together are known as Sensei. One of them is a video editing tool called Adobe Cloak. Here, anything can be edited in or out of a video. Don’t like a mailbox in your scene, simply wipe it away. Need palm trees in the background? No problem.
Another tool, known as Project Poppetron, allows for someone to take a photo of a person, give them one of any number of stylized faces, and create an animated clip using the type they've chosen. These feats are possible because machine learning can now distinguish the parts of the face and the difference between background and foreground, better than previous models.
Adobe’s Sensei A.I. media toolkit is hoping to revolutionize how media is created. Credit: Adobe.
Just like any technology, there are positive and negative aspects. Such cutting-edge audio, image, and video editing tools could allow amateur artists to bring their craft up to the next level, or help experts become masters, perhaps even creating a kaleidoscope of subgenres that advance the arts in totally new and unexpected ways. As for voice fabrication technology, Lyrebird believes it could be used to restore the voices of those who have lost them to disease. But of course, there’s the downside, the ability to pump out a whole new generation of fake news.
Safeguards will have to be put in place to protect the public from dubious content. Facebook and other social media sites are just beginning to take steps in that direction. This could easily set up a new sort of arms race paradigm, where fake news purveyors find tricks to get past “trust indicators,” while social media sites fight desperately to keep uncovering violators and their new, nefarious methods.
Last October, Adobe gave a taste of what their new A.I. software can do. See for yourself here:
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.