[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish today’s post, heralding the advent of the post-truth era with the convergence of deepfakes, AI-generated bodies and faces, and AI writing technologies. These tools are revolutionizing the nature of competition and could have a devastating impact on nations’ will to fight once competition has transitioned into armed conflict — Beware! (Note: Some of the embedded links in this post are best accessed using non-DoD networks.)]
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth” – Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha
Even this quote is not entirely truthful. What the Buddha really said was, “Monks, there are these three things which shine forth for all to see, which are not hidden. Which three? The disc of the moon shines for all to see; it is not hidden. The disc of the sun does likewise. The Dhamma-Discipline [dhamma-vinaya] of a Tathagata [Buddha] shines for all to see; it is not hidden. These are the three things.”
But what if the truth becomes increasingly hard to discern? What if authenticity (i.e., full trustworthiness) is actually dying? The advent of the Internet brought with it the global spread of a myriad of hoaxes, urban myths, and the dreaded fake news. During the first decade in the twenty-first century, it was a recurrent weekly theme to see a fake celebrity death spread like wildfire.
While propaganda, deception, and information warfare has existed in some form or fashion from ancient times through modern history (e.g., Soviet maskirovka), the convergence of technology and these political/warfare areas has truly weaponized disinformation on social media and throughout the political arena. This employment of new era information warfare seeks not to necessarily change opinions, but erode trust in conventional institutions, induce trepidation and doubt, and instill a sense of indecisiveness that allows adversaries and nefarious actors the chance to achieve their ends, fait accompli.
The emergence of weaponized social media, as typified in P.W. Singer’s “LikeWar — The Weaponization of Social Media,” is potentially just the tip of the iceberg compared to the emergence of some disruptive technologies in the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) sector. There are three specific AI/ML applications that could bring about the Death of Authenticity:
1) Deepfakes – Videos that are constructed to make a person appear to say or do something that they never said or did (similar to the appearances of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon with Forrest Gump in the 1996 eponymous movie). AI has improved this capability so greatly that it is extremely difficult to discern deepfakes from real video by the naked eye and ear – as seen in recent examples such as acclaimed director Jordan Peele’s video of President Obama. Deepfakes are alarming to national security experts as they could trigger accidental escalation, undermine trust in authorities, and cause unforeseen havoc. Significant efforts are underway to use the same technologies enabling deep fakes – AI/ML – to detect and counter them.
2) AI-Generated Bodies and Faces – AI-driven Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are being used to generate entirely original and fake faces and even whole bodies. While this technology has commercial applications in such areas as video game design, online clothing sales, and human resources, it also has a profound impact on information warfare. Troll and bot armies are of increasing concern to military and government officials who worry about their effects on political environments and electoral outcomes. Imagine if you will this same threat to the political and governmental landscape with amplified psychological effects from realistic bodies and faces that humanize such bots.
3) AI Writing – A text generation tool created by OpenAI, a research institute based in San Francisco, can now compose original text in realistic prose. The tool is continuing to improve, generating convincing headlines, posts, articles, and comments, entirely free from human input. AI’s ability to generate new, fictional material is not in and of itself a significant concern – humans can and do do this now (see The Onion and other satirical sites). What is worrying is the scale at which this can be accomplished. What if AI were to generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions of comments or posts, geared at either supporting or undermining a specific issue or cause?
The convergence of these three technologies could spell the death of authenticity. How will the masses struggle with being flooded with a steady stream of AI-generated deepfakes constantly conveying mixed messages and troll armies that are indistinguishable from their fellow citizens, students, and Soldiers? A constant bombardment of messages by false media and fabricated personalities has the potential to erode the relationship between governments and their citizens, provoking severe reactions throughout the world and leading people to question the very reality they believe.
If you enjoyed this post, please read:
– MAJ Chris Telley‘s post on the strategic threat presented by AI-enabled Information Operations in Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda.
– Our review of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation‘s two part series on deepfakes and the Deep Video Portraits video from SIGGRAPH 2018 in the October 2018 edition of “The Queue” (see the first entry).
– Our review of Mad Scientist P.W. Singer and co-author Emerson T. Brooking’s book LikeWar — The Weaponization of Social Media.
– CNN‘s Special Report on how Finland is winning the war on fake news. What it’s learned may be crucial to Western democracy.
… and crank up The Eurythmics‘ Would I Lie to You?