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How Synthetic Media is Altering Our Notion of Truth?

by | Jun 16, 2022 | Dystopia




Technology and social media have and continue to transform human experiences. They have connected the world as a whole and are also fueling a digital revolution. But they have also profoundly reshaped the way humans think. Human attention spans have diminished and we are now addicted to our screens.

We are now more interested in what’s going on in celebrities’ life than in ours. Our capacity for critical thinking and our ability to discern between what is real and fake has been eroded. Our notion of truth has been altered. And now a new generation of technology is taking that to a new level.

We are at a dawn of an AI-led revolution that is not only changing the way we communicate but is also changing the way we think. This AI revolution starts with something that is more commonly known as a Deepfake. Deepfake videos make it increasingly easy to place false words into the mouths of public figures.

You might have already heard the word or seen footage of it. Deepfake is a piece of synthetic or fake media that is manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence. Synthetic media is becoming a ubiquitous thing. It can create hyper-realistic video and audio recordings.

Synthetic media can be a video, an image, or even a piece of audio. This amazing ability of AI to literally create fake content is a cutting-edge development that’s only been possible for the last five years or so. This  AI software is particularly good at creating fake media of people. We’re moving from digital media to AI-driven media.

We have already seen that in the music industry where we moved from analog instruments to digital instruments. Now, most music is being produced with beats, voices and pitch corrections, all done by AI. The same thing is happening with video production where there is no need for cameras, microphones, lights or crews. We can just generate or produce content on our computers.

Nowadays people prefer to watch videos more than anything else. They are easier to consume and digest and they also drive more engagement from the audience. That’s why Youtube is the second largest search engine and also tops all the other three most popular video streaming platforms like Snapchat, twitch and Tik-Tok.

Video is important because it increases exposure to a global audience and people are more likely to share. Hence, this is why deepfake can potentially be used to spread disinformation and incite people to commit crimes. The creator of these media has the power to create content using another individual identity.

And if it is the video of a public figure or celebrity that has been manipulated, it has the potential to go viral in a matter of hours. Most people have no idea how far technology has come in just the last couple of years or the danger and disruption that comes with it. When people heard the word synthetic media they usually think about deepfakes, but it is more than that.

If you haven’t heard of synthetic media, then you aren’t alone. Many people don’t know what it is. It is any content that is created or modified by computers. The media that we see around us like Instagram or Tik-Tok filters are artificial media because we can manipulate, create or modify our images with them.

There are also high-end synthetic media that are used in big movie production. These are professionally made with a big budget. However, those tools are becoming more and more accessible. And users are becoming more and more professional at using them. So what exactly is synthetic media?

What is synthetic media?

The term “synthetic media” refers to any type of artificially generated media, which is directly related to generative adversarial networks. Some of these media involve retouched images that require little to no human intervention. In some cases, artificially-generated art is completely machine-created and has been compared to Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters.

Synthetic media is closely connected to the evolution of computers. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled computer systems to generate art and entertainment automatically. Using this technology, though, synthetic media is a real possibility. The age-old adage, “believe your eyes” will no longer apply nowadays.

A prime example comes from Instagram. The popular face filters created by Instagram users can now be built on other social platforms as well. While artificially produced content is certainly unavoidable, there are also some credible uses for these technologies.

Hollywood movies used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to replace the face of the real actor with a simulated one. It saves studios from having to re-record scenes. Facial reenactment involves the control of the target actor’s face by a source actor. This process has the potential to produce a wide range of results, from David Beckham speaking nine languages to world leaders singing Shakira’s song.

The synthetic media industry has grown significantly over the past few years. The software has advanced the process of creating and delivering AI-generated content, which has the potential to be truly authentic and precise. As they become more sophisticated, they can be delivered in many languages and personalized for different audience segments.

Consequently, these technologies are likely to have a profound impact on digital content. This technology has given rise to deepfakes and other polarizing forms of AI-driven content. AI-driven media synthesis is handy for criminals. Software like GPT-3 can generate massive amounts of disinformation, which is automatically distributed by bots.

Regardless of the scale of the impact, AI-generated content is poised to become an invaluable asset. Its quality is dependent on strong algorithms, a large training dataset and sufficient processing power. The technology behind these AI contents is a step toward universal access to knowledge and entertainment.

It allows users to localize every sound and word in every language. Not only that with the advent of natural language processing, it is also possible to localize sign language and other forms of communication. This is a major step forward in the advancement of human technology and we’re just beginning to see the possibilities.

using cgi to make human face
Photo by Phil Shaw on Unsplash

What are the impacts of synthetic media?

We’re all familiar with the hype surrounding synthetic media. This new technology allows ordinary people to create high-quality content, previously only available to Hollywood studios with huge budgets. The creation of synthetic likenesses has made the issue of reality less clear. These artificial objects and environments can be more realistic than real ones, affecting our ability to understand and act accordingly.

Humans have long had divergent interpretations of reality, but this present condition enables increasingly realistic artificial objects and environments that may make us fundamentally misperceive basic physical characteristics. These technologies may also be a boon for the survival of those people whose perceptions of reality are based on inaccurate or distorted information.

One of the most troubling aspects of artificial media is that some people use them maliciously. Buzzfeed circulated a fake video of President Obama speaking about the dangers of manipulated videos, using Jordan Peele’s voice and likeness. This video has since been removed but it remains a reminder of how pernicious these fakes can be.

