Posts Tagged: deepfake


7
Nov 19

Holograms replacing musicians? And eventually–political leaders?

“The Spectacular, Strange Rise of Music Holograms”, the Washington Post tells us. “Dead musicians are taking the stage again in digital form. Is this the kind of encore we really want?”

Buddy Holly on stage, as a hologram. Happening now. As predicted years ago–along with many other things, like deep fakes–in my A Song Called Youth cyberpunk trilogy.

Another current real-life phenomenon is Pretend People on Instagram: Talking, real-looking CGI generated “models” and “influencers”, unnaturally beautiful human-seeming creatures with names and histories–who are entirely fabricated. They are not real physical persons. They’re an elaborate form of animation. Yet many people believe in them as if they are real. These scripted 3-D CGI animations have legions of fans ogling them with goo goo eyes as they coo over them. “I love your new look, Elisha!” In Japan, right now, 3-D anime characters who sing are already replacing singing acts.

In the USA we’ll inevitably generate new acts, designed by “entertainer designers”, like those computer generated media darlings on Instagram. (After all, you don’t have to pay a computer generated performer.) The music will be computer generated too. People will believe in them and write them mash letters and start fan sites for them. Fake scandals about these fake characters will appear in Us Magazine and on Entertainment Tonight. They’ll be “interviewed” on talk shows. “I love the musicians I’m working with now…”

We’re setting people up to be manipulated by computer generated imagery in deeper ways than ever. It’s all part of the general process of hemming people in with media illusion, so they don’t know what’s real, or they don’t care. So they’re hyper distracted, and easily manipulated.  And when will politicians, political leaders, be replaced by carefully crafted holograms? What will be the social agenda of the Pretend Person programmers? As in my A SONG CALLED YOUTH novels: https://store.doverpublications.com/048681789x.html


20
Jun 19

CULTURE SLASH #3 – A COLUMN FOR THE AGHAST by John Shirley

LATEST POINTLESS “NEWS STORY” FROM CNN – Headline: “Walmart is getting rid of its blue vests. Here’s what the new ones look like” – no, really. That’s the actual headline. And there’s nothing else in the article of any interest whatsoever. Why does “no one cares!” not matter to CNN? And this did not appear in some kind of business affairs section. No, it was of general interest! To no one.

Years ago, I worked as an assistant at a marketing company. Firms would give us press releases about their new products to the marketing company, which the market outfit sent, almost verbatim, to contacts at newspapers—and which sometimes appeared in newspapers just as we at the marketing company had written them. This creeping laziness took root in the moldering loam of cynicism. I’m pretty sure this Wal-Mart “news” piece originated with a Wal-Mart press release. And we see actual articles about “the new burger from Burger King”—and nope, it’s not an ad. Or is it? Does CNN get revenue for pieces like this, revenue it isn’t letting us know about? Anyway, if you’re going to publish articles of no serious interest to anyone, how about this, which is at least accurate reporting: Latest Processed Food Garbage Offers Even More Calories and Carbs For Customers Who Prefer To Feel Like Crap.

YOU’LL SUCK PLASTIC AND YOU’LL LIKE IT – “Globally, we are ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card, a new study suggests. This plastic contamination comes from ‘microplastics’ — particles smaller than five millimeters — which are making their way into our food, drinking water and even the air.” That’s CNN too and it’s one of their actually newsworthy pieces. It’s also ironically appropriate. We’re choking sea life with our plastic waste, after all, so we deserve to choke on it too. And the comparison to swallowing a credit card’s worth of plastic has a certain unintended poetry—mindless consumers lean heavily into credit. They use those cards like—well, like crazy. And their mindless consumerism encourages the plastic-bound throwaway culture that’s wrecking the biosphere.

NEW FRONTIERS OF SHALLOWNESS: “They Have Millions of Instagram Followers, but They’re Not Real People” – New York Times …Fans of songs by “Lil Miquela” were shocked to hear that the supposed singer who has supposedly “worked with Prada” and supposedly “has a tattoo designed by a fashionable artist”…isn’t real. She’s made of pixels and voicing and she’s designed to attract followers and likes. But there are lots of these fake human beings—literally fake, not just “ha-ha, he’s so fake”, and it’s not just vapid teens who get sucked in. Adults, too, gape ingenuously at these glittery, disturbingly real-looking “persons” on Instagram and YouTube. You have to be remarkably shallow—like a millimeter-deep pool of liquid graphene—to believe that these creatures are real. They look realistic but everything about them, to those who’re paying attention, says they’re not even as real as scripted actors in full make-up. They’re CGI. And they’re not based on anyone in particular—they’re based on glamorous tropes. Their followers are so conditioned by hand-screen media their reactions become utterly knee jerk–they really don’t give their brains time to process what’s real and what isn’t.

