The first I heard of AI (artificial intelligence) driven deepfakes was from an industry news brief. Like any digital artist, I can't say I was surprised.
Face replacement became an art in the entertainment industry if you had enough skill and the right software to pull it off. The work was done by experts and used very expensive or proprietary, in-house applications that limited the reach of the technology.
As is bound to happen in any digital endeavor we have now crossed a threshold where a free app has been released into the wild that can turn almost anyone into a face replacement specialist.
And that is a real privacy problem if you are a public face. Plus... as is also the nature of digital development... what do we do when we can't tell a real performance from Nicolas Cage versus a face replacement?
If we, as digital artists, can't tell the difference... how will the general public?
Now, why did I mention Nicolas Cage?
Simple... he is turning up in deepfake videos and some are very convincing. Just Google Nicolas Cage deepfake and you'll see what's going on out there if you have been too busy under your digital rock lately.
As usual, and I make no judgment here, all one has to do is look to the online porn industry to see where this came from and where it's headed. For as long as the interweb has been around the porn industry has driven digital art delivery as much as anyone industry. I would not be surprised if many in our digital art community have been approached to use their skills, lucratively I might add, in the porn industry.
Nic Cage/Picard DeepFake Screen Capture from Youtube.
Supply and demand, regardless of any moral stand one may possess, drives an industry that simply can't get enough of itself.
In this case, at least one online adult film hub has banned deepfakes. Doubt this will nip it in the bud if little Johnny can get his hands on the app. It's not like there is a whole internet of videos out there he could have fun with? Yes... that's sarcasm, because there is most likely little that can be done about stopping deepfake proliferation.
It seems the deepfake app got a boost from a Reddit community devoted to such things. Now Reddit is taking a proactive stance and has banned that particular community and deepfake videos.
Let's go beyond porn and take a step back and look at the fake news aspect.
This alone can make your blood run cold when you ponder the consequences. No matter what your stand is on fake news, whether it exists or not, there will be a time when the average viewer can't discern the difference in a real political event or a fake one. We already know what can be done with audio. The face replacement is what pushes it over the edge.
How will Grandma and Grandpa spot deepfakes that will hit news distribution eventually?
That certainly is not an "if" but a "when" as it will happen.
Will videos lose credibility with the public? That is quite possibly the best that could happen and it's not that much of an overreaction either.
I remember the first time my grandparents saw instant replay during a football game. They thought the team had scored again!!! We take instant replay for granted today but that was new tech during the early days of televised sports.
Something that had never been seen before and there was no internet to keep everyone informed.
Of course, that internet is spoofed in many forms today to the point that we can't tell what is real without some digging and even then, it can be frustrating. As hard as it is to believe... not everyone is one the internet! Some will never know of deepfakes until they've fallen for them... and some may never know.
We all have our methods for controlling our personal flow of outside information so that we don't get swamped but now we must question the authenticity of just about everything we see and hear. Those that are familiar with the entertainment industry know just how much fakery there is out there anyway.
Now add the fact that little Johnny can make his own hit video with his teacher... or anyone that make him mad for that matter... you can see things are going to get more complicated. And when I say hit video... I mean "HIT" video in the worst way.
Nic Cage DeepFake Youtube Video
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.