But it’s unlikely that deceptive synthetic media will affect the economy much, as financial wrongdoing is already a common occurrence in advanced economies. The amount of money abused by fake media would need to surpass that of most other forms of illicit activity before it would become a threat. The debate has only just begun.

The scale of these systems creates ethical concerns and a challenge in distinguishing between authentic and AI-synthesised content. While video bloggers, movie studios and some sectors will benefit from this technology, some concerns exist. These concerns must be addressed before we can develop thoughtful policy responses.

woman in white shirt showing frustration in front of a laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: pexels.com

Developing new technologies, changing organizational practices, and educating different industries are just a few of the key actions necessary to address the threat of synthetic media. And while no single stakeholder is capable of fully addressing the threat, successful efforts will involve changes in technology, organizational practices and society.

Financial institutions should also consider their role in the fake media policymaking process. For example, they can divide their efforts into three complementary tracks, one that focuses on the financial system, another focused on the tech sector and a third that consists of government and key outside entities.

The problem lies in how easily bad actors can abuse these new techniques. The proliferation of digital technology has provided bad actors with a wide range of cost-effective methods. The impact of AI-generated content affects a lot of individuals in society worldwide. From scientists to artists, from activists to journalists, everyone feels the impact.

They have a significant impact on complicated societal dynamics and are likely to have negative impacts on democracy, self-expression and privacy. But there are more significant implications than these. In addition to the societal risks, AI-generated content will also impact individual freedoms and can be extremely detrimental to digital trust.

If used improperly, the impact of synthetic media on civil society could be greater than the actual abuse of these technologies. The rise of social platforms has already made disinformation more prevalent and counterproductive and now AI content is likely to supercharge the problem even further.

To address this challenge, we need to look at how we can best protect our country’s interests. And we need to look to journalists to help us understand what we are facing and what we can do to protect ourselves. As the threat from artificial media becomes increasingly advanced, governing institutions must begin to prepare for it.

They must implement policies and procedures that prevent these technologies from disrupting societies. As such, the first step is to build robust algorithms that will identify false signals. Then, they must ensure that they have access to sufficient data. This is critical for both companies and institutions that will be targeted by these deceptive forms of information.

While there are no laws on fake media, existing laws can be applied. In one recent case, a male was found guilty of causing emotional distress and harassment through “deepfakes.” In addition to this, the victim received compensation. However, the court case’s success is far less than the true damage of deepfakes and synthetic media.

There is little empirical research on the impact of synthetic media on our society. But experts worry that our future could rely on misinformation generated by these technologies. But we shouldn’t forget that computer-generated content is not merely about retouched pictures and videos or spreading fake news, it’s the stuff of the future.

Future of synthetics media

We are living in a time of high-tech communication but it’s unclear how artificial media is affecting people’s lives. While the internet and social media are gaining popularity, the impact of AI content is far greater than most people realize. There’s already some research into the impact of these contents on society, which reveals the true effects and the extent of potential abuse. But that’s not enough

Its impact will be felt by individuals across society, from artists and satirists to policymakers and journalists. It will affect complex societal dynamics, such as polarization and misinformation, and will also affect our personal privacy and the freedom to express ourselves.

The future of synthetic media will depend on how much the threat grows over time. Though there is little data to determine the exact amount of financial damage from AI content today, some say the threat will increase substantially, while others argue it will remain low. As with any emerging technology, there are no surefire answers to this question.

A strong algorithm and a large set of training data are necessary for the production of quality synthetic media. Moreover, ample processing power and computing time are necessary for creating such content. The artificial generation of videos has long been prohibitively expensive.

Face filters for Instagram are an obvious example of a synthetic application in the photo sector. Users can build similar face filters for other social platforms. And for reporters and news organizations, artificial avatars are a great privacy protection tool. Moreover, it is estimated that synthetic likenesses and voices will be able to bypass biometric security measures.

The rise of artificial content has created complex legal issues. In the United States, government policies to detect these new forms of media have fallen behind the advances in this emerging technology. The government’s efforts to combat the rise of computer-generated content face competition from a thriving community of “deepfake artists” sharing their latest creations online.

Though it started in the world of pornography, deepfakes are now being used in a wide variety of contexts. This technology has become so prevalent that the FBI has even established a synthetic media unit. The unit is tasked with investigating false personas. The idea is to develop alternative criteria for reality, which account for the changing nature of agency in today’s world.

The fear of deepfakes has led some people to be afraid of them and it will have a profound effect on how we live. Another significant change to how people use digital media is the use of algorithmically created content. As technology advances, smartphones will become even more powerful and better at creating high-quality videos. Language barriers will dissipate.

We’ll soon have the ability to watch movies without Brad Pitt on set. Likewise, meme creators on Instagram will be able to create content similar to what we see on TV. Ultimately, we will need fewer cameras to make our own content. We will be faced with a variety of indiscernible truth candidates. The consequences of this will be profound.

The future of artificial intelligence and synthetic media is controversially exciting. Despite the widespread criticism of AI-generated content and attempts to regulate or ban it, the technology is here to stay. And if it becomes ubiquitous, we will have no choice but to adapt. And in the end, synthetic media will probably outshine human-created content, so we’d better get ready to adapt.