Deepfake news stories—visual lies  now on the way to your cell phone, to further condition and distract you–come to mind, too. It’s another level of deceptive CGI… People have always been prone to falling under the sway of superficial media personalities —ask your favorite demagogue or popstar—but humanity has reached a new level of inane pliability. Which means we can be led…anywhere.

ANTI-VAX MILLIONAIRES – From the Washington Post: “A wealthy Manhattan couple has emerged as significant financiers of the anti-vaccine movement, contributing more than $3 million in recent years to groups that stoke fears about immunizations…” That’s a hedge fund manager named Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa—gibbering paranoids who are doing a lot to stimulate anti-vaccine hysteria.

Here’s what will eventually come about, in your lifetime, because of people like this:  major plagues that will kill millions of people. You think the new measles phenomenon is bad? Pshaw. That’s nothing in comparison to what anti-vaxxers will shower upon us.

Thanks to climate change, viruses and bacteria once found only in relatively remote regions of the world are increasingly able to spread far and wide—to places where more people throng. The more people an infectious disease reaches–the more people it will go on to reach. It will expand exponentially…Plagues will arise. Hard working scientists will make vaccines available to counter major new pathogens and anti-vaxxers will block the vaccines. And when humanity realizes that millions could have been saved if not for anti-vaxxers, people like Mr and Mrs Selz may well end up being prosecuted for manslaughter. And they’re very likely indeed to be vastly, hugely, multitudinously — sued!

THE DNC IS GOING TO FORCE ME TO DO SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO DO. And yes—I will submit to any DNC nomination, whoever it is, as the alternative will be worse….I have this sick feeling that the DNC is going to force me to vote for Joe Biden. Despite his long history of racial insensitivity predicating his recent senescence-driven racial gaffe; despite his history of being demeaning and handsy-grandfather inappropriate with women…despite all, I will be forced to vote for him if he gets the Democratic nomination because, well, as I heard Stephanie Miller say, “In the general election we have to vote for any carbon-based lifeform who isn’t Trump”. And she’s right. Even a blundering glad-handing, toe-stomping, clueless, badly aging white guy, like Biden is preferable to Trump. Biden would at least  return us to sanity. Mostly. He would see that competent people are named to cabinet positions. He would do pretty well with international relations.

But compared to someone like Elizabeth Warren,  Biden is an empty suit. Please, DNC—I’ll vote for an empty suit if I have to, but for pity’s sake don’t make me.


19
Mar 19

We Need to Teach Our Kids the Truth About the Internet

The whole concept of fact-checking is lost to most people. “I saw it on the internet” is good enough. It had headlines. It looked official. It said it was a news site. Therefore Hilary Clinton is selling children to a child-sex ring in a pizza parlor. No one is explaining to children that the internet is not truth. Truth can be found on it–but the internet is not equal to reality.   And we’re failing to convey this simple fact to people young and old. We seem to assume they should already know this. They don’t. And saying “don’t believe everything you read on the internet” is not enough.

The internet, as educated adults know, is seething with lies. Conspiracy theories, fake news from “white nationalist” racists, slanders against decent Democrats and progressives–there are web skeins, long chains of racist, fake-history videos each reinforcing the prior one, shunted to you by algorithms designed to keep you on whatever website you’re on–often, the egregious youtube– all coming at us in a cascade of falsity. There is the fallacious elaborately “supported” claim that the Civil War was not about slavery–if you do your fact-checking you find that this claim is untrue. But who bothers? There isn’t time–we have to check our Instagram feed, our Twitter feed, our Facebook Conspiracy Round-up Group.  Anti-Vaxxers get their falsehoods from the internet. The Qanon  conspiracy-theory fantasy is spread on the internet. From those sources parents and scared youth get the impression their doctors are trying to make them sick with vaccines and the government is trying to enslave them. There are amazing numbers of people following videos on youtube claiming that Michelle Obama is really a drag queen or a transsexual; that we never went to the moon; and, yes, that the Earth is flat. And then there’s Alex Jones’ special brand of fantasy.

