Deepfakes will create ‘every face we see’ online in AI ‘Infocalypse’

We have already entered an age where computers can be in control of what we say and how we look.

Gmail, the world’s most popular email system, will already suggest replies to incoming messages so users don’t have to think them up or type them. Zoom, the video conferencing app that has become standard kit during lockdown, has a feature that “touches up” the user’s appearance – erasing lines and blemishes in real time.

And soon we will increasingly live in a world where we interact with artificial intelligences (AI) that speak on behalf of real people – without even knowing the difference.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, author Nina Schick predicts that within the next decade we are going to be so inundated with synthetic content, we won't know what's real any more.

For example Maxine, a new video conferencing program created by computer graphics experts Nvidia, edits the user’s face in real time so that they appear to be looking directly into the camera when they are in fact peering at a screen showing the other person in the conversation.

“That can easily go on to the creation of complete digital avatars,” says Nina, “where for example I haven’t done my hair and makeup today so I get my digital avatar to talk to you instead."

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She continues: “We’re not far off that, there are people building that right now.

“Pinscreen for example – they’re using deepfake technology to build digital avatars… their intent is for everyone to be able to have a digital avatar and so one day we’re likely too get to a point in the future where every interaction… unless it’s literally face-to-face in a park or something… will be synthetic.”

The realistic – but chillingly perfect faces we see from systems like Pinscreen will start to shape our expectations of real faces.

Nina says: “We’ve already seen cases of young women requesting surgery to look like certain influencers… but those influencers are using SnapChat filters, or Instagram filters..they’re not real!

“People are still fooled by images created in Photoshop,” she continues, “software which is 30 years old… and now people look at images or on Instagram, or on the front covers of fashion magazines… and they think that the models actually look like that.”

In Nina’s book Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, she explores the sudden boom in AI-powered image and video editing, and how it becoming increasingly difficult to decide whether what we are looking at is real.

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She says that with the growing sophistication of fake videos, fake photos, even fake texts and phone calls, we are perhaps a few months away from losing the concept of truth: “If we can’t tell when still images have been edited – on software that’s been around for 30 years – what the hell are we going to do when it comes to video and audio and text too…

“We’re talking about deepfakes but there are also text-based bots that are completely fake humans,” she adds, they interact with you and answer your questions online but they’re totally artificial.”

“Digital influencer” Lil Miquela is meant to look artificial, and the 2.8 million people who follow her completely artificial life online don’t seem to care. But the next generation of online personalities will look just like us, only better.

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The speed of change is dizzying. Nina explains how Martin Scorsese assembled a team of top CGI artists who spent well over a year de-ageing the stars of hit gangster movie The Irishman, and then an anonymous deep fake hobbyist created a visibly better version in less than a week and uploaded it for free.

This uncannily convincing duplication of real people is going to be a goldmine for the porn industry… and for fraudsters: “You know scammers are going to use it,” says Nina, “and as (the technology) becomes more accessible it won’t just be CEOs of being energy companies being defrauded out of millions of Euros, it’ll be just ordinary people like you and me.”

In the very near future people will receive texts, phone calls, even Zoom calls from people who look and sound like people they know… but that beloved voice on the other rend of the line will be an AI programmed to empty your bank account.

Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse: What You Urgently Need To Know by Nina Shick is published by Monoray and is available now.

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