AI Is Taking Fake News To The Next Level

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BY PATRICK WATSON

“Fake news” has become a buzzword, thanks to social media. This becomes even more worrisome in light of the recent scandal about Facebook’s shady data-sharing and advertising practices.

But we haven’t seen anything yet. Because of the latest technological breakthroughs in AI, reality itself—or our perception of it—could be at stake.

Fake Videos

With tools that are available right now, AI-driven “fake” videos are ready for primetime.

Computers can study a person’s voice and facial expressions, then produce a convincing video of that person saying… anything.

I know that’s hard to believe.

So here’s a demonstration video produced by University of Washington researchers. They use clips of former President Barack Obama, but it could be anyone.


Source: washington.edu

Well, not quite anyone. The neural networks need lots of video sample data to produce these so-called “deepfakes,” so they work best on public figures—like politicians or actors.

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Adventurous FakeApp users have used it to create realistic-looking celebrity porn. They replaced the original heads of the actors with those of movie stars and singers. And that’s not even the worst you can do with this new technology.

Take politicians or top business leaders, for example. Stock prices often move when a CEO or a Federal Reserve official says something important. But did they really say it? With this technology out there, you can’t be 100% sure unless you were in the room.

The potential for mischief is obvious. Worse, the mischief-makers can make a bundle by generating price movements, so you can bet it will happen. We just don’t know where or when.

Find Reliable Sources

These technologies have valuable, legitimate applications. The problem is that they’re also highly vulnerable to abuse. VR producers tinkering with new ideas may discover methods that are dangerous in the wrong hands.

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We should probably expect “fake news” to reach a new level—and we’ll need new ways to find accurate, useful economic analysis.

I suggest you identify a few reliable sources whom you know to be real. Don’t expect them to be infallible; even knowledgeable, well-meaning people are subject to “expert blindness.”

What you want are informed yet skeptical curators who can recognize what’s real and valuable.

I’m lucky in that regard, since I talk to John Mauldin almost every day. In addition to my own sources, I get the benefit of his network to follow the economy and financial markets. We know they’re real people, not simulations.

You may not have direct access to John (though reading his Thoughts from the Frontline is the next-best thing), but you can build your own circle of trust. When you can’t be sure what’s real, quality is more important than quantity.

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