We should be teaching our children how to use the internet in a different way. We should be teaching them critical thinking–if a claim is outrageous it’s almost certainly not true; if an outrageous claim is backed up by untraceable or phonily sourced “proofs” it’s certainly not true. We should be training them, above all, to identify intelligent, reliable sources of information. Even some conservative ones–the Wall Street Journal online is not so bad, at least it gets most of its underlying facts straight (they go awry in the interpretation of a fact’s ramifications), and a few other conservative sources are alright. More to the point, I find that the New York Times, despite claims to the contrary, is even-handed, and so is the Washington Post. We need to find ways to demonstrate one on one that some sources are reputable and we must find clear ways to set this out. Otherwise our children will be wandering, lost, in the world’s ugliest jungle–the internet…


2
Jan 19

THE HORROR! WE NEED TO RADICALLY CHANGE THE WEB!

First, let’s quickly review the scale of the thing: In excess of a billion people are active on Facebook. Every month a hundred million use Instagram. There are three hundred twenty eight million plus monthly users of Twitter. More than half the world’s population is online in some way. Eighty percent of Americans go online. For years now, public school classes have given homework requiring online activity to complete it (indifferent to the fact that some of the poor don’t have steady access to a browser.)

There are more than a billion websites.

That’s not a system, it’s a series of randomly interlocked systems; it’s not a grand network of self expression. Envisioned in cyberspace, it may look like an endless stochastic city, like a megalopolis of data. But it’s really a kind of wilderness. In any wilderness is beauty and fruitfulness and vicious predators and wandering madmen and disease and flooding and fires and regeneration… Chaos is beautiful, chaos is necessary, chaos also destroys if it’s not modulated.

The American experiment in democracy is compromised by Citizens United, lobbyists, the Koch Brothers, congressionally-connected Big Oil interests, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the recent congressional blockading of the Supreme Court, and the electoral college — yet our representative democracy still manages to sputter along. Every so often the creaking, smoke-streaming car of this democracy sputters to a halt, and people get out and push to get it started again. People like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Barack Obama, Maxine Waters, even a rare few decent Republicans — all fallible people, not omniscient gods. When the car stalls they push the thing a bit and jump back in. They hope to get to the repair shop. If we want to extend this admittedly creaky metaphor just a little more, the oil that keeps the engine running is media, news coverage, literacy, access to facts.

That particular lubricant for democracy is burning up, leaking away — the news media was always imperfect, biased, but on the whole fairly sound. But now it’s hugely overshadowed. We can’t see for the glare of information, false or irrelevant. In March, Huffington Post and other reputable sources reported, “1,000 Paid Russian Trolls Spread Fake News On Hillary Clinton, Senate Intelligence Heads Told… A former FBI agent testified that President Donald Trump helped spread fake news by embracing the stories against his opponents.”

It’s well established that, last year, Russia used thousands of operatives and bots to spread disinformation about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, often targeting Sanders-supporting social media pages, to drive a wedge that couldn’t be overcome if Clinton got the nomination. It seems to have worked.

splatters disinfo on supposed “voter fraud”; convinces astounding numbers of people that Michelle Obama is secretly male (the numbers of youtube videos for that one is mindbending);

We don’t need the Russians, however, to fuck up our democracy. We have “astroturfing” websites working for coal and oil companies to cover up the cause of climate change. right-wing, alt-right, “Sovereign Citizen” cranks, and outright neo-nazis slandered Barack Obama over and over again, during his administration — and even now. The same motley crew spreads lies and grotesque exaggerations about black-on-white violence; deliberately misinterprets Black Lives Matter; splatters disinfo on supposed “voter fraud”; convinces astounding numbers of people that Michelle Obama is secretly male (the numbers of youtube videos for that one is mindbending); claims that a shadow government is planning to take away their guns and herd them into a concentration camp; argues that the Constitution itself is Unconstitutional; and so on. Voices once marginalized by their obvious paranoia and crankery to a tiny squeak at the sidelines — the John Birch Society, for example — have been given gigantic megaphones that boom out over the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Alex Jones and friends have surprising numbers of people still claiming, even now, that the Clintons and friends were running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop in DC. The alt-reich marchers in Charlottesville are motivated by waves of fake stories spread by internet sources including some elaborate youtube videos. There are an amazing number of flagrantly pro-Nazi videos and “channels” on youtube.

Per the BBC News August 13: “As a predominantly online movement, the alt-right does not officially have membership, therefore exact numbers are hard to come by… The presence of this ‘amorphous’ movement is online and its popularity is said to be increasing nationwide.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups in the country.

