Featured Image: President Nixon speaks with the returning Apollo 11 astronauts. (Image credit: NASA)
Deepfake. If you are like many people, this new word holds little meaning. A “deepfake” is a piece of media that shows someone doing something or saying things which they never have. It is a new technology born of artificial intelligence and digital manipulation of historical footage. While initially, deepfakes were used to show historical figures in humorous situations, they have the potential to be used to trick the public at large, possibly to extreme ends.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has recently released a new deepfake which highlights the potential nefarious use of this emerging technology.
In the above video, we see the launch of Apollo 11 and their journey to the Moon. Then the video shifts into the “alternate history” portion. We are shown a series of clips edited in such a way as to make the viewer assume that Apollo 11 failed during the Moon landing. Finally, the video cuts to a video of then-President Richard Nixon reading a script which until this video was released was relegated to the footnotes of history, not being found until the 1990’s.
The script he “reads” is real. It was written by William Safire in the case of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being stranded on the Moon. The reading was done by a voice actor. The deepfake is completed by using AI to make it seem as though the words are coming from the President during a Special Report. It is both somber and supremely terrifying.
While this new technology is impressive (I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference), it also has a huge potential to be used for evil. Imagine if you will: a special news report comes on your favorite station. A video has appeared which shows Vladimir Putin announcing the launch of nuclear missiles toward America. Now the US government would know this is not the case. There are systems in place which would alert NORAD and other agencies if such a launch were to occur. However, the general public are not privy to such systems. The very appearance of the video would cause mass panic. How many people would be hurt? How would the government respond?
This is the new reality. There now exists the ability to “Photoshop” videos in such a way. While the technology is still quite novel, it will not be long before it makes its way into public use. The main point here is that in this future, one must be wary of what information one is taking in. Sources can be checked. Trust is now something that must be verified.
Here is hoping that humanity will outlast the propensity to invent new ways to deceive and destroy itself.
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