From The Atlantic, a few days ago: “Today, each of us is freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever and pretend to be whoever we wish. Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, personal, subjective. And we like this new ultra-freedom, insist on it, even as we fear and loathe the ways so many of our wrongheaded fellow Americans use it.” It is a dilemma. The good of free, gloriously uncontrolled expression, turned by our passivity to a bad.

We cannot continue with a society where lies have as much currency as facts. It’s like a gigantic extreme-weather flood, carrying wilderness settlements away, sweeping buildings and cars and people before it…

Fictional news spread on sufficiently realistic-looking yet utterly scurrilous “news sites” — with hundreds of thousands of shares before anyone sharing realizes it’s false — can install the far-right into power; can see that the alt-right nationalists keep that power for good. Alternate facts, fabricated “news”; sheer disinformation on a vast scale, promulgated by a mindless, kneejerk use of Twitter and other social media… it’s overwhelming to people. We cannot reasonably expect them to research all this, to separate it all out. Most of them haven’t worked in media and haven’t got the skills to engage in needed research. Additionally, we’ve noticed Trump, and conspiracy theorists and birthers and “sovereign citizens” and climate-change deniers and alt-right types using the term “fake news”. So the consumers of right-wing, or conspiracy-fixated false news will assume our facts are not their facts; our identification of fake news is instantly to be regarded as suspect, since it contradicts their comfortably xenophobic views of the world.

There are websites that offer to sort out real from unreal news, but you have to know about them, then be willing to give them a shot, and most people won’t trouble themselves. They are going to passively take in what’s given them through social media and click-bait links.

Worse, we now have something called “DEEPFAKE”. Programs which make photoshop look primitive; which can create a totally realistic video of a person doing something they never did. Practical everyman CGI has reached a new plateau, from which it can make anything appear real. It’s only going to get more realistic. It’s already being used to create fake porn to extort people with. The internet will be used to spread and perpetuate the lies perpetrated by Deepfake.

Suggesting some kind of intelligent, widely-based moderation of the internet, where we have systems to weed out most disinformation, click-bait news, is subject to the criticism that such a moderation might be based on purely subjective standards. But is science subjective? Are verifiable facts subjective? Is overwhelming probability subjective?

Worried about threats to Net Neutrality? You should be. Gigantic corporations, and their corporatist cronies will use all this disinformation — even they don’t take Alex Jones seriously — as a cover, a smokescreen, to “edit” the internet their way. Let them decide all this, and they’ll control access and information opportunistically, with only self-interest in mind.

Yet those of us who want a free media don’t want lunatics shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, either; don’t want shady operatives controlling the electorate.

It should be remembered that many disinformation sites exist purely to service greed. They’re about clicks, views, which they translate into cash via advertising, subscribers, and selling paraphernalia and videos and so on. Sometimes they’re simply paid by political and espionage operatives to spread disinformation. Some of the sites known to have been making up stories about Hillary Clinton were paid to do it by people they knew nothing about except that they wired real money through PayPal. Some of the writers were located, confronted, and admitted as much. But hey, first amendment — right? Not in this case. These people are not working to express themselves. They’re purely in the business of lying for money.

Some will react in sheer revulsion to the suggestion of specialized filters, expert systems say, for filtering the real from the fake, because they assume it risks a loss of net neutrality — but they probably don’t object to blocking, say, child porn, or websites for pedophiles. There are limits to everyone’s tolerance. Is the promulgation of identifiable Big Lies something we should tolerate? I don’t think it is. We could allow full-on net neutrality within certain fairly generous strictures.

But who can we trust to construct reasonable strictures? Comcast? Viacom? Congress? Certainly not.

Two alternative means of filtering the internet come to mind. One would a system whereby a consensus is reached on a daily basis — sort of like Wikipedia, but more universal, more active — arising from internet users as a whole. They’ll have points, call them reality points, they can attach to their votes as to sources excluded. This method could be enforced via negotiation with major independent browsers, to start with. When it’s shown to work, it would grow enough to attract other browsers and systems.

Another could be concerted attacks by volunteers on disinformation sources. Hacking and related methods would be employed. It would be something like Anonymous, but much larger, and would be undergirded by a new study of internet connectivity and access.
Something has to be done and maybe these rather spare thoughts will at least spark a discussion on some acceptable means of protecting the internet from these viciously corrosive surges of disinformation.

Re “DEEPFAKE”: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/14/lawmakers-concerned-deepfake-technology/